Salesforce Email Integration

Photograph by Brett Jordan

One very common integration requirement in Salesforce implementations is the integration with an existing email solution (and calendar and contacts by that extend). The most common use cases are straightforward: Sales or service reps should be able to log emails they receive in their inbox to the CRM where they attach them to records like accounts, contacts, opportunities, or cases. Beyond that, there often is a requirement to synchronize contacts and calendar events between Salesforce and the email solution.

While Salesforce has had powerful integration with Outlook and Gmail as the two dominant email solutions for a long time, there has been a lot of changes regarding the specific integration capabilities, their availability, and naming. This blog post aims at giving a comprehensive overview of the current status quo of these capabilities and will be kept up to date as things progress. The current status of this post reflects the situation at the time of publishing on October 20, 2020.

Current capabilities for 2020 and onward

Leaving all the history and recent changes aside, the current portfolio of email integration offered by Salesforce is reasonably simple: There exists one capability for client-side integration on the UI-level called “Outlook Integration” (or “Gmail Integration” respectively) and one capability for server-side integration called “Einstein Activity Capture” (EAC). While the former one provides a plug-in within Outlook or Gmail which allows the end-user to access Salesforce data and attach emails and events to Salesforce records manually, the latter one provides synchronization of calendar events and contacts (and, optionally, automatic capturing of emails) without any user interaction.

Both capabilities come in a free and a paid version, although the free version of EAC is currently only offered for a maximum of 100 users. The premium version of the Outlook/Gmail Integration is called “Salesforce Inbox” offers advanced features like the usage of email templates, including your availability to propose time slots for meetings or scheduling emails to be sent later. The premium capabilities for EAC include storing captured activity data for 24 instead of only 6 months, the ability to create custom Einstein Email Insights, Activity Metrics, and more. EAC Premium is also required if more than 100 users need to use EAC. It can not be licensed directly but is included in either Salesforce Inbox, High Velocity Sales (HVS), or Sales Cloud Einstein (SCE).

Outlook/Gmail Integration - Free
Inbox - Paid

Einstein Activity Capture Basic (max. 100 users) - Free
Einstein Activity Capture Premium - Paid

There's one more licensing specialty: Once an organization purchases at least one additional EAC Premium capability (via Inbox, HVS, or SCE), the 100 free EAC Basic get converted into EAC premium as well. Let's clarify the existing capabilities and licensing options using a couple of scenarios:

Scenario 1: An organization has 120 Sales Cloud users that should be able to log emails from within their Microsoft Outlook client.
The organization should deploy Outlook Integration by installing the Salesforce plug-in for Outlook from Microsoft AppSource.

Scenario 2: The same organization wants to synchronize their users' calendar events and contacts between Exchange and Salesforce.
The organization should leverage Einstein Activity Capture. As their Salesforce org has only 100 free EAC Basic licenses, they need to purchase 20 licenses of either Inbox, High Velocity Sales, or Sales Cloud Einstein, which will include EAC Premium. The 100 existing EAC Basic licenses will be converted to Premium as well.

Previous capabilities

In the summary above, I focussed on the state-of-the-art capabilities only to keep it as simple as possible. Of course, if you're an existing Salesforce customer, you might know about (and maybe even use) other email integration capabilities as well. So to give you a complete picture, I'm documenting the precursors to the abovementioned solutions as well, especially because they're still used by a lot of customers and will be around for some time to come.

Salesforce for Outlook

Salesforce for Outlook was the plug-in for Outlook that was replaced by Outlook Integration. As of the Winter '19 release, Salesforce for Outlook is no longer available for new customers. For existing customers who're still using Salesforce for Outlook, product retirement was scheduled for 2021 and was just postponed to June 2023. Please note that the side panel action menu (also known as the New Record button) will stop functioning in June 2021.

Lightning Sync

Lightning Sync was the synchronization technology that was replaced by Einstein Activity Capture. As of the Winter '21 release, Lightning Sync is no longer available for new customers. Currently, only the "End of Sale" (EOS) has been announced, a date for "End of Life" (EOL) for Lightning Sync has not been communicated. This means that for the foreseeable future, customers that are already using Lightning Sync may continue doing so, although Salesforce makes it clear that Einstein Activity Capture is their "long-term solution for syncing contacts and events between Microsoft or Google applications and Salesforce."