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Written by Adam Sheehan
Microsoft announced at their ‘Inspire’ event that the digital engagement product, Dynamics 365 Marketing will merge with Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, their existing data unification & enrichment tool. Somewhat confusingly, the name of the new combined product will be Dynamics 365 Customer Insights. But don’t fear, Dynamics 365 Marketing has not disappeared, in fact not much is changing under the bonnet of either app (nothing more than we knew about before anyway).
The recent announcement was mainly regarding changes to licensing arrangements. In short: the two apps have been bundled together under a single licence. These tools, provided by Microsoft, are incredibly powerful for the third sector, especially when it comes to sharing awareness about their mission and amplifying their important messages. D365 Customer Insights (formerly D365 Marketing) can help organisations to reach a greater audience and gain a much greater insight into the digital behaviours of their supporters.
In this blog post, we will explore the upcoming changes and we’ll provide some background to the changes and the applications that we’re focusing on.
Aside from the licencing changes, Microsoft have also stated that there will be no further developments to the ‘outbound marketing’ features. All future developments will be focused on the ‘real time marketing’ features (more on that below). This announcement was less of a surprise as Microsoft have been rapidly adding features to the real time marketing area for the last 12 months whilst not really adding anything new to the ‘outbound marketing’ area across the same period of time.
When Microsoft launched Dynamics 365 Marketing back in 2018, it only consisted of ‘outbound marketing’ and it was great for weekly newsletters. However, when it came to the more transactional elements of digital engagement (like getting an instant email when interacting with digital content), it was lacking. Cue ‘real time marketing’: Microsoft’s addition to the product that not only gave us the capability to fire out triggered emails instantly, but also gave us multi-channel communications as well as far richer personalisation like dynamic imagery and AI powered channel optimisation. As Microsoft continued investing in real time marketing, its capability quickly surpassed that of ‘outbound marketing’ to the point where end-users can do pretty much everything in the real time marketing area and get access to all of the latest features whilst doing so.
If you are still heavily reliant on outbound marketing or you have seen the real time marketing area but steered well clear of it until now, the time has come for you to start thinking about your transition plan. Real time marketing will feel just as familiar to you as outbound marketing because Microsoft have consciously kept tools such as the email designer aligned with the look and feel of outbound. There are also a lot of resources available to you to assist with your transition including the Real Time Marketing Transition Playbook as well as online FAQ’s. Here at TES, we are putting on webinars to help make sense of the recent announcements and to provide useful tips for transitioning.
If you have already dabbled in the real time marketing area of Dynamics 365 Marketing, or you are using these features exclusively, then you will have already started to understand the key differences, so you are probably comfortable to start transitioning all of your digital engagement activities.
That being said, we can’t get around the fact that real time marketing utilises different tools to outbound marketing, which means that if you have built an email in outbound marketing, it will not be available to you in real time marketing (although there is a handy migration tool available). It also means that across time you will have to create new segments and journeys, not forgetting that the communication preference management tools in real time marketing are slightly different to what is available in outbound. We are going to go through these differences in our webinar on Tuesday 12th September.
For now, be reassured that Microsoft are not about to switch outbound marketing off and whilst no new features going to be introduced to the outbound area, it is still supported. It is also worth noting that if for any reason you do suddenly lose your outbound marketing area, you can get it back using the product settings. For current customers using Dynamics 365 Marketing, there is now a 12-month window where you will need to decide on how you licence this product moving forward.
With the merging of the two applications, the pricing is going to change as well. As we mentioned, the two applications (and corresponding licences) have been brought into one. Now, the good news is that the price is not going to be doubled, but it will go up to the tune of around 10% for the base licence. At some point between now and 2027, your charity will have to transition to this new pricing and licencing model. There is added value in getting this brilliant new data unification & enrichment tool that you didn’t have before, and there is cause to get excited.
Many of our customers already undertake activities to enrich their data, for example by applying demographic data such as household size and income. This is something that has been made a lot easier in Dynamics 365 Customer Insights through third party connectors. As well as that, the ability to push contact segments into platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ad Manager is also available. When it comes to data unification, there are some powerful tools available in Customer Insights, however it is worth highlighting that it isn’t as simple as just ‘plugging in’ Just Giving (or whatever platform you might have in mind). Data can be unified from many different sources, but it needs to be done through either Azure Data Lake Storage, Azure Synapse Analytics, Power Query or directly from Dataverse. This means that to get maximum benefit out of this product, charities & nonprofits would most likely need data specialists to unify their data using this product.
Ultimately, the new version of this product under the ‘Dynamics 365 Customer Insights’ banner provides the most powerful suite of digital tools to date. In conversations I have already had with our customers, I have found that the decision really depends on what your charity’s aspirations are for the product as well as your forward planning for adoption. Some customers have said that the data unification and enrichment tools of Dynamics 365 Customer Insights represents something that they aspire to do, but realistically isn’t going to be a focus for a few years. As such, they have chosen to simply renew their Dynamics 365 Marketing license on a multi-year subscription, which means that until the subscription ends, they do not have to transition to the customer insights product. The final date for this transition is set for September 2027. Other customers have been excited to work with the third-party data connectors available in the new Customer Insights app. They have chosen to purchase the new combined SKU at the higher price point, understanding the value that comes with the extra spend.
Regardless of which product you are using (Marketing or Customer Insights), it will ultimately be ‘real time marketing’ that you will be using, and so the decision to switch your licence should be focused on the data unification and enrichment tools available through Dynamics 365 Customer Insights. In any case, transitioning from outbound to real time marketing is something you should be thinking about regardless of which licencing approach you take moving forward, so that you can leverage the powerful capabilities from real time marketing to spread awareness about your charity and amplify your message.