April 2021 - Release Notes Summary
Published on 03/29/2021
As 2021 rolls on, so do the latest new features being brought to your Marketing Cloud orgs, courtesy of the release due to land between 10th-17th April. The priorities continue to be Journey Builder and operational efficiencies within the platform, including reducing the dependency on FTP file transfers for some customers depending upon your data infrastructure of choice.
Although the release has some interesting new capabilities landing in the next few weeks, it would be remiss to not mention the things that are due to leave us in the imminent future. First things first, V2 Marketing Cloud Connect - You have literally just a couple of days to get away from this and into the later integration. We summarised the options available in the previous release notes review.
If you’re using V2 and are on an edition of Salesforce CRM that supports it. If you are using a Salesforce Professional Edition, you will need to upgrade your Sales or Service cloud edition to Enterprise or Unlimited in order to access V5. If you’re not sure whether it makes sense for your business to do the upgrade, you can check out the difference between V2 and V5 here. If you’re not in a position to upgrade to V5, you may need to investigate other options for transferring data between your Marketing Cloud org and Salesforce.
But, it’s not just Salesforce Service/Sales Cloud that has an integration on its way out, if you’re using a legacy Microsoft Dynamics CRM On-Premise integration - October 29th this will be removed and you’ll need to rely on Email Studio functionality to carry on your activity. Dynamics is not my speciality, all I can suggest is you take a look at the release note here and check out the article from Microsoft on the enforcement of the Unified Interface in MS Dynamics here.
Salesforce continues to warn us of the eventual removal of Cloud Pages and its replacement with the New Cloud Pages Experience. It’s been almost a year since the preview was first announced and it was originally anticipated to replace in January 2021 so it could be relatively short notice that this experience replaces the current. It would be worthwhile spending time getting familiar with it before you don’t get a choice in the matter. If nothing else, the ability to copy a Cloud Page is definitely a perk!
There’s a suggestion that the Collect Code used for capturing data for Einstein Web and Email recommendations will be deprecated. If you’re actively using the collect code and streaming updates then you should keep an eye out for this change in the future. Reason for the change is that as an open API, it’s open to having unauthorised changes to recommendations data which would definitely be a little risky.
The final thing to be aware of is the as yet undetermined closure of legacy Stack Specific API Endpoints and the requirement of Tenant Specific Endpoints. There’s no end date in place for stack specific endpoints, so no urgent rush on it.
Now that all of the things that are going away is out of the way, let’s take a look at the new features to look forward to in the coming weeks.
If you’ve ever been in a position of needing to replicate successful implementations of an SFMC Org, you’ll be familiar with the process of either copying and pasting SQL Queries, writing duplication scripts and pointing between Business Units or Orgs. You may have previously used Deployment Manager, however, Package Manager is being positioned as the answer to enable you to deploy at scale. How this works with different elements is yet to be seen and I’m hopeful that it’ll enable some of the time consuming, repetitive elements of working with SFMC to be made much more swift. The screenshot provided by Salesforce in the release notes have this pegged as covering Assets, Attribute Groups, Automations, Data Extensions and Journeys. If this can be automated and be a method to create org wide snapshots on a daily basis to be retained, this would be a game changer.
This isn’t so much a new feature as it is a “We’ve suggested you turn this on, but some of you haven’t and therefore we’re no longer giving you the choice”. The feature is unchanged, except for the fact it is no longer an optional extra for your security. It’ll be enabled and the tickbox is going to go away.
This looks to be an interesting new piece of functionality for SFMC to pull data in from an S3 bucket. If you’re already using AWS to house your data and using an additional step in your process to load data to SFMC via FTP, this could remove some latency for you. You’ll just need to choose Amazon Simple Storage Service as a location type when you set up a new File Location. Not sure how this will work with File Drop automations (if at all), so perhaps Gortonington will need to revisit his blog post on the subject.
Auto Send is being given a limited release (Not sure how that makes it into the release notes, but it did so I’ll cover it) to some customers in the upcoming release. Auto Sending allows Campaign owners to provision an automatic send for a campaign, so for those who are selected for a campaign but not in a scheduled or bulk send to the linked Journey with default values. However, if the Auto Send is configured by someone who only has access to a proportion of the campaign audience - it’ll only be dispatched to that proportion of the campaign audience… and everything is personalised at a campaign level as opposed to a person level... So, I’ll call it Campaignalised instead.
If you’re an avid user of the Journey Analytics Dashboard, you may have thought “Dang, this takes up a lot of room and doesn’t show me a whole lot of data”. Well, that’s going to change as a result of a more data-intensive look and feel. You’ll need to integrate Google Analytics to see the dashboard in Journey Builder and from experience it does make things a little easier than flipping between multiple tools… Now if only Salesforce would condense the Journey Templates on the login screen. Or make them optional.
With the push to encourage more and more customers to use Einstein, Salesforce has a bit of a job to do to highlight the values, the benefits and the ways to push it further. If you build your own modelling tools, you can see exactly where your data is appropriate and suitable for your scenarios but as it stands in Einstein tools you don’t get much to look at besides a couple of gauges and some dots for Send Time Optimisation. In the new release you’ll get some more information about the data quality going into your Engagement Frequency and Engagement Scoring dashboards which is definitely nice to have.
Currently for Einstein Content Selection you may find yourself having to input an image URL for the assets to be included in the process. In the new release you’ll be able to use the URL, desktop files or files already in Content Builder, you could even use a HTML block, but only if it doesn’t contain any AMPscript. Nice to have if you’re an avid user of the tool.
For those who are using ECS, you may have had some challenges in the past of inappropriate content popping up in the Einstein Content Selection blocks in Content Builder. It’s definitely annoying when in the middle of a Global Pandemic or National Lockdowns that there’s a vacation deal that can’t be taken advantage of. But you can now set Spotlights on contents based on a specific attribute and its associated value. Now you can make sure nobody gets offered $25 off a flight even when they can’t go anywhere.
Einstein Messaging Insights will be giving some additional context to the conclusions it is making around the anomalies that may get presented. This should hopefully mean less time spent digging into an anomaly, only to find out that it’s not an anomaly it’s just a lapsed customer winback campaign that is performing as expected.
This will allow you to create a customised, near real time experience for contacts in Journey Builder. For those who are actively using Journey Builder, this has been a missing feature for a while. The ability to ensure a contact waits for a maximum amount of time to allow for a customer action to occur and then if not, provide a different customer experience is long overdue. Previously you would have to use multiple journeys, blend your operation between Journeys and triggered sends or just make all contacts wait for the maximum amount of time and use a decision split to determine the best course of action. This could be actioned from script activities, cloud pages or external systems, whichever makes the most sense for your use case - but definitely take a look when it goes live for you.
This is a useful addition to Journey Builder, which is notoriously difficult to triage issues where you see X people receive an email at one step, but suddenly only half as many make it to a later step. Take some of the guesswork out of what instigated the drop off or the increased failure rate so you can take action quickly. You’ll get up to 30 days worth of data in the view for non-wait activities, so it should even help with custom Journey Builder activities and more.
Apparently these are making a comeback. After announcing in May last year that .p12 certificates were being deprecated and providing an Action Required headline to the release note - these are back. You can now choose whether you want to go with a .p8 Auth Key or a .p12 certificate when you’re sending push notifications on the upgraded HTTP/2 sending service.
After launching a few months ago, Salesforce is making it easy for you to not send WhatsApp messages to contacts who are opted out. As a user of WhatsApp in SFMC, you are charged for every attempted message dispatch, regardless of whether it is delivered or not. So, even if the customer never received a WhatsApp message because they were opted out, you would still have been charged for it. Nice to have some way of preventing being charged for trying to do the impossible!
When it comes to deleting contacts, quicker seems to be the preference of SFMC users. The default currently is 14 days, but this will be reduced to 2 days in an upcoming release. The way contact deletion works, contacts enter a suppressed state and they cannot be interacted with or reintroduced to your org. 14 days is quite a long time, especially if someone has a legitimate requirement to be reintroduced. As a result, many customers have this suppression time set to between 0 and 2 days rather than the default 2 weeks. This just brings what has been determined best practice by SFMC users to be the default in the tool.
This is definitely not an oversized release, there are a few nice to haves being introduced which is good to see. That said, there has been a decrease in the scale and the impacts of releases in the last 12 months with the odd big hitter here and there. Is Salesforce innovating hard enough and fast enough?
I think there’s a big desire from engineers and end users to push the platform harder with the likes of a REST API equivalent to WSProxy or with the new Cloud Pages experience, some new Cloud Pages API capabilities. The holding pattern of iterative Einstein release, some long overdue Journey Builder feature and some compliance nice to haves are fine for now. But, these aren’t often game changing releases, they don’t level up the platform on the whole and they don’t scratch the itch that SFMC has historically been amazing at doing.
What do you want to see SFMC do in the next 6 months? What would be your game changer? Get in touch, we’d love to hear it.