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Email Preference Centers – Why You Shouldn’t Click Send Without One

Kevin McKernan

I recently bought a coat from a popular outdoor lifestyle retailer that provides clothing items for men, women, and kids. Excited for my purchase, I elected to subscribe to their email list at checkout so I could learn more about products and specials in the future. But my delight to receive their emails was quickly dampened when I realized that every email I received was around men’s items—not women’s.

Now, had I bought an item for my husband, I could understand this discrepancy. But I had bought this coat for myself, from the women’s section. So why was I only getting information about items that weren’t for me?

After a few months of receiving their emails, I’ve just stopped opening them. Those emails now sit untouched in the Promotions tab of my Gmail Inbox, dragging down the company’s engagement rates. And I haven’t even thought about making another purchase. Why? All because they didn’t stop to ask the right questions.

Why It Never Hurts to Ask

There’s an old adage that says if you want to know something, it never hurts to ask. Customers want to receive emails that are relevant to their needs. In fact, marketers who use segmented email campaigns have seen increases in revenue of up to 760%.

Providing segmented email campaigns is simpler than you’d think. First, consider what you already know about each individual customer—this could be simple things you could derive from past purchase history, such as gender, type of product, or location. Just these three simple pieces of data can help you create a new audience segment.

Want to go beyond this? Good, you should, because the more targeted you can get, the higher the engagement rates you can expect. How do you get this information? All you have to do is ask…

Types of Email Preference Centers

There is no one-size-fits-all method for assembling an email preference center (also commonly referred to as a subscription center or profile center). The questions you ask should be relevant to your brand and your customers. And they should all have one goal in mind—providing you with actionable information about your customers.

For some brands, this can be achieved with a very basic preference center, while other brands may need to go a little more in-depth. Here’s the difference:

Basic Email Preference Center

Brands that provide a very niche product or service may benefit most from providing subscribers with a more basic email preference center. This would include asking for information such as…

• First & Last Name
• Email Address
• City/State/Zip
• Language Preference (if applicable)
• Gender
• Age Range

This is enough information to provide personalization to your messages, as well as a basic layer of segmentation, especially if it can be paired with past purchase or browsing history.

Advanced Email Preference Center

Brands that offer a broader range of products and services would benefit from moving beyond on the basics to something that is a bit more granular. This includes understanding things like…

• Specific interest in products or services
– For example: A retailer who offers everything from home goods to clothing to accessories could ask subscribers their interest in learning more about these various departments
• Specific interest in types of sends
– Promotional sends
– New product announcements
– Newsletters
– Etc.
• Frequency at which subscribers would like to receive emails from your brand

This type of profile center can also allow you to ask more in-depth questions such as where a consumer may be most likely to buy your products, how they use them, household information and more.

Whatever you ask, make sure it’s something you feel you could take action on in the future—meaning there’s a purpose for asking. And don’t overwhelm subscribers with too many questions; keep it to 5 or 6 questions outside of the basics.

Super Advanced Email Preference Center

Many businesses are a lot of things to a lot of different people who may be interested in your brands for a plethora of very distinct reasons. Because of this, you likely have a number of different email publications to reach these different consumers and you want to make sure that each subscriber has access to the right mailings (without having to be subscribed to every single one).

This is where a super advanced email preference center comes in to play. This would include all the information you might see in an advanced preference center as well as:

• The option to subscribe and unsubscribe to emails based on a wide range of interests
• The option to subscribe and unsubscribe to newsletters based on the type of information they provide

Keep in mind that while you may be asking more granular level information, that doesn’t mean your preference center should feel like a 10-minute survey. Whatever you ask should be relevant and useful to the subscriber.

Getting Your Questions Answered

One of the best ways to get information from your subscribers is to ask them right when they sign up. This can be done by directing new subscribers to their email preference center after hitting subscribe, or as part of the subscription confirmation process in which you email new subscribers to not only confirm their email address, but to confirm their preferences.

If this information isn’t provided at sign up, or if a preference center is being implemented after you’ve already got an established email list, create a dedicated campaign to direct subscribers to their email preference center. You’ll be surprise how many subscribers are willing to provide information in exchange for the promise of more relevant email communications.

In addition, a link to your email preference center should be included in the footer of every email communication, or as a part of the unsubscribe process. In many cases, subscribers who were looking to remove themselves from your list may opt to stay if they see they have the option to self-select the types or frequency of communication.

Remember, a preference center is not just a means of collecting data. It’s also about giving subscribers the option to tell you what they do and do not want. And no matter what type of preference center you elect to use, make sure the information you collect is always actionable—whether that means it’s informing your email marketing strategy or another element of your business—all in an effort to provide better customer experience.