Hightouch vs. Rudderstack: The key differences
Learn everything there is to know about Hightouch and Rudderstack and discover the key differences around security, data access, audience management, speed, etc.
May 24, 2022
Although Rudderstack technically has a “Reverse ETL” offering within its product suite, a closer look will reveal that the functionality is extremely primitive when compared to a focused Reverse ETL vendor like Hightouch. We actually have quite a few joint customers who are commonly using Rudderstack for event collection/streaming and Hightouch for Data Activation use cases. There are several key things to consider when comparing Reverse ETL capabilities like flexibility, bulk API support, observability, audience management, and version control.
We’ve done our best to document the most important factors in this spreadsheet. If you have an objection or see something that is wrong, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can make the appropriate change.
Security & Hosting
Regional regulations like GDPR and the Data Protection Act require data processing to remain in-region, so it’s essential that your Reverse ETL provider meets these basic compliance certifications. You need to be able to choose exactly what region your SaaS tool is hosted in. Right now, Rudderstack Cloud can only be deployed in the US, whereas Hightouch can be deployed in the US or the EU. You also need to be able to define exactly what level of access your users should have. SSO support is also important and currently, Rudderstack only supports Okta and OneLogin. With Hightouch you can access all of your favorite SSO providers and easily define roles (admins, editors, viewers) for your users.
Data access should be high on your priority list. One of the best ways to evaluate this is to look at the number of sources supported. Hightouch supports 19 different data sources and Rudderstack supports six. You can pull data using SQL in both platforms and run incremental syncs to ensure you are only syncing the recent changes in your data model. However, Rudderstack does not provide support for non-database sources, and you can’t leverage existing data models in your dbt Git repository.
The most significant gap that exists in the Reverse ETL category is the number of destinations supported. Hightouch offers 100+ integrations, but Rudderstack only supports 12 destinations for visual mapping (more destinations are likely supported to send simple identify calls.) With Hightouch you can sync any custom object, customer list, or behavioral event data to your downstream business tools. You can even sync data directly to file systems and also send notifications to your favorite messaging platforms.
Rudderstack only supports sending “identify” API calls on user profiles, meaning you can simply distribute user attributes to other tools. It does not support bulk APIs, event endpoints, list endpoints, or even updating custom objects downstream. This makes it impossible to activate data in various common formats (such as updating more complex CRM objects, forwarding events, or syncing lists to advertising platforms.) Hightouch lets you test and view all API request/response payloads for all new and available syncs. You can even transform data directly in your sync config using Hightouch’s advanced mappings feature.
When it comes to the Unbundled CDP, Hightouch is leading the conversation, and in order to adopt this new architectural model, you need to give your non-technical users powerful tooling that lets them build and manage their customer audiences in a self-service way. Hightouch offers a visual audience builder interface that lets you join across both related data models and behavioral event models.
With Hightouch your non-technical users can even take advantage of sync templates to modularize and optimize their sync configuration. Hightouch also offers robust audience organization, custom views, and label-based access. Best of all Hightouch can materialize your audience back into your warehouse for analytics purposes. Rudderstack provides no audience capabilities, so none of the features just listed are available within the platform.
At the end of the day, your data syncs are just are important as your production code, so it’s essential that you have access to robust developer features. Although Hightouch and Rudderstack, both offer several developer-friendly features like orchestration capabilities via Airflow, there are some major differences. Hightouch gives you access to version control through Git so you can bi-directionally update your models and syncs straight from your command line and take advantage of all the other native features that Git offers.
Hightouch also has a live debugger that lets you view API requests/responses and search by the primary key. Debugging in Rudderstack is limited to a random selection of APIs. Hightouch even integrates with Datadog, so you can monitor your syncs and create customized alerts and dashboards. With Rudderstack none of this is possible and you have no ability to sync metadata back to your warehouse or send alerts/notifications to your favorite messaging tools.
Although Rudderstack can be a good option for event collection and streaming use cases, for Reverse ETL, Hightouch offers better features for marketers, data engineers, and business teams.
If you’re evaluating Reverse ETL platforms, download our Complete Reverse ETL Buyer's Guide to learn everything there is to know about Reverse ETL and what you should consider when evaluating tools.