Building a Personalized Email Newsletter System with Ibexa and Salesforce

The developers at Mugo recently worked with a client team to integrate Salesforce (SF) and Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) into its various products. The client operates multiple online products with independent user groups, and each product group offers multiple email newsletters. We have particular responsibility for maintaining and developing the online products, all of which are built with Ibexa's Digital Experience Platform (DXP), eZ Platform.

We took the opportunity to look more closely at how Salesforce supports the client’s needs, and were very impressed with how efficiently Salesforce allows you to manage content personalization, campaign orchestration and other advanced elements of a heavy newsletter requirement. We have built and integrated a lot of newsletter solutions (with SendGrid and Bronto, for example), and for the price of a short initial learning curve, Salesforce and SFMC provide an excellent solution.

Centralized subscriber entitlement management

That said, Salesforce combined with Salesforce Marketing Cloud is not a perfect fit. The problem is that SFMC is the marketing automation system that actually sends emails, while our client employs SF to maintain the canonical account information. Thus, accounts have to be synced from SF into SFMC.

For example, it is SFMC that manages the unsubscribe requests from email footers. SFMC typically hosts the end user "Preferences Center" self-serve account management tool for the email it transmits. However, this default solution is not flexible enough for our client, which has significant functional demands for an overall user entitlements system that is supported by SF. So, they require a custom preferences center which is built out on SF itself. The custom preferences center offers a sufficiently better user experience, combined with the increment of correctness in the SF data to justify the expense of the project.

Automated email content personalization

One of the compelling strengths of the solution is the ability to automate the integration of personalized content into newsletters. This was one of the areas where we provided an integration from Ibexa’s DXP to SF. The system does require developer support, but it is very efficient and very flexible; for the amount of developer effort, the impact is excellent.

The data flow is the simple way to understand the system. Initially, the DXP drops a CSV into a SFMC-owned FTP site. The file drop triggers a sequence of "activities" which parse the CSV into a "data extension.” The data extension is essentially an SQL table. The data rests here until it is consumed by a newsletter process.

Newsletters are templated in a native scripting language called AMPscript, not to be confused with Google AMP. The template pulls both the datasource and the subscriber list; so when the newsletter is scheduled to send, it does all the work. Content is populated into the template based on the recipient’s profile. This is an ideal situation since it centralizes all the customization and provides an optimal flexibility.

Preview support

For me, the feature that really made SF + SFMC usable is the newsletter preview. Optionally, during the data importation process, SFMC can trigger a newsletter send to a specific recipient list. The newsletter can be a version of the end user template, but with additional information, such as diagnostics and analytics.

If newsletter editors see a problem in the template or the imported data, they can intervene with sufficient time to get it fixed or delay the publication.

If you want to get in touch and discover how Mugo Web can help you achieve your digital experience goals, especially when it comes to integrating your DXP with an existing business system please don’t hesitate in reaching out.

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