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Salesforce Marketing Cloud Content Personalization Features: An Introductory Guide

Salesforce Marketing Cloud Content Personalization Features: An Introductory Guide

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Personalization is a common buzzword one can hear throughout the digital marketing landscape. And as a result, it can mean so many things depending upon who you ask. 

However, at the end of the day, personalization is what marketers are aiming to deliver — user experiences that are personal and customized based on contact preferences and previous engagement. 

We’ll focus on several key features and functionalities available in Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement to offer personalized content.

Personalization can mean many things in Marketing Cloud

Personalization is a powerful tactic for marketers to leverage. However, the term is used so often and can mean many different things — especially when it comes to the what and the how. It can leave everyone a bit confused as to what one really means when they use this term. 

There are several ways you can deliver personalized content in Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement that range from simple to complex.

Marketing Cloud Personalization Strings

The most basic and common form of personalization in your digital marketing efforts can be referred to as personalization strings. A personalization string lets you insert subscriber attributes, such as subscriber name, into your emails

Personalization strings can appear in the subject line, preheader, or in the content of the email in Email Studio. 

You may hear personalization strings referred to as merge fields or substitution strings. This type of personalization has been in usage for quite some time and while commonplace, it is very effective.

In addition to the subscriber attributes, you can insert system data and modify the content using AMPscript expressions. You can type personalization strings into the HTML of your email body if you’re creating an HTML paste email, or you can type them into the text editor when you create or modify text content.

Tips for using Marketing Cloud Personalization Strings

Below are some tips to consider when using personalization strings: 

  • All personalization strings are case-insensitive.
  • Include the two sets of double percent symbols.
  • If you’re inserting a personalization string into a line with other data, include a space before and after the personalization string.
  • If you insert a personalization string, and the subscriber attribute isn’t populated, the string will appear blank in the email. Be sure to define a default value for every attribute you intend to use with a personalization string. For example, use this string to include default attributes for First_Name: %%[IF Empty(First_Name) == “False” THEN SET @FN = First_Name ELSE SET @FN = “Customer” ENDIF]%%Hi %%=v(@FN)=%%
  • Do not include personally identifiable information, such as email address, in email links.
  • Testing is critical; two testing tools available for personalization strings are Content Detective and Validation.
  • Leverage code snippets for your AMPscript for non-technical users.

Learn more about using personalization strings here.

Marketing Cloud Dynamic Content

Dynamic content is another way to offer relevant and personalized content to your audience in Email Studio. 

Like its counterpart in Account Engagement (Pardot), Dynamic content in Marketing Cloud Engagement is content that displays in a content area according to the rules that you define based on the subscriber’s attributes or the targeted data extension column values. It’s a great way for non-technical marketers to deliver personalized content using the rules-based interface. 

You can also use dynamic content in your preheader and subject line instead of using AMPscript expressions.

The two testing tools available for dynamic content are: 

  1. Subscriber preview 
  2. Test send

Marketing Cloud Enhanced Dynamic Content

If you are designing emails that extend beyond a couple of rules for swapping dynamic content, the Enhanced Dynamic Content tool lets you import a delimited file containing text and image URLs to create content.

Instead of using AMPscript and data extensions to manually create complex dynamic content and the rules for each variation, the system creates the content from the data in your import file. The columns in the import file contain the names of the enhanced dynamic content assets, and the rows contain the content variations for each asset. 

Content Builder saves the assets as Enhanced Dynamic Content Maps in the content library. Then you can use them as blocks in emails and templates. You can link your enhanced dynamic content to an audience during the import or while adding the blocks to an email or template.

Einstein Content Selection

You can also add an Einstein Content Selection content block to your messages. At open, Einstein then can select an image for your messages by analyzing the assets that are engaging your customers. The content block selects an asset that’s personalized for each subscriber from a pool of assets that you upload and then adds the asset to the message. 

Things to consider:

  • Einstein Content Selection must be enabled in Marketing Cloud Setup.
  • You should add an asset catalog file before dragging the Einstein Content Selection block into your message so that Einstein can select the image assets to show.
  • The subscriber list can’t contain a field called memberid. If it does, the block doesn’t function properly.
  • Assets are selected based on how they perform with your subscribers.

Einstein Recommendations via Marketing Cloud Personalization (Interaction Studio) 

Last but not least, Marketing Cloud Personalization*, powered by Einstein recommendations, delivers the next best product, content, or offer to every individual through product and content recommendations for email and web. 

Every customer interaction is an insight. With every click, download, view, and purchase, customers are giving data about their preferences. Marketing Cloud Personalization combines user behavior with algorithms and your unique business rules to build a user profile of affinities. And in turn, use that profile to determine the most relevant content and products for each customer in real-time.

Marketing Cloud Personalization gives marketers the ability to:

  • Understand Customer Behavior – through JavaScript collection and Item Attribution to understand Customer Affinity
  • Predict & Automate Decisions – including 1:1 recommendations and behavioral triggers
  • Personalize Each Customer Journey – through audience segmentation and conversion reporting

*Marketing Cloud Personalization must be purchased and provisioned before use; it is not included as part of the Marketing Cloud Engagement product.

Personalization can take many forms

In summary, the ways you can deliver personalized content in Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement range far and wide, from simple to complex.  

Regardless of what you choose, see below for some reminders and tips to get started: 

  • Personalization always depends on your data and what is available.
  • A template is a shell for an email that can be used and a great place to standardize personalized or dynamic content.
  • Content blocks can also be reused. Design personalization based on the attributes you are collecting and enable every email to be personalized.
  • Personalization strings can be used inline in a Text block and in the Subject and preheaders for individualized content.
  • Testing is critical. Leverage Preview to view individualized content for a subscriber; Test sends allow you to send specific email versions or multiple versions to ensure personalization and business logic is set up correctly.
  • Crawl, walk, and run into email personalization.

Tell us how you’re using Marketing Cloud personalization features in the comments below. Or reach out to the Sercante team for help figuring out how to leverage the tools.

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  • Kirsten leads the Sercante Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement practice. With over 15+ years of experience working in the digital marketing industry, she's passionate about helping organizations (both B2B and B2C, alike) go from good to great, including Fortune 500 brands such as CVS Pharmacy and Delta Airlines. When she’s not working, you’ll find her supporting Atlanta local sports teams, Atlanta United and Hawks, or on the soccer pitch playing the best game in the world!

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