This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Autopilot and load it into PostgreSQL. (If this manual process sounds onerous, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)
What is Autopilot?
Autopilot is a visual tool that allows marketers to track their prospects' customer journeys. Some of the information stored in Autopilot is valuable input for business analytics.
What is PostgreSQL?
PostgreSQL, a.k.a. Postgres, proclaims itself "the world's most advanced open source database." The popular open source object-relational database management system (ORDBMS) offers enterprise-grade features with a strong emphasis on extensibility and standards compliance.
PostgreSQL runs on all major operating systems, including Linux, Unix, and Windows. It's fully ACID-compliant and supports a roster of features: foreign keys, joins, views, triggers, and stored procedures in multiple languages. PostgreSQL serves as the back end for many web systems and software tools, and is available in cloud-based deployments from most major cloud vendors. PostgreSQL's syntax forms the basis for querying Amazon Redshift, which makes migration between the two systems relatively painless, and makes Postgres a good stepping-stone for developers who may later use Redshift's data warehouse platform.
Getting data out of Autopilot
Autopilot exposes data through a REST API, which developers can use to extract information. For example, to retrieve a batch of 100 contacts, you could call
The call returns a JSON object with two or three properties as a reply:
total_contacts: the total number of contacts
contacts: the current batch of 100 contacts
bookmark: if there are more contacts on the list, the bookmark allows you to access the next group of contacts via another GET call.
Each Autopilot contact may have any or all of 26 standard fields, along with any custom fields you may have defined.
Loading data into Postgres
Once you have identified all of the columns you will want to insert, you can use the
CREATE TABLE statement in Postgres to create a table that can receive all of this data. Then, Postgres offers a number of methods for loading in data, and the best method varies depending on the quantity of data you have and the regularity with which you plan to load it.
For simple, day-to-day data insertion, running
INSERT queries against the database directly are the standard SQL method for getting data added. Documentation on INSERT queries and their bretheren can be found in the Postgres documentation here.
For bulk insertions of data, which you will likely want to conduct if you have a high volume of data to load, other tools exist as well. This is where the
COPY command becomes quite useful, as it allows you to load large sets of data into Postgres without needing to run a series of INSERT statements. Documentation can be found here.
The Postgres documentation also provides a helpful overall guide for conducting fast data inserts, populating your database, and avoiding common pitfalls in the process. You can find it here.
Keeping Autopilot data up to date
At this point you’ve coded up a script or written a program to get the data you want and successfully moved it into your data warehouse. But how will you load new or updated data? It's not a good idea to replicate all of your data each time you have updated records. That process would be painfully slow and resource-intensive.
Instead, identify key fields that your script can use to bookmark its progression through the data and use to pick up where it left off as it looks for updated data. Auto-incrementing fields such as updated_at or created_at work best for this. When you've built in this functionality, you can set up your script as a cron job or continuous loop to get new data as it appears in Autopilot.
And remember, as with any code, once you write it, you have to maintain it. If Autopilot modifies its API, or sends a field with a datatype your code doesn't recognize, you may have to modify the script. If your users want slightly different information, you definitely will have to.
Other data warehouse options
PostgreSQL is great, but sometimes you need to optimize for different things when you're choosing a data warehouse. Some folks choose to go with Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, Snowflake, or Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse, which are RDBMSes that use similar SQL syntax, or Panoply, which works with Redshift instances. Others choose a data lake, like Amazon S3. If you're interested in seeing the relevant steps for loading data into one of these platforms, check out To Redshift, To BigQuery, To Snowflake, To Panoply, To Azure SQL Data Warehouse, and To S3.
Easier and faster alternatives
If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t be alarmed. If you have all the skills necessary to go through this process, chances are building and maintaining a script like this isn’t a very high-leverage use of your time.
Thankfully, products like Stitch were built to move data from Autopilot to PostgreSQL automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Autopilot data via the API, structuring it in a way that's optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into your PostgreSQL data warehouse.