Branch to Postgres

This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Branch 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 Branch?

Branch Metrics lets businesses generate deep links they can use to track conversions and user engagement on web and mobile transactions. It provides a business analytics dashboard to surface user behavior data.

What is PostgreSQL?

PostgreSQL, known by most simply as Postgres, is a hugely popular object-relational database management system (ORDBMS). It labels itself as "the world's most advanced open source database," and for good reason. The platform, despite being available for free via an open source license, offers enterprise-grade features including a strong emphasis on extensibility and standards compliance.

It runs on all major operating systems, including Linux, Unix, and Windows. It is fully ACID-compliant, has full support for foreign keys, joins, views, triggers, and stored procedures (in multiple languages). Postgres is often the best tool for the job as a back-end database for web systems and software tools, and cloud-based deployments are offered by most major cloud vendors. Its syntax also forms the basis for querying Amazon Redshift, which makes migration between the two systems relatively painless and makes Postgres a good "first step" for developers who may later expand into Redshift's data warehouse platform.

Getting data out of Branch

Branch exposes data for things like install, open, clicks, and web session start through webhooks to user-defined HTTP POST callbacks. You can add a webhook through the Branch dashboard.

Sample Branch data

Branch exchanges data in JSON format. Here’s an example of the data returned for a clicks endpoint:

POST
User-agent: Branch Metrics API
Content-Type: application/json
{
    click_id: a unique identifier,
    event: 'click',
    event_timestamp: 'link click timestamp',
    os: 'iOS' | 'Android',
    os_version: 'the OS version',
    metadata: {
        ip: 'click IP',
        userAgent: 'click UA',
        browser: 'browser',
        browser_version: 'browser version',
        brand: 'phone brand',
        model: 'phone model',
        os: 'browser OS',
        os_version: 'OS version'
    },
    query: { any query parameters appended to the link },
    link_data: { link data dictionary - see below }
}

// link data dictionary example
{
    branch_id: 'unique identifier for unique link',
    date_ms: 'link creation date with millisecond',
    date_sec: 'link creation date with second',
    date: 'link creation date',
    domain: 'domain label',
    data: {
        +url: the Branch link,
        ... other deep link data
    },
    campaign: 'campaign label',
    feature: 'feature label',
    channel: 'channel label'
    tags: [tags array],
    stage: 'stage label',
}

Preparing Branch data

If you don’t already have a data structure in which to store the data you retrieve, you’ll have to create a schema for your data tables. Then, for each value in the response, you’ll need to identify a predefined datatype (INTEGER, DATETIME, etc.) and build a table that can receive them. Branch's documentation should tell you what fields are provided by each endpoint, along with their corresponding datatypes.

Complicating things is the fact that the records retrieved from the source may not always be "flat" – some of the objects may actually be lists. This means you’ll likely have to create additional tables to capture the unpredictable cardinality in each record.

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 Branch data up to date

Once you’ve set up the webhooks you want and have begun collecting data, you can relax – as long as everything continues to work correctly. You’ll have to keep an eye out for any changes to Branch’s webhooks implementation.

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, or Snowflake, which are RDBMSes that use similar SQL syntax, or Panoply, which works with Redshift instances. 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, and To Panoply.

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 solve this problem automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Branch data via the API, structuring it in a way that is optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into your PostgreSQL data warehouse.