Integrating your website or database with a third-party application, such as Bronto, can be a pain. It can take hours of expensive development work, and requires in-depth planning and forethought. Luckily, if you have web programming experience, you can get some basic integrations up and running in a relatively short amount of time. In this post, we’ll be talking about a feature called Direct Update. We won’t be doing a step-by-step walk-through here, as every implementation will be a bit different. Rather, this post is more of an overview describing what the feature is and general information on how to implement it.

Direct Update

The Direct Update feature enables you to update information in a contact's fields whenever they visit a page on your website.  You can add or subtract from numerical values, as well as set any field to a specific value.  This allows you to easily keep contact information up to date without manually importing or updating data.  This feature adds data to your account by calling a specially formatted image tag that contains account-specific parameters. To get started using Direct Update, you’ll need to enable it in your account. To do this, just go to the Home tab -> Settings -> Analytics.   Once you are on the Analytics Settings page, just click the checkbox next to Direct Update, and then click Save at the bottom of the page.


In order to specify a field to update, you will need to use the exact spelling of that field as you specified it within the application. You can see a listing of all your contact fields by going to Contacts->Fields. Any field can be updated with Direct Update, but some fields only support certain operations.

Operations And Values

There are 4 different operations: set, add, append, and sub ( which is short for subtract). add and sub are only supported by the numerical field types. append allows you to track multiple values without having to create a large number of individual fields. The listing below gives more information about working with the different types of fields. Be sure to use only lower case letters for the operators.
  • Number, decimal, and currency fields support the operations of set, add, and sub. The value provided may be a positive or negative number. Decimal values provided operations on a Number field will be rounded accordingly.
  • Date fields support the set operator. The value must be a date specified in the format you have designated for date fields on the Formatting page located at Home->Settings->Formatting.
  • Text and Text Area fields only support the set and append operator. The text value that is passed in will need to be url escaped if it contains any special characters such as ?, &, =, or %.
  • Checkbox fields only support set with a value of 0 for unchecked and 1 for checked.
  • Radio button and pull down fields only support set. The value provided must exactly match one of the existing options for a given field - this means they must have the same spelling, case, and any included spaces.

Possible Uses

Product Interest This example updates a field whenever a contact visits the product page for a specific high value product. This allows us to send an email to people who have checked out a product within the last month: field1=productxvisit,set,05/12/2008 Purchase Details Below you can see an example that is used on a purchase confirmation page. Here the contact has made a purchase totaling 129.23, so we add that to the field lifetimevalue. We also update the field lastpurchaseddate to the date of purchase. This one update will give us the ability to segment our contacts based on dollar amount purchased, as well as recency of purchase - fantastic segments for very targeted mailings! field1=lifetimevalue,add,129.23&field2=lastpurchaseddate,set,12/15/2007

Deconstructing the Direct Update snippet

Below is an example of a possible Direct Update code snippet: <img height="0" width="0" border="0" src=" public/?q=direct_update amp;fn=Public_DirectUpdateForm&id=IDSTRING&field1=lifetimevalue,add,129.23 amp;field2=lastpurchasedate,set,09/15/2009"> The first part of the URL is given to you as part of the code snippet you got from the Direct Update section on the Analytics page. This is unique to each account and allows the application to identify your account. The next few parameters, q, fn, and id allow us to know how to process the data that is to follow, as well as identify your account. The last bit, field1=lifetimevalue,add,129.23&field2=lastpurchasedate,set,12/15/2007 is the actual string that updates the fields. As you can see, all you need to do is define your update pieces and tack them onto the URL provided on the Analytics page. So that is a simple breakdown on how to maintain up to date contact field information without a lengthy integration process. This method is definitely not for everyone, and does require some experience with web programming. However, with the right know how, Direct Update is a great way to get integrated without fussing with an API.

Lucas Weber
Bronto Client Services