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The Power of REST APIs in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

By: Dennis Chau

Published June 1, 2023 10 Minute Read

Table of Contents



Let’s face it. REST APIs are everywhere.

REST API isn’t only a term thrown around in the Salesforce Marketing Cloud development space, but is one that is commonly mentioned in the software space in general.

You’ll hear about it in Youtube videos, see it plastered as a buzzword all over job listings, and posted about on LinkedIn.

But what is it, and what is its significance to those in the Marketing Cloud ecosystem?

Those are both questions I wish I had found an easier answer to earlier in my learning journey.

That’s why I’d like to give back to the community with my newfound knowledge and inform others on the topic through this article so that they don’t have to go through the same struggle.


What Is a REST API?

REST API stands for Representational State Transfer Application Programming Interface and is a set of guidelines that software systems use to exchange information securely over the internet.

It serves as a bridge between a client application, which makes requests, and a server application, which processes those requests and returns responses.

Specifically, REST APIs use the HTTP protocol to handle communication between client and server applications, ensuring standardized and compatible interactions across different systems.

They’re widely adopted because of their simplicity and versatility, making them a fundamental aspect not only in software development in general but also in Salesforce Marketing Cloud development.


Why Are REST APIs Important?

REST APIs are important for a multitude of reasons, but here are the main ones:

The first is that they simplify the way that software systems communicate.

REST APIs are the interface that takes care of all the work involved with connecting different software systems together, simplifying the development process greatly.

The second reason is that they help with optimizing efficiency.

REST APIs follow RESTful principles and focus on using standard HTTP methods like GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE, which correspond to common data operations like Read, Create, Update, and Delete.

This approach is standardized and streamlines the handling of data, making it more efficient.

The last reason is that REST APIs are designed with scalability in mind.

Since each request is stateless and self-contained, that makes it easier to scale systems as needed and is useful for handling increased traffic.

To sum up, REST APIs play a pivotal role in simplifying communication, optimizing efficiency, and ensuring scalability.


How Are REST APIs Integrated In SFMC?

REST APIs can be used by developers in Salesforce Marketing Cloud to interact with the platform's marketing automation and customer engagement features, allowing for a wide range of functionalities.

Specifically, they can help with creating content, building contact records, monitoring customer journeys, setting up triggered sends, and more.

They can be used across different areas of Marketing Cloud including Contact Builder, Content Builder, Journey Builder, Personalization Builder, and Mobile Studio.


How Do REST APIs Work?

Leveraging REST APIs in Marketing Cloud enables businesses to enhance their marketing operations.

REST APIs are a bridge between SFMC and external systems, allowing for effortless data exchange and interaction.

This integration begins with authentication, ensuring secure access to SFMC resources. Users obtain API keys or tokens to verify their identity and permissions.

Next, specific API endpoints within SFMC are set up, representing various components like data extensions, email sends, or automation tasks.

Developers can initiate requests to these endpoints by using standard HTTP methods such as GET, POST, PUT, or DELETE.

These requests allow data retrieval from external sources, data uploads to Marketing Cloud, and the triggering of email sends or automating campaign workflows.

When Marketing Cloud processes these requests, it sends responses back to the requesting system, providing data or feedback.

Ultimately, REST APIs allow businesses to centralize data, streamline processes, and create more personalized, data-driven marketing campaigns, all within Marketing Cloud.


REST API Real-World Use Case

Let’s say you own a clothing business and want to integrate Salesforce Marketing Cloud with your e-commerce website in order to optimize your marketing operations.

REST APIs can be used within Marketing Cloud to achieve this task through:

  • Data Synchronization: REST APIs can deliver customer and purchase data to Marketing Cloud. This can be accomplished each time a customer makes an online store purchase. Details contained within this data could include the customer's name, email address, items purchased, order value, and any other relevant information.

  • Personalized Email Campaigns: After the customer data has synchronized, you can launch personalized email campaigns in Marketing Cloud with REST APIs. Specifically, you can use them to send welcome emails to new customers, follow up on purchases, or remind customers about abandoned carts. They allow you customize email content with dynamic data like customer names or recently purchased items.

  • Marketing Automation: Marketing Cloud workflows can be automated using REST APIs. They enable you to automatically send targeted emails based on customer behavior, such as offering discounts to those interested in specific product categories. It allows you to provide customers with timely and relevant communications without manual intervention.

  • Tracking and Analytics: Metrics from Marketing Cloud, like email open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates, can be retrieved using REST APIs. You can integrate this data with your e-commerce website or analytics platforms to gain insights into how effective your marketing campaigns are. Then, this information could be used to refine your marketing strategies and help you make better decisions.

Ultimately, if you own an e-commerce website and are looking to improve your marketing operations within Salesforce Marketing Cloud, incorporating REST APIs would greatly help.

By using them, you can enhance customer engagement, streamline different processes, and integrate more personalized marketing strategies that resonate with your audience.


Learn More About REST APIs

Here is a 6-step plan on how you can gain an in-depth understanding of REST APIs:

1. Understand the Basics: Start with understanding the fundamentals of APIs, REST architecture, and HTTP protocol.

2. Study REST Principles: Dive deeper into the principles and constraints of REST, including resource identification, statelessness, and the proper use of HTTP methods.

3. Understand HTTP: Make sure you’re familiar with concepts like HTTP protocol, including request methods, headers, URL structure, status codes, and message formats like JSON or XML.

4. Select a Programming Language: Choose your favorite programming language because you will be using it to work with REST APIs.

5. Hands-on Practice: Practice by finding reliable REST APIs with proper documentation and making straightforward requests to retrieve data. Gain an understanding of handling responses and errors through practice with CRUD operations (Create, Read, Update, Delete).

6. Build a Project: Apply your knowledge by building a small project that integrates with a REST API. Work with advanced functionality like pagination or filtering, implement authentication and handle various endpoints.


REST API Resources

Here are some useful links to learn more about REST APIs:


Key Takeaways

To recap, this article discusses REST APIs in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, first presenting a general perspective and then diving into their application within the Marketing Cloud ecosystem.

REST APIs act as a bridge between a client application, which makes requests, and a server application, which processes those requests and returns responses.

These interactions are facilitated through the HTTP protocol, ensuring standardized and compatible communication across different systems.

Within Marketing Cloud, REST APIs can help developers create content, build contact records, monitor customer journeys, set up triggered sends, and more.

Overall, incorporating REST APIs into Marketing Cloud offers the potential for improved efficiency, customer engagement, and marketing success.


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