Email marketing is undoubtedly one of the best ways to promote your business. But to increase your chance of success, you should consider setting up an email preference center. This tool empowers your subscribers and makes them stay by letting them manage the type and frequency of emails they receive. Doing so makes them more engaged and less likely to unsubscribe.

What is an Email Preference Center?

An email preference center is an email marketing tool that allows customers to choose email content and frequency to their own liking. It also gives them an option to unsubscribe. It may sound counterintuitive but preference centers are an important addition to your email marketing strategy. By making use of this tool, you can tailor your marketing to your customers’ needs.

Why should you do that? Isn’t it much easier and more effective on your part to just send the same message to all your subscribers? After all, you want them to know what your company is up to, when you have a new product, or when there’s a big sale coming.

But here’s the thing.

According to research, personalized emails drive the most opens. Email marketing has evolved to be much more interactive than it was years ago. Today, marketers and consumers aim for two-way communication. Meaning, companies don’t just send emails that they want. They send emails that the customers want. This can be achieved through email preference centers.
Why do you need an Email Preference Center? emailoversight

Why do you need an Email Preference Center?

Statistics show that one of the top reasons why consumers unsubscribe to marketing emails is because they receive too many messages. In a 2015 study involving over 300 brands, companies that send marketing communications to customers every 2-4 weeks generate as many leads as the companies that send emails every 4-12 weeks.

Preference centers help you understand the needs and wants of your subscribers, such as how often they want to receive emails from you. This way, you can be sure that when they receive an email, your customers will not be ignoring your message, rather, they will open it with delight and excitement. Note that email marketing is no longer about quantity (the number of contents you send), rather the quality of your campaigns.
Types of Email Preference Center emailoversight

Types of Email Preference Center

There are three major types of email preference center:

Time-based Preference Centers

A time-based preference center gives your subscribers an option to choose how many and how often they get emails from you. It even allows them to take a break from your emails altogether. For example, they can choose to temporarily unsubscribe for a certain period, say 30 or 90 days. Time-based preference centers lessen the chances of your subscribers experiencing communication fatigue and opting out from your list completely.

Content-based Preference Centers

The more subscribers you have, the more diverse their preferences are when it comes to the type of content they want to receive. How do you know who gets what? A content-based preference center is an easy way to determine the types of communication that are most relevant to your customers. It allows them to select all or pick just a few categories. Here’s an example:

  • Discounts
  • Free items
  • Urgent articles
  • Tips and advice
  • Recommendations
  • Company updates

Use a preference center to let your customers decide which categories are most important for them.

Or, if you own a restaurant business, your preference center could have the following preferences:

  • Signature Meals
  • Coupons
  • Holidays & Events
  • Buffet

Hybrid Preference Centers

A hybrid preference center gives your subscribers the option to manage both the type and frequency of the marketing emails they receive. This tool provides the highest level of personalization.

What are the Benefits of Preference Centers? emailoversight


What are the Benefits of Preference Centers?

Accordingly, let’s see the benefits of Preference Centers:

Reduce unsubscribe rates

As mentioned earlier, the major reason why preference centers are very helpful to marketers is that it helps address unsubscribe issues.

Unsubscribes are a bitter reality in email marketing and it is almost impossible to get rid of them completely. Generally, an acceptable unsubscribe rate is anything below 0.5%. Going beyond this point suggests that you need some work to do.

Other than receiving too many emails, other reasons why people unsubscribe include receiving emails that look like spam, contents that are irrelevant to them, and emails that are not tailored to their preferences. The use of preference centers is a permission-based marketing approach that addresses all these problems.

It addresses user fatigue

Another benefit of using a preference center is it can lessen email fatigue – a serious problem that can lead to a higher unsubscribe list.

Email fatigue happens when buyers get tired of email. There are two major reasons for this. One is sending irrelevant content. The other reason is sending the wrong message to the wrong people, at the wrong time.

Permission-based emails rest on the idea that every subscriber is unique. They have different needs and levels of interest and it is important for you to communicate with them accordingly.

Best Practices and Examples emailoversight

Optimizing Email Marketing with Preference Centers

When you provide an email preference center option, you give subscribers an opportunity to select content topics, when, and how often to receive them. They also have an option to leave feedback which allows you to collect data about your subscribers and use it in your future email marketing campaigns.

Email preference centers are also a great way to segment your list. Segmentation involves grouping your subscribers into different categories. Using segments helps you target specific consumers who will be interested in your marketing campaigns.

Segments are based on data that you collect upon sign-up. Such data includes their geographic locations (zip codes), industry, purchase history, and more. Data is extracted in your end using some tools (which are often included in your email marketing platform).

With a preference center, however, you enable your customers to a segment on their own. By asking them specific questions, you can optimize your email campaigns to match their needs and interests.

Optimizing Email Marketing with Preference Centers emailoversight

Best Practices and Examples

So how do you create a preference center that works and are actually used by your customers? Check out these preference center best practices:

Give them a clear set of options

Be specific about the email programs you are offering. The more transparent you are, the better. While it’s tempting to have them sign up for all types of emails, doing so only encourages your customers to unsubscribe. Your preference center should have the following goals:

  • Remind your customers of the benefits of staying subscribed.
  • Enumerate the different types of communications they can receive.
  • Provide options as to how often they should receive such emails.

If possible, allow them to view a sample for each email type. If they choose to unsubscribe from all the options, encourage them to leave feedback so you have a better understanding of why your customers opt-out and be able to improve your email marketing strategies.

Pay attention to the design

Just as you need to perform email validation (to exclude spam emails), you also want to set up a preference center before starting your email campaigns.

You want to be as detailed as possible when creating a preference center. But at the same time, you don’t want to overwhelm your subscribers, nor take much of their time and make them feel bored. If you look at some of the best preference center examples, you will notice a few common characteristics:

  • All options are briefly explained.

You might see options like “News”, “Updates”, “Recommendations”, etc., in email preferences. But what do they actually mean? Create a very brief description of each type of communication to help your subscribers decide which ones to select.

  • Keep everything on one page.

Most of your customers are busy people. Don’t expect them to have time filling out a form with multiple pages.

  • Make it mobile-friendly. The majority of people nowadays use their mobile phones to access their emails, subscribe to newsletters, and make a purchase. Don’t forget to make your email preference center design mobile-responsive. Before launching it, test if the page fits in the smallest of screens.

Add a human touch

Don’t just provide options by creating a list. Make your preference center creative and well-written. Make it more personal. For example, instead of saying “How often do you want to receive emails?”, you can write something like “How much of (your business) do you want in your life?”. Or if they click the “unsubscribe” button, set up a pop-up message saying “are you sure?”. By adding a dose of fun in your copy, you can get much better responses.

Give them options to change their settings

Your customers’ behavior and preferences can change over time. Give them a chance to update their preferences, including theirs. Take note that 15-25% of users change their email addresses per year as they move with different ISPs, change jobs, or acquire a new email address. A great way to encourage your subscribers to update their information or preferences is to put a link to it in every email. You can add a note saying “Update Preferences” or “Edit Your Subscription” at the top or bottom of the page.

Present your preference center upon sign-up so you can begin catering to their needs. It also shows them that you value their opinion and you’re dedicated to listening to their needs.


An email preference center is a valuable tool for every internet marketer. By incorporating it in your email marketing strategy, you can personalize your emails which in turn increase your customer engagement. Preference centers allow consumers to select the contents they want and how often they will hear from you.

You can set up a time-based preference (how often they receive emails), a content-based preference (what types of communication appeal to them most), or a hybrid preference (a combination of the first two).

There are many benefits of using an email preference center, such as a lower unsubscribe rate. It can also help lessen email fatigue.

For best results, make sure to follow the best practices for creating email preference centers. Start by providing several options (and describing those options). Pay attention to the design. It should be mobile-friendly too. Make your copy creative, and don’t forget to give your subscribers to edit your preferences.

With the right approach to setting email preferences, you can boost your email marketing performance and drive more engagement among your subscribers.

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