Email Applied: How to Implement an Email Preference Center
To start, implement an email preference center to make your emails more relevant to your audience. In my mind, this is a must-have adjunct to your email program. It allows your subscribers to update their personal information, change frequency schedules and even select what content they'd like to receive from you. All this is accomplished by allowing them to link directly to a preference center from your email. Typically, marketers include this link as one of the choices in their email's footer.
A preference center starts with the information you collect during the registration process, but its power really comes into play with ongoing emails.
Today's consumers are in control. It's important to give them a way to modify their choices on how and when they want to receive emails from you. Most email service providers (ESPs) offer this ability; marketers can vary their approach from simple to complex. Here's a look at various approaches:
Simple Preference Centers
This model limits everything to a few easy choices:
➜ Change or update email address. One-third of all email addresses change each year. Give interested subscribers the opportunity to provide you with a "better" (i.e., more accurate) email address. Without this functionality, a subscriber who wants to update their email address has to opt out and then resubscribe. That's a lot to expect, and the odds are you'll lose the chance to communicate with them going forward.
➜ Reduce frequency. This is most applicable to e-commerce retailers. If you typically send multiple emails per week, consider allowing recipients to tell you how often they want to hear from you. Remember, this is a better alternative than having subscribers decide to opt out from all communications.
➜ Local store preferences. This option is most applicable to cross-channel retailers. We live in a mobile society; marketers with a retail presence must provide pertinent information based on subscriber geography — namely, where its closest brick-and-mortar store is located in relation to the subscriber's physical address.
➜ Opt out. Of course you want to offer this option to remain in compliance with CAN-SPAM regulations. But if the page is simple and your recipients can also see "Change Email Address" and/or "Reduce Frequency," they may make other choices. It's important to preserve the right to communicate once or twice a month instead of having no chance to send emails at all.
As a side note, never offer a one-click unsubscribe. This refers to a situation where the opt-out link in an email is clicked and the reader is immediately unsubscribed. In many cases, the recipient may have been looking for a way to modify their preferences. Instead, direct them to your preference center. You still want to make it easy to opt out, but don't throw away the chance to save a relationship.
More Advanced Preference Centers
These include some or all of the choices mentioned previously, but also allow subscribers to update personal data and interest information.
➜ Personal data. As a cross-channel marketer, you know the importance of having up-to-date information about customers and prospects. Allow recipients to link to your preference center from the email footer to update important information. If you didn't capture this data during registration, recipients may choose to volunteer additional information.
➜ Interests. Give recipients a short list to choose from. Only provide this option if you're ready to "deliver on the promise." If your reader indicates they're interested in a subset of your products or services, be prepared to send them specific emails from time to time with content or offers that relate to their interest(s).
Complex Preference Centers
These are for marketers who are prepared to use advanced techniques such as dynamic personalization and triggered messaging. You allow subscribers the ultimate control in defining their interest in your product or service.
A great example of this comes from Scotts Miracle-Gro, the lawn care company. Scotts allows its email recipients to update and edit their registration information, grass type, subscriptions, registered products, interests and experience, supply list, and soil test results. It makes its preference center easily accessible in multiple ways. Users can edit displayed information or use tabbed navigation to make changes to their personal information. Scotts "delivers on the promise." Its emails are highly customized.
Send an email to your audience that encourages them to update their preferences. Here are two sample subject lines: "We want to get to know you …" and "It's here! Customize your [company name] newsletter." The messaging might contain the following:
- a simple call to action asking recipients to update their preferences;
- a contest where those who update their profile are entered to win a prize; or
- highlight the fact that if recipients update their information — including providing their birthday — they'll receive a special gift.
Preference centers allow you to create a closer dialog with email recipients by empowering them with self-service tools. Subscribers who receive emails based on their preferences are much more likely to stay with you for the long term — and to buy your products.