As the yearly trend of new marketing technology startups continues, separating the wheat from the chaff is becoming a challenge. One San Francisco-based company has recently caught my attention, and Freshpaint, a YC-backed company, is on a mission to become a leading data collection and pipeline solution.
According to their website:
Freshpaint helps product, data, and marketing teams set up the customer behavioral data they need to build a better product, drive engagement, and improve retention.
I often compare marketing technology companies to recipes. While trying to achieve similar goals, they use different ingredients to get the flavor right. The same goes for Freshpaint, which shows similarities to solutions like Segment, PostHog, mParticle, and Rudderstack.
However, I would like to discuss a Freshpaint feature that piqued my interest instead of pointing out the similarities.
The Freshpaint Time Machine
As I try to avoid dropping too many Back to the Future quotes, I did do a “Great Scott” digging deeper into Freshpaint’s Time Machine feature. The Time Machine is almost synonymous with a Replay functionality. Customer data platform vendors such as Segment, mParticle, and Rudderstack all offer replay functionalities, which I have often had to use, but none of them provide it as Freshpaint does.
Before I continue, let me admit that:
- I love the hardcoded tracking approach, a strategy defined by a well-thought-out tracking plan, smart schemas, and strong naming conventions.
However, Freshpaint has got me thinking. In this “no-code is the way to go” world we are living in today, Freshpaint might be on to something.
The Freshpaint Time Machine allows you to create new events from autotracked events and backfill a selected list of destinations with this data. I emphasized ‘create new events’ because Time Machine will use previously collected autotrack data to build new events and event parameters.
Seriously… Autotrack? Yes, but with Time Machine only.
Autotrack is not a ‘new thing.’ Autotrack has been around for many years and has been used by many analytics solutions.
- Google Analytics announced autotrack.js back in 2016… I have never come across a company that used it.
- Mixpanel was one of the first companies that I remember that offered an autocapture feature… it has been discontinued.
- Heap and PostHog still actively promote their autocapture feature.
But is it bad? There is an excellent quote on PostHog’s GitHub by Andy Vandervell:
Manual instrumentation is for the world we wish existed; autocapture is for the world that actually exists.
I agree. There are plenty of use cases where an autotrack/autocapture feature would help. With Time Machine, Freshpaint has created a case for almost every marketeer. Not only can marketers become active in defining events to track, but with the Time Machine feature, you can retroactively build and populate event data with relative ease.
How does the Freshpaint Time Machine work?
To make the Time Machine work, you must define the event in Freshpaint. Don’t misconstrue; you can retroactively define events based on historic autotrack data.
Once defined, reload the event and scroll to the bottom. Please ensure the event’s destination is active, then click Backfill. This will start the Backfill process for that specific event.
It is just as simple as it sounds. Now, although I still have some concerns about the flexibility in defining events based on collected data, there is still a lot of room for retroactively gaining insights from your user’s behavior.
Which destinations work with the Freshpaint Time Machine?
- Azure Synapse Analytics
Some of you might be asking, why is Google Analytics not on the list? Google Analytics does not allow you to send data using its Measurement Protocol API older than 72 hours. Amplitude and Mixpanel would be your only options for (product) analytics solutions.
The Freshpaint Time Machine is a welcome innovation in today’s data collection solution landscape. While I will research the effectiveness of autotrack functionalities, they serve a purpose. Helping analysts and marketers has always been my goal. If a temporary solution such as autotrack can help a company gain valuable insights and activate segments of users based on retroactive data, who am I to say no?
In a recent blog post, ChiefMarTec Scott Brinker shared some great insights about how SMB companies are more likely to consolidate and optimize their marketing tech stack in 2023. Citing that companies want to avoid increased prices by established marketing tech vendors and reduced time to see the value. Another driver Scott mentioned was the willingness to consider solutions with innovations. This is where companies like Freshpaint hit the nail on the head with the Time Machine and Autotrack combo.
I will continue to recommend a more traditional approach to collect data, which helps me more accurately monitor data quality and privacy. Still, I will be considering recommending solutions like Freshpaint to my customers in the future.
If you want to learn more about my experiences with solutions that offer autotrack functionality, please contact me or connect with me on LinkedIn.