Many moons ago I spent time consulting to organizations around design strategy. As I see it, design strategy is a look at design with a capital “D” – rather than looking to move the design of products or services, design strategy looks at the business in its entirety and seeks to look at all the systems and processes the organization uses with a critical and creative eye.

Anyway one of the tools that design strategists like to use is the notion of personas – customer or stakeholder archetypes that put faces (albeit engineered ones) to the usually anonymous legion of customers that organizations serve. Broadly speaking, by using personas, organizations can look at everything they do through the perspective of these individual archetypes and, in doing so, to rethink everything they do through that customer lens.

So I was interested to hear from Segment, a vendor that helps organizations wrangle their customer data. Essentially what Segment aims to do is enable the integrations between the different systems an organization uses, such that they can identify important traits about each customer which various applications and analytics offerings can then leverage.

Segment is today announcing its Personas product that aims to create central customer record so that organizations can personalize every one of their interactions – no matter what channel that interaction might occur on – whether in an email, advertisements, social media, push notifications, in-app, or even in-store.

The idea of personas generally, and in Segment’s application, in particular, is that they help companies drive loyalty and revenue by adding the context necessary to enable personalization in customer interactions. For example, a retailer could identify a customer’s favorite categories and average order value, then automatically sync this data to tools for different types of communication. By doing this, the retailer can offer the right product recommendations at the right price to that customer on the channels of relevance. Personas reruns these calculations any time a user interacts with the company, updating Computed Traits in real time.

There are three key functional pillars of Personas:

  1. Identity Resolution: The Segment Identity Graph resolves a user’s identity across different channels into one profile. It uses a deterministic matching algorithm to add any ID fragment with a common link to the right user profile.
  2. Trait and Audience Building: On top of these profiles, marketers can build Audiences, like high-value users, or Computed Traits, like favorite product category, to calculate important signals from their historical customer data.
  3. Activation: Segment syncs Computed Traits and Audiences to each company’s marketing integrations, so they can tailor their campaigns. Developers can build custom in-app experiences with the Personas Read API.

So how do Segment’s Personas work in action? A good example is from one early customer, HotelTonight, a popular hotel booking app, who are intending on using Personas to further enhance customization in the hotels it displays to individual customers. Says Sam MacDonnell, CTO at HotelTonight:

At HotelTonight, we’ve been using Segment for centralizing data tracking to one platform and syncing our data to all of the tools we use. With Personas, we’re excited to surface user insights within Segment, remove engineering work required to manually derive user traits, and more easily give each user a custom experience no matter where they are. Segment data has always been a core piece of our internal machine learning and personalization efforts, and Personas will bring our capabilities to the next level.


When executed well, and regarded as a core approach the organization uses across all departments, personas are very powerful design tools. That is also the case (and more so) when personas are used to tailor specific activities that an organization is involved with. Of course, it requires deep integrations and this is where Segment’s Personas come in. I like the functionality Segment is delivering and will be interested to see their customer’s experiences with it.




Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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