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Iterable Data Types: Attributes, Events and Metadata

By now we all know how important data is to successful marketing—we know that you already know this. What you might not know, however, is how to actually make use of the exabytes of data that are created daily.

Today, we’ll take a closer look at the different data types that growth marketing platforms like Iterable classify, store and activate as part of a standout customer messaging experience.

Without venturing too deep into the weeds, we’ll focus on three primary data types that flow through our platform before transforming into personalized cross-channel messaging:

  1. User attributes
  2. Event data
  3. Metadata*

(*We recognize that metadata’s descriptive nature applies to all data types, but for the sake of today’s post we’ll be examining it through a product-specific lens.)

The Basics: Attributes, Events and Metadata

User data as a concept is fairly straightforward. On a daily basis, consumers express exactly who they are, what they like and more across the digital universe. This richly detailed, personal data—browsing, buying, clicking, tapping, and interacting—is encapsulated as user data that can live inside Iterable user profiles.

Within Iterable, we generally classify this data as two different data types: user attributes and event data.

User Attributes

What it is: User attributes are usually insights like personal characteristics, geographic location and general profile-building properties. These are the data points that speak to your users’ individualities—their contact details, how and when they found you, the lists they’re (un)subscribed to, and the devices they use.

Where it comes from: In general, all information about your users is passed to Iterable through API, CSV import, partner integrations, or mobile SDK. User attributes are no exception. Iterable receives and stores new user profile basics once they’ve join your website or app. As their engagement grows, we append new details about them and their experiences to their profiles. 

Why it’s important: User attributes build a bigger picture of who your customers are. Iterable uses these attribute values for segmentation, workflow filtering and dynamically personalizing content.

Andrew Boni's User Profile

User Profiles store different attributes and give you a well-rounded view of every customer.

Event Data

What it is: Event data captures critical details about what your users “do” with your brand—from macro events like purchases or subscription levels to micro events like website and app clicks, page views, email or push opens, and more.

Importantly, engagement encompasses much more than simply opening a message—Iterable’s custom event capabilities layers in rich details about customer experiences. Because events are broad in scope and often brand-specific, it’s easy to customize which unique events are tracked and stored to your users’ profiles.

Where it comes from: Message engagement activity like channel-specific sends, opens and clicks are natively tracked by Iterable to show how your customers are interacting with your brand. External activities, like cart additions or purchases taking place on your website or app, can all be brought into the platform the same ways user attributes are.

Why it’s important: Compiled event data offers a holistic and evolving look into your customers’ changing interests and needs. Use these events and their layers of associated data inside Iterable as conditional logic parameters that enhance segmentation, workflow filtering, and dynamic templating.

Andrew Boni's event data history

See the different details of your customers’ recent and historical interactions transcribed as event data.


Metadata is all the descriptive data about the core products and services differentiating your brand from your competitors. Think of a book, for example: though there are millions of them, no two are the same because of key distinctions: author, genre, characters, plot, and so on.

Moving from analogy to your business, it’s the details (the metadata) about your brand’s offerings that makes you valuable to your customers—and we can capture all of these critical specificities inside Iterable.

What it is: Metadata accounts for your business’s finest of details; it’s the brand equivalent of user attributes. On its own, it characterizes who your brand is, what it does and offers. But metadata paints much more vivid image of what your customers like specifically about your brand once affiliated with user data. 

For example, if a customer makes a retail purchase, that purchase metadata—size, color, style, category, price, or whatever else—can be saved to their profile for use within a number of future marketing initiatives.

Where it comes from: Metadata typically resides in the various data management and e-commerce platforms our customers use. When marketing campaigns are sent, Iterable’s APIs and integrations insert the specified metadata from these platforms into your message templates in the forms of personalized content.

In addition, customers using our Catalog feature can import their products’ details into an Iterable-hosted environment and use our Collection builder to power product recommendations.

Why it’s important: The difference between a good and great campaign ties directly to your ability to wield metadata. Applying the customer-specific insights that live inside metadata is the basis of a 1:1 experience—it informs which of your particular content, products and services they care about most and can help you infer what they’ll care about next. If message personalization is the destination, metadata is the road that gets you there.

Staying Organized

It’s important to note that Iterable organizes and stores the data we’ve described above as objects and arrays. Storing data this way provides superior grouping and detail collection capabilities (and without the hassle of relational table building).

Even as your customers’ profiles grow, our platform makes it possible to turn even the finest of details into different campaign components. And this where everything comes together! The full spectrum of data encompassing your customers’ experiences all boil down into collections of metadata-rich objects and arrays.

Getting Personal

This structure makes it incredibly easy (and fast) to identify commonalities between otherwise unrelated elements of an experience. We’ve centralized all of the key data needed to comprehensively accomplish the two biggest challenges marketers face:

  1. Identifying WHO should receive messages
  2. Determining WHAT that audience should receive

With Iterable’s segmentation tool, you can quickly assemble targeted customer lists by simply filtering through user attributes and events. In seconds you can generate a list of customers with criteria like this:

  • Customer for 1+ year
  • Made at 3+ purchases within the last 90 days
  • LTV exceeds $100.

Since Iterable appends product-specific metadata to attribute and event data, dynamically building content that corresponds with a customer’s previous engagements is easy.

Let’s pretend you wanted to build loyalty program awareness and notify this audience segment of their recent point earnings totals.

All you need is message template that pulls in data like:

  • First name
  • Point totals
  • Number of points until next reward
  • Recent purchases

Next, set a send time or trigger—that’s it! All templates are populated at the time of message send, ensuring content is always up to date.

The result? A targeted, individualized, lifecycle-specific, automated, and hassle-free message built from readily accessible data. 

Lastly, you can also pair this data with Iterable Catalog to generate individualized recommendations—much like The Dyrt does.

Digging The Dyrt

The Dyrt, the #1 ranked camping app in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, uses Iterable Catalog to recommend the ideal campgrounds for each individual camper using their app. The Dyrt curates recommendations from over 40,0000 different campground types based on a user’s camping preferences, geo-location and price.

Campers can toggle through The Dyrt’s 25+ campground filters to find their perfect campground. For convenient searchability, The Dyrt users’ profiles save their particular site preferences: 

  • Site types: tents, RVs, cabins, and more
  • Access: walk-in, drive-in, hike-in, boat-in
  • Features: dogs, fires, showers, WiFi, and more
  • and more!

In the email below, we’ve highlighted how different data manifests into a highly personalized messaging experience.

With The Dyrt’s individualized recommendations, campers no longer have to hunt for the perfect destination.

In the example above, they’ve woven the attribute, event and metadata together into a dynamic messaging experience. The end result speaks directly to the tastes of each recipient.

It not only looks great, it performed great, too. Using Catalog as a personalization driver, The Dyrt increased open rates by 57% and click-through rates by 466%!

This is a marquee example that demonstrates how data can transform your customers’ experiences.

If you’ve dreamed about using your hard-earned customer data types for good, now is the time to do it. Sign up for a customized demo of Iterable today and learn where the road ahead can take you.

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