Data Extension

Using Lists vs Data Extension in Marketing Cloud

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 Using Lists vs Data Extension in Marketing Cloud

In this article, we will try to understand the difference between Lists and Data Extensions. We will also create Sample Lists and Data Extension to understand the navigation and creation process.

Lists:  List is a collection of Subscribers(Customers/Prospects/etc) that receives information from your organization. 

We can create as many lists as we want based on different marketing requirements/needs. For Example, we could create a list to send newsletters to your existing subscribers(Customer/Prospects/etc). You could also create/maintain a new list to send Coupons to Subscribers based on different criteria/segmentation. Typically these list contains attributes such as Name, Address, birthday, Interest, other custom attributes. We could also maintain or create lists with subscribers based on channels such as Social Media, Physical Mail or Mobile.

Creation of List in Marketing Cloud:

Navigation: Email Studio–> Email –> Subscribers –>Lists

Click on create on the upper right corner and click on Save.

It automatically creates some of the standard attributes such as Email Address, Status, Subscriber key, First_Name, Last_Name, Full_Name, Title, Owner, Record Owner Full Name.

We could also add custom fields to the Lists by click on create.

Data Extension: Data extension is like a table with different columns that can hold data in rows. You could use this data extension to store Subscriber information or related information(References of Subscriber information such as Purchase History/Visitor History/Non-Subscriber data) that will be used for sending emails. You have to mark it as Sendable in order to send emails from Data extensions. In general, we will not mark the sendable option to true if you do not want to send emails from data extension or just want to stage the related information of the Subscriber.

There are broadly three other data extensions that could be used on a scenario basis.

  1. Standard Data Extension – A standard data extension allows you to create custom fields to store data. This can act as a standalone data extension with desired fields either to capture the data or use it as a sendable data extension.
  2. Filtered Data Extension – A filtered data extension is generated by filtering fields, measures, and filters for sendable data extension from a Source data extension. This is mostly used when we want to have a different sendable data extension populated with final data that is used for sending emails.
  3. Random Data Extension – A random data extension allows you to randomly select subscribers from a Source data extension. This data extension is mostly used to have a separate sendable data extension that is used for sending emails to random subscribers.

Navigation: Email Studio –> Email –> Subscribers –>Data Extensions

Difference between Lists vs Data Extension:

  1. Lists should be used when the overall Subscriber count is less than or equal to 500000. Data extension doesn’t have any predefined limit on the number of Subscribers or records that it could hold. Data Extension is Scalable and if you are unsure about Subscriber counts for future then its better to use Data Extension upfront.
  2. Importing into lists is slow and it takes time to import Subscribers into Lists. Import process in Data extension is way faster and could load millions of records in less than an hour depending on a number of attributes/columns.
  3. Lists can only hold Subscriber information and cannot be used for storing related information of Subscriber. Data Extensions can hold related information without any limits.
  4. Triggered Sends and SOAP/REST API is supported only in Data extensions but not in Lists.

If you are starting on Marketing Cloud it is better to go with Data Extensions instead of Lists as Data grows over a period of time and all the aspects that work with Lists also work with Data Extension.

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