Give your Customers the Chance to Fine-Tune their Preferences

March 20, 2019

Your customers want more control. Present them the subscription preferences option and they’ll repay you with their loyalty. While a one-click unsubscribe option limits your ability to communicate with customers, a preference center gives them more opportunities to remain in touch with your brand.

As marketers, one of our main responsibilities is to continuously distribute personalized content, creating a win-win situation: captivating our customers and earning more engagement for our business. One way to achieve both end-goals is by asking our customers, our subscribers, to share their preferences, giving them the ability to choose. Out of this desire, the preference center was born. The email preference center is a function that allows subscribers to pick and choose which emails they receive from you and the frequency at which those emails arrive.

Customers unsubscribe from our emails for several reasons. In most cases, the culprits are high frequency and irrelevant content. If you send an email to the wrong customer at the wrong time, they’ll point their cursor right at the unsubscribe button and sever their relationship with your business. The email preference center solves this issue.

Email Preference Center Types

There are three main types of preference centers:

  1. Time-based – customers can choose the frequency in which they receive emails
  2. Content-based – customers can choose which type of content they want to read
  3. Hybrid – a combination of time-based and content-based types

1. Time-based

If your business sends daily communications that aren’t varied to a significant degree, we recommend brands present customers with the option to choose the email frequency. Maybe you have an engaged customer who’s happy to receive an email a day, while someone else prefers communication only once a month. We suggest building your time-based preference center around the following three parameters:

  • Email frequency (twice a week, once a week, or once a month)
  • Receiving emails on a specific day during the week
  • Option to unsubscribe from a specific time period

Or, maybe you’ll opt for the next preference center type:

2. Content-based

If your content consists of several different topics, build a preference center around your categories. There are a few ways you can categorize the content-based preference center:

The product/service type – Maps all your services and products and divides them into clear categories. For example, a travel company could categorize their offerings as:

  • Flights
  • Hotels
  • Car rentals
  • Day trips

Or if you’re a fashion retailer, you could group items into:

  • Men
  • Women
  • Kids
  • Accessories

Based on this method, the customer can choose the content that best serves their objectives. This method is especially helpful because you can use the data from the email preference center and apply it to your segmentation model.

Medium type – According to this method, we’ll create categories based on the mediums we use in our marketing. The most common mediums are:

  • Weekly promotions
  • Weekly newsletter
  • Blog
  • Announcements
  • Recommendations
  • Reminders

Unlike product or service type, the disadvantage here is that we don’t have the information on our customers’ product preferences. We can, however, assume that there is a high correlation between the number of mediums the customer chooses and their engagement level with our brand.

Content-Based Hybrid – Using this method, we’ll divide selections into medium and product type. As in the example below, if we choose personalized recommendations, we’ll further enable customers to specify what they’re seeking:

  • Hotels
  • Flights
  • Cars

3. Content- and Time-Based Hybrid

The benefit of combining the content- and time-based solution is that we’re able to provide our customers with a robust list of preference options. The risk is that a hybrid solution may appear overly complicated to the customer and instead of sifting through all the options, they’ll opt for the easiest solution, unsubscribing from our communications altogether. If we choose this type, it’s important we keep the design simple. Below is one example of the content and time-based hybrid:

Structuring the UI

After we define the content categories, we need to build the email preference center page. A few tips:

  • All of the content must be on one page. Customers should not need to use extraneous navigation to refine their preferences.
  • Avoid using links that take customers off the preference center page or tooltips that hide the information from plain sight.
  • Keep the text short and concise.
  • Include the customer’s entire email for easy identification and validation.
  • Yes, you need an unsubscribe option; it’s required under CAN-SPAM, CASL, and other spam laws.
  • Make sure your preference center is mobile-friendly.

Where to Put Your Preference Center

Sticking your preference center in any old spot won’t do. To maximize your preference center’s potential, make it accessible to all your customers through the following tips:

  • Present your preference center to subscribers right after they register, so you can immediately begin catering to their needs and show them you’re dedicated to listening to what they want from the very beginning.
  • Add the center as a link to your marketing emails to provide subscribers with easy access to adjust their preferences whenever they wish. To reduce the number of unsubscribers, include the unsubscribe option inside the link to the preference center. By using only one link, you’ll likely decrease the number of customers who opt out of your communications.
  • Every so often, go over your unsubscribe list and see who hasn’t been active for a set period of time. Your next step is to give them the option to update their preferences. Sometimes, this kind of mail can create reengagement with subscribers who might’ve lost interest.

In Conclusion

Take a look at your offerings and determine which preference center will best serve your customers. Are you regularly sending out emails where the content isn’t drastically different across the board? Or do you have segments of customers who each gain something different from your communications? It’s time to reap the rewards from the mutually beneficial preference center. Matching your content with customers’ needs increases their satisfaction with your brand and reduces the likelihood of unsubscribers. Think of the email preference center as a gift for you and your customers, one that’s tailored to their needs and will result in the long-lasting relationship you desire.