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The Role of AMPscript in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

By: Dennis Chau

Published July 21, 2023 ∙ 10 Minute Read



Table of Contents



 

Introduction


How can you use AMPscript to stand out at your company?


I wrote this article to tell my story as to how I’ve learned AMPscript and to inform others about the language and its capabilities, answering the above question.


I’ve personally benefited from the use of AMPscript in a variety of ways.


With the many features of the language, like personalization strings, dynamic content, exception handling, impression region tracking, and exclusion scripts, I’ve been able to create side projects that involve AMPscript.


I then used the projects to impress employers during interviews.


My strategy during the interview is to share my screen and break down the code in my projects line by line, explaining the purpose behind everything.


This shows that I am not only capable of using AMPscript in a real-world scenario but know the theoretical knowledge behind the language as well.


It even helped me land my latest role as a Salesforce Marketing Cloud Developer at a top 5 bank here in Canada!


As a result of my personal benefit from learning AMPscript, I’d like to share my knowledge with others in the hopes that others can also gain something from the language through reading this article.


 

What Is AMPscript?


Salesforce Marketing Cloud leverages AMPscript as a scripting language to support customer engagement and digital marketing initiatives.


AMPscript is used mainly for personalizing and customizing email content, landing pages, and other marketing resources with its full name being Advanced Message Personalization Script.


It allows you to execute different functions that include data retrieval and manipulation, conditional statements, loops, variable assignment, and content rendering.


Learning the language can be relatively easy for developers who know other scripting languages like JavaScript, as it supports similar functions and syntax.


However, AMPscript is more than just a programming language, as it allows developers to go beyond generic content and deliver tailored experiences to customers.


This is achieved by personalizing aspects of different marketing and communication channels within Salesforce Marketing Cloud.


Every line of code gives us the chance to captivate, engage, and leave lasting impressions on audiences.


With AMPscript’s technical capabilities aside, its true strength lies in the artistry and creativity it provides.


 

Why Is AMPscript Important?


AMPscript is an essential part of Salesforce Marketing Cloud for several reasons.


First, developers can create personalized and dynamic content within their campaigns.


This is achieved by leveraging customer data such as preferences, behaviors, and demographics with the help of AMPscript in order to personalize email content, landing pages, and other digital assets.


Personalizing marketing communications to a greater degree can boost engagement and conversion rates.


Additionally, AMPscript allows for smooth integration and synchronization of information from multiple sources within Salesforce Marketing Cloud.


Data retrieval and manipulation from various sources like data extensions, data feeds, or external systems are made possible for developers with the language. This ensures accurate and updated information is used in campaigns.


In general, AMPscript allows developers in Marketing Cloud to deliver personalized and targeted experiences.


When used properly, it can help build stronger client relations while also increasing client interaction which would improve overall marketing performance.


It is a vital tool for impactful and effective marketing campaigns within Marketing Cloud that offers flexibility, data integration capabilities, and personalization options.


 

How Does AMPscript Work?


The AMPscript language has specific syntax and features that need to be understood and followed in order to write proper code.


Understanding the difference between AMPscript blocks and inline AMPscript, and knowing the fundamental logic of AMPscript will help you achieve this.


AMPscript Blocks: AMPscript blocks allow you to write code within an email or landing page. The blocks need to be surrounded by %%[ ]%% tags, and you can include variables, functions, and control structures inside of them.


Code Example:

%%[
/* AMPscript Block */
SET @name = "Megan Smith"
SET @age = 60

/* Outputting Variables */
OUTPUTLINE(CONCAT("Hello, ", @name, "! Your age is ", @age, "."))
]%%

Output:

  • Hello, Megan Smith! Your age is 60.


Inline AMPscript: Inline AMPscript is used to place AMPscript ⁠ directly into HTML or text content. It needs to be surrounded by %%= =%% tags, and it gives you the ability to insert variables or call functions in your content.


Code Example:

<p>Welcome, %%=v(@name)=%%!</p>

Output:

  • Welcome, Bill Johnson!


Variables: AMPscript variables are used to hold and process data. A variety of data types can be stored in ⁠ them, such as text, numbers, and dates. The creation of variables involves using the "@" symbol and ⁠ assigning values with the help of the "SET" function.


Code Example:

%%[
SET @name = "Dennis Chau"    
SET @age = 30
]%%

Hello, %%=v(@name)=%%! Your age is %%=v(@age)=%%.

Output:

  • Hello, Dennis Chau! Your age is 30.


Constants: Constants are fixed values that don’t change when a script is run. They’re used to store values that remain the same throughout code. Different types of constants include numeric constants, which hold numbers; string constants, which hold text; and boolean constants, which hold true or false values.


Code Example:

%%[
SET @PI = 3.14159    
SET @radius = 5    
SET @area = @PI * (@radius * @radius)
]%%

The area of a circle with a radius of 5 is %%=v(@area)=%%

Output:

  • The area of a circle with a radius of 5 is 78.53975


Operators: There are different types of operators within AMPscript that include arithmetic, comparison, and logical operators. They can be used to perform calculations, compare values, and evaluate conditions.


Code Example:

%%[
SET @a = 5    
SET @b = 3    
SET @sum = @a + @b    
SET @isGreater = @a > @b
]%%

Sum: %%=v(@sum)=%%
Is A greater than B? %%=v(@isGreater)=%%

Output:

  • Sum: 8

  • Is A greater than B? True


Control Structures: Control structures enable you to regulate the flow of your code according to certain conditions. AMPscript supports conditional statements like IF, ELSE IF, ELSE, and loop structures like FOR.


Code Example:

%%[
SET @age = 25

IF @age >=18 THEN
  SET @output = "You are an adult"
ELSE
  SET @output = "You are a minor"
ENDIF
]%%

%%=v(@output)=%%

Output:

  • You are an adult


Functions: AMPscript has many built-in functions that have different capabilities, such as manipulating strings, formatting dates, performing mathematical calculations, and much more.


Code Example:

%%[
SET @string = "Hello World"    
SET @length = Length(@string)    
SET @uppercase = Uppercase(@string)
]%%

Length: %%=v(@length)=%%
Uppercase: %%=v(@uppercase)=%%

Output:

  • Length: 11

  • Uppercase: HELLO WORLD


Attributes: To retrieve and store data from a subscriber profile or data extension, attributes are used. They give you the ability to insert subscriber-specific information into content, which allows for personalized content.


Code Example:

%%[
SET @firstName = AttributeValue("FirstName")    
SET @lastName = AttributeValue("LastName")
]%%

Hello, %%=v(@firstName)=%% %%=v(@lastName)=%%!

Output:

  • Hello, Rick Miller!


 

AMPscript Real-World Use Case



Imagine yourself in a scenario where you’re working as a developer for a travel agency.


You want to integrate Salesforce Marketing Cloud and display personalized travel recommendations to customers in hopes of increasing audience engagement and conversions.


For example, AMPscript could be leveraged to send personalized emails, incorporating these specific features:


  • Location Recommendations: AMPscript can suggest location recommendations for individuals by analyzing their past travel history, preferred vacation spots, and interests. It could highlight popular attractions, upcoming events, and exclusive deals related to the specific location.


  • Flight and Hotel Offers: AMPscript can analyze the customer's travel preferences and booking history in order ⁠ to offer personalized flight and hotel options in the email. This could consist of reduced prices, advantages from loyalty programs, or exclusive ⁠ deals tailored to the customer's profile and past reservations.


  • Travel Guides and Tips: AMPscript enables the email content to include travel tips, packing ⁠ guides, or local insights tailored to the recommended destinations. The information can be modified to align with the customer's ⁠ preferences for adventure travel, family-friendly activities, or cultural experiences.


  • Trip Updates and Reminders: AMPscript is capable of sending pre-travel updates and reminders to customers who have a future trip reserved. Examples can include weather forecasts or any other last-minute updates associated with their trip, like gate changes or hotel confirmations.


All in all, leveraging AMPscript to be used in the travel industry can be extremely beneficial because it provides relevant and tailored travel recommendations to customers.


It also enhances the entire travel planning experience and increases overall engagement.


 

Personal Journey



Before writing this article about AMPscript, I had previously worked with JavaScript, which is a scripting language commonly used in web development but has many similarities to the former.


As a result, the transition over to AMPscript was not as difficult for me, as the only differences between the two languages were varying syntax and functions.


To learn AMPscript, I’ve used many different online resources, including videos, courses, challenges, and documentation.


I’ve highlighted the main resources that made the most profound difference in my experience learning AMPscript below:


First, I completed the Creating Sophisticated Content Personalization Using AMPscript in Salesforce Marketing Cloud course by Eliot Harper to gain an understanding of AMPscript language fundamentals, functions, dynamic content, tracking, exclusions, and how to use it to integrate with external platforms.


This course provided a solid foundation of theoretical knowledge and allowed me to understand AMPscript as a whole.


I then completed the AMPscript 30 Day Challenge by Sabuhi Yahyayev, which provides real-world scenario AMPscript challenges that are sent to your email inbox daily over the course of 30 days.


This gave me much-needed hands-on experience with AMPscript and is where I experienced the most growth.


Working through the daily AMPscript coding challenges and making sure you are meeting the challenge requirements forces you to learn through constant trial and error.


This is extremely beneficial to the learning process, as things tend to stick better when there’s a struggle before finding a solution.


At this current point in time, I am continuously learning and refining my skills to get better with AMPscript.


Specifically, I’m focusing on the areas of writing cleaner, more efficient code and gaining more familiarity with functions so that I don’t need to be referring to documentation all of the time.


 

Learn More About AMPscript


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


1. Understand the Fundamentals: Begin by acquiring a fundamental understanding of AMPscript. Gain knowledge on its use, syntax, and key concepts. Specifically, focus on variables, functions, conditional statements, loops, and data manipulation.


2. Use Online Resources: Utilize online resources to enhance your familiarity with AMPscript. Read and watch blog posts, tutorials, and articles that are entirely dedicated to AMPscript. Look at AMPscript in action with the help of examples, code snippets, and practical use cases.


3. Analyze Existing AMPscript Code: Examine already-written AMPscript code examples and templates. Explore how AMPscript is used in practical contexts. Reverse-engineering code also helps to understand its logic and purpose.


4. Hands-on Coding: Gain practical experience by writing AMPscript code. Start by working on minor projects or exercises that emphasize specific features of the language. Integrate AMPscript with other Salesforce Marketing Cloud components by practicing personalizing content and dynamically populating data.


5. Dive Deeper Into Advanced Topics: After grasping the fundamental concepts, explore more complex areas of AMPscript. Examine elements like data extensions, integrating with APIs, and applying AMPscript language functions, along with personalized techniques.


6. Create Real-world Projects: Work on real-world projects to practice implementing your knowledge of AMPscript. Craft dynamic email campaigns, implement complex data manipulations, or build personalized landing pages. You can also gain practical experience by undertaking freelance projects or even volunteering for an organization that needs help integrating Salesforce Marketing Cloud and AMPscript.


 

AMPscript Resources


Here are some useful links to learn more about AMPscript:


 

Key Takeaways


To recap, this article discusses AMPscript in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, addressing its significance, functionality, and practical applications.


AMPscript allows developers to create dynamic and personalized content across different marketing channels, including emails, landing pages, SMS, and more.


The language is easier to pick up for those who are familiar with a scripting language already and is generally used for simpler tasks and personalization.


Focus on learning about the difference between AMPscript blocks and inline AMPscript, variables, constants, operators, control structures, functions, and attributes to gain a fundamental understanding of the language.


Then, to study these AMPscript components, take the Creating Sophisticated Content Personalization Using AMPscript in Salesforce Marketing Cloud course to gain a solid foundation of theoretical knowledge.


Afterwards, complete the AMPscript 30 Day Challenge to be able to apply that knowledge and get hands-on experience with the language.

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