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I noticed that in my last send, even though the contact with the same Subscriber Key had changed her email address, the Marketing Cloud has communicated with her using the email on her All Subscriber list. In other words, the email field in the Data Extension was ignored and the corresponding email with that Subscriber Key was used.

Is there a setting where we can change this or do we have to update the All Subscribers list with every import into the Contact Model?

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This is the expected behaviour and you cannot change it. Once you set a Send Relationship in a data extension, for example, Subscriber Key relates to subscribers on Subscriber Key, it will look up the email address from All Subscribers list at send time.

Depending on where your data is coming from, you can set up an automation that will look for differences between your data and All Subs and update All Subs accordingly. Here is an example of how you can set it up if you're integrated with Sales/Service Cloud:

  1. SQL Query Activity that checks for changed email addresses in your synchronized data extensions and writes them to a temporary data extension.
  2. Data Extract Activity that extracts the data from your temporary data extension and writes it to a CSV-file
  3. File Transfer Activity that moves the CSV-file from activity 2 to the Import-folder of your Enhanced FTP
  4. Import File Activity imports the data from the CSV-file to the All Subscribers list.

Take a look at Markus' blog for more details: https://markus.codes/2017/07/14/how-to-sync-email-changes-from-service-cloud-to-all-subscribers-list

EDIT

I just found the following article, Profile Center and Marketing Cloud Connect, that says:

Every Marketing Cloud email to a Salesforce contact, lead, report, or campaign includes a link to the Profile Center where customers manage their attributes and subscription preferences. These changes update Salesforce contact and lead data.

If this works as expected, then you wouldn't have to worry about prioritizing Profile Center updates, as they would be reflected in Sales/Service Cloud anyway.

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  • Sounds reasonable. Thank you for the quick response. But before I choose this as the answer, we would like to add a higher priority for contacts who change their email via The Profile Center. So, if the synchronized Data Extension has a new email address, but before the next update, the subscriber changes the email address via his/her Profile Center, we do not want that to change. We would like Salesforce to be the central hub for profile data. Is there a clean way note that in our automation? Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 13:28
  • I've never used the built-in Profile Center, and my impression was that it would not synch data back to Sales Cloud - either way if you want Salesforce to be your database of record, it would be much better to use a custom profile centre and update data directly in Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud at the same time. If you still want to use the built-in PC, maybe try leveraging the "Modified by" column on All Subs (not sure what value it would show if it was last modified through PC) and see if you can exclude those from your query
    – zuzannamj
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 14:04
  • But the customer profile center should be built (from scratch) to be reached from outside an email, am I right? Because the built-in profile centers are only accessible from inside emails. Just wondering if there is a column in All Subscribers that mentiones whether the change was through the profile center or not. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 14:24
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    I just checked and there is none, even the "Modifid by" and "Modified Date" columns don't reflect that a change was made form PC
    – zuzannamj
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 14:28
  • Ok, may I ask how have you built the custom profile center? Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 14:33
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I understand that you have Sales/Service Cloud connected to Marketing Cloud. If you would use a data extension located in a Salesforce Data Extensions folder to send an email, the email address from the data extension should be used instead of the email address from All Subscribers. All Subscribers should also be updated with the new email address. If the data extension is located in a regular Data Extensions folder, the email address from All Subscribers will be used.

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  • Thank you @fmu this is one of the most important discoveries I made today and I wish Salesforce would actually document this. Commented Feb 12, 2021 at 18:38
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The answer provided by zuzannamj is correct however I would note that, although this is functioning as designed in the Email Application, this is something that is configurable within the Journey Builder Channel.

More specifically this is an option within "Journey Settings":

https://help.salesforce.com/articleView?id=mc_jb_journey_settings.htm&type=5

If you do this it still won't update a disparity at the All Subscribers list, however, would allow a straight forward way of managing this that doesn't require synchronization of the All Subscribers list.

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