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How much of this could be accomplished using something like Mixpanel? Honestly curious.

I know a true ETL solution like this will be more powerful and flexible, but how do you decide when it's worth the investment? Are there key use-cases or reports that only this type of solution can provide? Is the main issue with external analytics (like Mixpanel) that you need to know what data to collect before you can report on it?

MixPanel is nice, but its support for multiple sources of data is not very good. You can slice and dice events, but if you want to join that to your user database, things get awkward/not-possible pretty quickly.

The 2nd thing is that MixPanel is write-once, read-forever. aka if you misspell something or change definitions you end up in a bad place. These ETL processes are much more capable of adapting and normalizing a schema over time.

I recently worked on a similar project (with Privy.com), where Mixpanel was one of the external providers we tracked with. Mixpanel handles (AFAIK) an arbitrary number of properties. It was a lot easier than say Google Analytics, where custom dimensions are limited.

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