Key considerations for getting data from your apps into your ESP


Data is fantastic for the insights it can provide for improving your program, increasing personalization, and increasing revenue.

Despite the benefits, the challenges around collecting and organizing the data often holds marketers back. A 2020 survey held by Evergage (now Salesforce), showed that lack of personnel, lack of knowledge/skill and access to data were some of the largest obstacles marketers are facing to making personalization a bigger priority in their organization.

I’m passionate about helping organizations make the most of their data -- and through my work I am happy to provide insight and help to organizations looking to collect more data and maximize the data they’ve collected. I’ve written previously about how the ESP is a great place to leverage the data you’ve collected, and I’ve outlined the steps you need to take to collect and organize more of your contact’s data in your ESP.

This post focuses on comparing the two ways that you can get data into your ESP from other apps your company uses (like your ecommerce platform, meeting booking software or webinar app).

Integrations get data from your apps into your ESP

In general, you have two options to get this data from the apps your company uses into your ESP: built-in/direct integrations and custom integrations. I'll share the pros and cons of each here.

Option 1. Built-in (Direct) integration: This is the easiest method. It can exist with other apps your business uses, your customer data platform (CDP) or central business database. You have three general options to find out if a direct integration exists within your account settings:

  • Search "integration + [the name of your ESP] + [the name of the app you want to connect]" in your favorite search engine
  • Search within the Integrations or Apps settings in your ESP
  • Check with your ESP's account manager.

Direct integrations are amazing! They have these advantages:

  • They're built in on your ESP. Often, they're a free way to connect services you already use to your ESP.
  • Direct integrations are also a low-effort way for you to get the information into your ESP - you set it up once and mostly forget it.
  • Direct integrations are managed by the development team of one of the platforms that you already use (so no maintenance for you!)

As amazing as they can be, direct integrations aren't perfect. Sometimes they miss a specific detail that you need for your business. Also, direct integrations are created for everyone and address most scenarios, but they might not include your specific use case.

I recommend you read the documentation for your ESP before you start to implement an integration to avoid any unpleasant surprises. These help docs will show you exceptions for your direct integrations.

Keep an eye out for any hints for scenarios where the integrations might not work well for your needs, lie these:

  • How often is the data recorded?
  • Is the data pulled in real time or polled at specific intervals?
  • What attributes might be pulled into your ESP?

I’ve seen direct integrations that don’t pull over the names of the products purchased (D'oh!), don't update the records when a return occurs or label all new orders as purchases even if payment wasn’t accepted yet. (Yikes!)

These can throw your automations all out of whack!

This is why it's so important to read your ESP's documentation, suggestions forum or roadmap before you try to set up a direct integration. Nobody likes nasty surprises, especially your customers!

Option 2 Custom Integrations: If a direct integration will not work, don't fear! Custom integrations can give you options. They aren't as scary as they might sound, and they can deliver exactly what you want.

This is especially valuable if you can't use a direct integration. Or, or if a direct integration doesn't work for your use case, such as one that doesn't transfer all the fields you need.

Custom integrations can solve tough problems, but you have to consider two things if you want to use them.

(1) They cost money. Built-in tools and direct integrations come with your platform, so they don't have any impact on your budget beyond the platform's regular operating costs. If you have to contract out the work or use an automation platform, you'll have to pay.

However, having the right data to send the right message at the right time can generate a sizable ROI.

Companies that excel at personalization generate 40% more revenue from those activities than average players (McKinsey 2021).

(2) They require extra work to set up. You have two options here: you can use an automation platform, work with a specialist or both. Here are more details on each option:

  • Use an automation platform such as Zapier, Make (formerly Integromat) or Microsoft PowerAutomate. You need to have a skill set for working with the platform, using the user interface, dealing with error messages and creating workflows that capture all of the possible errors and issues.

  • Work with a specialist: You might have one on your team. If not, or if they don’t have the capacity, you can contract with an outside specialist.

No matter whether you work in-house or contract it out, you must be able to explain what data you want transferred and where it should go. Familiarizing yourself with the documentation is helpful but not essential.

You also must be sure you know who is responsible for system maintenance like upgrades, tracking and correcting errors, rerunning failed workflows and more).

Often specialists work on a project basis - where they can set things up for you and can make updates when you request them. This is great for getting up and going, but can leave you in a tough spot when APIs change suddenly or there is an error that needs to be addressed right away. An alternative to working with a specialist on a project basis, would be to subscribe to a done-for-you service, where you don’t need to worry about the setup, management or maintenance.

When creating and maintaining a custom integration, working with a specialist is great if your skill set isn’t technical and you probably have a lot of other things you could spend your time doing. On the other hand, using an automation platform can be great if you have the time and energy to build and manage the automations.

So now you are more familiar with your options and the associated pros and cons for getting data from the apps your company uses into your ESP. Take your time and select the best option for each data source for your program so your contacts can enjoy better experiences and you and your team can increase sales.


10 Barlatt Picture1Source Unsplash by bruce mars

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