Email Marketing Preference Centres: Why are they Important?


As a marketer, your goal should be to send the right message, to the right people, at the right time.

'The right message' won't be the same message for every subscriber. The batch-and-blast method is a thing of the past. Your emails should be based on subscribers' behavioural data.

When marketing at scale, however, it can be difficult to keep track of each subscriber's behaviours and actions.

A surefire way of making sure you're sending the right messages to all your subscribers is to ask them what kind of content they want to receive.

That's where email marketing preference centres come in.

What is an email marketing preference centre?

An email marketing preference centre is a form or survey that lets your subscribers specify what kind of messages they want to receive from you. 

Preference centres help you gather information about what kind of messages you should be sending and how often, thus reducing your unsubscribe rates.

Here's an example of a preference centre from The Range:

In this blog post, we will discuss how using an email preference centre can benefit your business (and your customers, too).

Why do you need an email marketing preference centre?

Preference centres aren’t just ‘nice to have’ tools. They're becoming both more common and more important as time goes by.

By using preference centres, marketers can solve one of the biggest problems they face: high unsubscribe rates.

Marketing Sherpa discussed the main reasons contacts gave for unsubscribing from a study of 2,400 people in the USA. The top five reasons* people gave were:

  • Too many emails in general (26%)
  • Emails are not relevant (21%)
  • Too many emails from this specific company (19%)
  • Emails are too sales-oriented (19%)
  • Uninteresting content (17%)

*Each respondent could give more than one response to the question.

These statistics are very revealing and highlight two key areas that can be tackled in a preference centre: email frequency and email content.

We’re not here to scare you. These statistics don’t mean that email marketing is dead or that you should have sleepless nights about your next email campaign.

Actually, they indicate a huge opportunity for you to communicate better with your audience.

What you can learn from your preference centre

As a marketer, you need to have the data to make the right decisions for your business. 

Everything marketers do should revolve around data.  Interpreting the data allows you to send targeted emails based on a customer’s place in the sales funnel.

Preference centres give your contacts the option to give you extra information. You can’t force your contacts into completing them, but any data that you collect can be used to your advantage.

Decisions such as what content to send, how to present it, and how often to email your contacts can be made with the data you gather.

But, first, you need to invest in a system with advanced reporting tools that allow you to drill down into your dataset to find out more about your contacts.

Collecting this information in an email marketing platform is a great way to see all your customer data in one place, ultimately leading to better decision making.

Let's take a look at some of the key things you can find out when using a preference centre:

The perfect email frequency

You might wonder how often you should keep in touch with your email list.

The key is to not bombard your subscribers. Equally, you want to send your contacts enough email campaigns to keep them engaged with your brand.

You need to find the right balance.

Sending content once or twice a week may be effective, however, some companies find that sending content once a month is optimal.  Unless you have a wealth of data at your disposal, this is another difficult question to answer from an individual business perspective.

The idea of a perfect email frequency is a myth.

You should start out with a sensible email frequency based on the content you send and the email goals you have set. Adjust your email frequency over time based on the data you collect in your preference centres. You can also look at performance data including unsubscribe rates, bounce rates, and email engagement levels.

If your contacts state that they want to receive an email from you once per week, they are unlikely to mark your emails as spam.  However, you need to be careful to make sure you don’t exceed this frequency, otherwise, you risk alienating customers who feel ignored.

The best time to send

Deciding what time to send your marketing campaign is one of the biggest decisions you need to make.

The ‘best time’ to send email campaigns doesn’t exist.

Coschedule collated data from ten studies and found that emails performed best at 10am on Tuesdays. The ten studies looked at many different email sends, deducing when the best day and time is for sending emails.

That was the problem. The studies were deductive, taking a top-level view of the data in order to come up with an average time and date. One issue with studies such as these is that nobody is the average person.

Using other people’s data might seem like a shortcut to success but it doesn’t get the best results because it doesn’t look at your subscribers' behaviours.

Every segment of your audience will have different requirements based on their own preferences and needs.

You need to find what works for your subscribers. The easiest way to do this is by asking your contacts when the best time is to send them your content.

The type of content you should send

If your marketing is going to perform, you need your content to resonate with your contacts.

Each piece of content that you produce should be well thought out, targeted, and thoroughly tested. High-quality content is a must. 

If you want your content to perform, it should be visually striking and interesting to the recipient, like this example below from Lily’s Kitchen:

You should avoid sending sales messages with every marketing campaign as this is off-putting to your contact list. 

Sales messages should be reserved only for the contacts who are ready to convert. Sending sales messages too soon or too often makes you appear desperate.

Focus on where you can add value to your subscribers.

Each time you send content to your subscribers, you should identify how your contacts will react as well as what they will gain from it.

We understand that you won’t be able to go through your contacts one by one to choose highly personalised and targeted content.  But there are several things that you can do.

Segment your contact list based on subscribers' preferences. This is a great way to make sure you are treating your contacts well and give a consistent customer experience. Learn more about segmentation here.

Dynamic content allows you to send highly personalised content based on the individual needs and behaviours of the recipients.

What does an email marketing preference centre include?

Your marketing shouldn't revolve around your goals, it should revolve around your subscribers' wants and needs. Find out more about why solving customer problems is more important than business vision.

When creating your preference centre, you need to collect information that you can use to optimise marketing campaigns. Always think about how this improves the campaign from the recipient’s perspective.

An email marketing preference centre can include many different options for the recipient to specify what they would like to receive.

Common options in preference centres include:

  • Unsubscribe: Your contacts should always be given the option to unsubscribe from your emails. This is a requirement of GDPR.  Although receiving an unsubscribe request may not be a highlight of your day, disengaged contacts are unlikely to add to your performance anyway.
  • Email address: Give your contacts the chance to update their email address. People often change emails for a number of reasons, such as moving jobs or opening new email accounts.
  • Frequency options: Allow your contacts to choose their preferred frequency. This gives them extra control over their crowded inbox.
  • Personal data: Any amount of personal data that you store about your contacts should be accessible to your contacts for them to edit or amend. People’s circumstances and situations change over time meaning that your data should too!
  • Subscribers' interests: Give your contacts the chance to choose what type of content they receive.

Preference centres are easy to create and can either be sent as part of your email campaign or can be hosted on a dedicated landing page. In either case, it must be easily accessible to your contact list at any time.

The limitations of an email marketing preference centre

An email preference centre is only as effective as the data that it collects. Although many marketers will swear by using them in their marketing campaigns, they are ineffective unless used correctly.

Here are some of our top tips to help you get the most out of your preference centre: 

Choose the right questions

The effectiveness of your preference centre is limited by the questions you ask.

You need to think about the type of data that you want to collect. Ask the wrong question in your preference centre and your data will be useless.

Before you can build your preference centre, you need to identify how you are going to store, process, and use the information you collect.

Each piece of data must serve a purpose.

You can’t simply collect data and figure out what to do with it at a later date.

Know that customers aren’t always experts

Sometimes people don’t really know what they want or what is best for them.

Without limiting the type of content you send, you might give them a new idea. Once you have asked them what content they would like to receive, you have less freedom to explore.

To counteract this, outline the different opportunities that people can explore by receiving different types of marketing messages. Make sure your contacts know which subscribers list to opt into for the best results for their business.

Be transparent to ease privacy concerns

People are reluctant to share more of their personal data than required.

You might seem invasive if you ask for too much information at once. Especially since the introduction of GDPR - people are now more aware than ever about the data they give to companies.

Getting the balance right between collecting enough data to be effective and collecting an acceptable amount of data from your contacts’ perspective is crucial.

The best way to allay your contacts fears is to demonstrate that you take care of their data. You must clearly outline how you intend to use the data you collect.

Create your own preference centre

Using an email marketing preference centre gives you greater scope to personalise your marketing strategy. This enhances the customer experience and drives down your unsubscribe rates.

There are many different things to think about before you can get started. A well thought through preference centre gives you a wealth of opportunities to develop a better email marketing strategy. This is bound to benefit you in the long term.

You can build your own preference centre with the help of a powerful marketing platform such as Wired Plus. Book a demo to check it out.

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