After years of being considered the odd one out of the D365 family, Microsoft has invested heavily in the D365 Marketing App and delivered on some long sought-after features.

With the introduction of AI-driven insights and analytics capabilities and integration with the new cloud-based decisioning engine, it feels like D365 Marketing is now ready to stand up and be counted as the responsive cloud-based digital marketing platform required by today’s businesses.  OH…and they’ve also fixed the email editor!

Time to boost Marketing Technology

As we continue our series on the Dynamics 365 and Power Platform Release Wave 1, we review some of the significant enhancements made to the first-party Marketing App in Microsoft Dynamics 365. These new Marketing features, released to public preview in April 2021, have the potential to deliver operational savings through a reduced need to integrate with third-party solutions.  The new features also offer the potential of a higher return on investments through leveraging the AI elements of Microsoft Azure to provide real-time insights into campaign performance allowing for real-time interventions to drive customer engagement and increase campaign effectiveness.

In its annual CMO Spend Survey, Gartner revealed that 73% of CMO’s surveyed expect that marketing budgets will quickly bounce back in 2021. The time feels right for businesses to review their marketing technology investment and identify how to reduce costs and increase campaigns’ effectiveness.

Since the first releases of the Microsoft Dynamics product suite, Microsoft has offered a marketing capability within its CRM platform. While the feature set of the Dynamics 365 Sales and Services modules have grown significantly over the years, including in recent years, the addition of out-of-the-box Insights capabilities (Customer Insights, Customer Service Insights, Sales Insights), the Marketing module has lagged, with customers having to purchase and integrate with several 3rd party solutions to run effective marketing campaigns against their CRM contact database.

For customers who are already invested in D365 Sales App, the campaign responses will now appear as leads in real-time allowing the sales team to respond immediately, when the customer is engaged, removing the need to collate the leads offline and reducing the delay in contacting the customer, leading to a higher conversation rate.  For customers considering an investment in D365 Customer Insights, Microsoft are now offering the ability to have marketing segments driven in real time based on campaign responses, with profiling information pulled from several external information feeds, supporting more targeted personal interactions with new and existing customers.

Enhancing D365 Marketing

We now look at some of the features that offer the potential to drive the effectiveness of a business’ marketing campaign.

A/B Testing – before the launch of any mass marketing campaign, smaller campaigns are tested with a reduced audience to gauge effectiveness. Microsoft released the first incarnation of this testing feature in October 2019. Since then, they have invested significant resources into adopting the automation features of the Microsoft Azure stack, allowing campaign managers to experiment and test the effectiveness of subtle changes in messages across multiple customer channels.

This feature ensures the right message lands with the right audience via the right channel.

Enhanced Email Editor – the out-of-the-box email editor now supports a broader number of layouts and enriched image editing capabilities. The editor now includes an “error checker” validation tool to catch any marketing copy mistakes. The point and click interface reduces the need for specialist developers with HTML knowledge.

The new customer segmentation features available within D365 Customer Insights support integration with a broad range of data sources that help target customers with personalised content, driving higher engagement scores. The analytics engine can use the interaction history between a business and its target audience to identify the best channel for each contact.

A new centralised CMS store supports the storage and retrieval of digital assets, with the Azure Cognitive Services’ AI features used to tag the images’ content automatically. This central store reduces the overhead of having to manage multiple copies of marketing content.

Real-Time Analytics – The introduction of a performance analytics function into the Marketing module allows campaign managers to interrogate each stage of the customer journey in real-time. It enables the team to check the live engagement scores and respond immediately to any challenges that impact the campaign’s effectiveness. The out-of-the-box reporting capability, built on Power BI, supports KPI tracking and progress towards articulated campaign goals. This removes the delay introduced when a marketing capability is spread across several disparate solutions, and reporting metrics need to be collated and analysed offline.

Mobile Channel Support – The D365 Marketing App now supports SMS messaging as a new channel to contact customers. Also, there is support for rich media ‘push’ notifications to be sent to iOS or Android apps on customer’s mobile devices. These features offer businesses the ability to have near real-time interactions with their customers no matter where they are in the World.

In summary, the latest updates to the D365 Marketing app offer significant improvements over the previous versions. Microsoft now offers their advanced Cloud-based insight and analytics capabilities out-of-the-box, reducing the need for businesses to maintain costly integrations with external 3rd party solutions and keeping the Marketing functionality close to where the contact data is mastered.

This new first party app offers the promise of reducing the operational costs on the marketing platform, while increasing the performance of the marketing campaigns.

To discover more insights from Microsoft’s April Wave release, catch up now on our video series, and keep an eye out for the next video and short demo which goes into more detail on this article!