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RSS feeds are an automated way of populating recurring, scheduled emails with content from a specified web resource, without having to log in to Emarsys. They allow you to send fully automated mailings and then collect and store the responses to these emails in the Emarsys analysis module.
This feature requires a little implementation effort on your side, requiring limited XML experience, to set up and configure the RSS feed itself. After that you simply define the schedule for the recurring campaign in the Emarsys application and activate it. Once this has been done the only variable that needs updating with regards to content is the RSS web resource; everything else happens automatically.
- What is RSS?
- When to use RSS Feeds
- The Benefits of Using RSS
- How RSS works in Emarsys
- Setting up RSS in Emarsys
- RSS Code Example
- Including Link Categories in the Content
- Automating Subject Lines for RSS Campaigns
- Using Tags
- The RSS email campaigns
- Creating the Child campaign
- Error Alerts
- Technical Information at a glance
What is RSS?
RSS is a platform-independent web format based on XML. It was developed for the web exchange of news and other web contents. The abbreviation RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (originally Rich Site Summary or RDF Site Summary). Unlike HTML pages, RSS data is created logically and without any additional design and layout elements.
As a user of an RSS reader, you can read RSS data and track changes on a website. RSS data can also be processed via PHP, ASP or other script languages. This way, the contents of web pages, intranets or desktop software can be displayed and read as required.
When to use RSS Feeds
RSS feeds are ideal for sending regular, one-to-many content emails with a fairly high level of segmentation (interests, location, preferences, etc.). Examples of different recurring campaigns can be:
- Newspaper – daily recurrences in the morning, at lunchtime and in the evening.
- Shopping Loyalty Club – daily shopping offers at 9 am.
- Technology Blog – summary once a week on Sunday.
RSS feeds are less suitable for more targeted activities such as one-to-one content or recommendations.
Note: Recurring email campaigns are configured to launch on a weekly schedule, which can range from once a week to every day. However, due to the fact that the content must be fetched by Emarsys at specific times before each campaign, the time of day must the same for the entire schedule. If you want to schedule the campaign to launch more than once per day, or at different times on different days, you must create a separate parent campaign for each launch.
The Benefits of Using RSS
The benefits of this feature can be summarized as follows:
- Easy to set up (one-time effort only).
- Automated content delivery.
- Highly accurate and flexible level of targeting.
- Eliminates duplication of effort; only one web resource needs updating.
This makes it an automatic, cost-effective and reliable method of delivering information to contacts with a highly accurate level of targeting. At the same time, using RSS reduces maintenance for you, eliminates duplication of work and reduces the risk of human error. Flexible template content means you can accommodate any number of RSS items, so you can increase or decrease content on the fly without any further redesign needed.
Before implementing the RSS functionality in the application, you should discuss with Emarsys Support how to design the template for your campaigns. The template will apply to all the campaigns and defines how the content is formatted, ensuring that the content displays correctly across all platforms. We also ensure that the look and feel of the email content is appropriate to your needs and fits in with your existing web resources.
From the contact’s point of view, they cannot tell this apart from any other email generated by Emarsys, but the difference to you is that it has all been created automatically and will carry on doing so as part of the RSS parent campaign.
You can just sit back whilst the technology does all the work for you.
If you want to use RSS to automate the content of your emails, please direct your technical support to the following page.
How RSS works in Emarsys
The RSS feature uses an Emarsys template-based recurring email, and works by populating sections of that campaign with selected content. This is initially set up for you in conjunction with Emarsys Support.
After deciding on the template which provides the framework for the look and feel of the content, you then specify how often and at what time the campaign should run. The RSS scheduler is configured to run the process automatically, pulling the content from the external source and sending it out at the intervals specified without the need for any further action.
This feature uses a parent/child email campaign relationship. The parent email is a template which defines how the content will be displayed and stores the email properties (language, reply mail address, etc.). It uses XSL to interpret the XML content of the RSS feed to create the output. The child email is created once the XML content has arrived via the RSS feed, and together with the launch list and schedule this becomes the actual email that is sent. A new child email campaign is created for every scheduled launch.
Setting up RSS in Emarsys
In order to get RSS set up, there are a few simple steps to perform, after which the RSS campaign is ready to use and will run automatically until deactivated:
- Contact Emarsys Support with an RSS template creation request, providing a screenshot of a current template – or a design proposal for a new template.
- Provide the URL for the RSS feed you want to use and let us know if you would also like the subject line to be configured to auto-populate.
- Emarsys will then create the template for you, making sure that the format is correct and matches your requirements.
- Emarsys sets up the recurring URL for the defined groups (and subject line if desired).
- You create the parent email campaign using the template with the RSS feeds, and specify the delay between child campaign creation and final launch.
- Emarsys configures the XSL definitions for you, using the template and RSS information.
- Emarsys then defines the frequency and time for the email launch schedule, and runs a full test.
Once the campaign has been tested and is ready to send, Emarsys will inform you that it is live.
- The delay time enables you to review your content before sending, using a defined pre-fetch time limit. For example, you can create the child email one hour before the scheduled launch time, giving you the chance to review and edit the content if needed. This lead time can be particularly useful for customers who have websites with content that changes rapidly (e.g. a news website) and want to review the message before sending. The minimum delay is 5 minutes, our recommendation is at least 30 minutes.
- Should any changes be required to the parent email template after the RSS has been set up then you would need to contact Emarsys Support, who can advise further.
RSS Code Example
When an RSS-based email is created, the underlying code of the message generated looks like the following example, once it has drawn on all the elements of the configured email campaign.
Automating Subject Lines for RSS Campaigns
Subject lines can be automated for RSS campaigns, but this requires configuration changes to be made before it will work.
- Emarsys Support needs to arrange for configuration changes to enable the subject line automation.
- You need to edit the parent campaign as follows:
- Make sure there is one section in the pre-header group that is empty.
- Delete any existing subject line.
- Enter the following as the new subject line: $#channel:title#$.
Once you have completed these steps, the campaign should start automatically applying subject lines to your RSS-based campaigns.
The RSS email campaigns
Once the RSS feeds and recurring email campaigns have been set up, there is very little for the end user to do. RSS emails are listed as recurring emails in the Email Campaigns list, and each child email is named using the following convention:
Using this naming convention ensures that each child campaign has its own entry in the email list and in the Reports & Analysis page, which allows you to easily identify and analyze each RSS instance once it has been sent.
Creating the Child campaign
In the Scheduling dialog of the Emarsys CMS you can define when the child campaign will be created. This can be set to days, hours or minutes before the launch, but must of course be scheduled after the RSS feed has been processed. This delay can be used to preview the content and make any changes if necessary.
The RSS feature also comes with an alert function that can be enabled for each email campaign. This takes advantage of the built-in error handling to notify you in case anything has prevented the campaign from running correctly. In the Scheduling dialog, simply add the email address(es) for each campaign where you want the alerts to be sent (there will often already be an address from Emarsys Technical Services, please do not delete this).
Technical Information at a glance
- Encoding – UTF8
- Syndication – RSS 2.0 or Atom 1.0
- Template from User – CSS template or Screenshot
- Content – Content only (no layout or formatting)
- Content Looping – Enabled automatically