How To Build An Email Preference Center That Lowers Unsubscribes

An email preference center, also called subscription centers, was once an optional feature of an email marketing program.

Now, they have become mandatory.

Best practices, however, still lag.

These are missed opportunities, and not using best practices for preference centers can hurt the success rate of an email marketing program.

69 percent of U.S. email users unsubscribe from business or nonprofit email because the organization sends too many emails.

This number wouldn’t be so high if companies gave subscribers the option to select the types of emails they want to receive.

And yet marketers are still having trouble figuring out subscription centers.

    What should I include in an email preference center?

    How to get email subscribers to visit them?

    How often should I and my subscriber update their email preferences?

We’ll answer these questions and cover some common mistakes to avoid achieving effective email preferences.

But let’s cover something real quick…

What is an email preference center?

Email preferences allows your subscribers to change their own subscription details.

preference center example simple subscription options

This might mean a few different things…

The subscriber could simply update just their name or email address.

But you can also set your email preference page up so subscribers can edit any custom field information you have stored for them.

This type of information can be used as dynamic content for your emails.

preference center example with demographic info

It can also help you segment contacts into specific groups for personalized email campaigns.

Here’s a list of fields and options available for a common email preference center:

Update an email address

No brainer here, but this gives the subscriber the chance to update which email address they want to use for you emails.

If someone is moving or switching companies, this gives you the opportunity to avoid losing them.

Frequency options

Empower subscribers to choose how often they receive emails from you.

This could be daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, or any other time frame.

preference center example change frequency

Some companies also offer the chance to pause emails while they’re on vacation or leave.


CAN-SPAM requires this option, so use it!

industry email marketing benchmarks unsubscribe rates by sector


Personal data

You can add additional fields besides name and email address to your email preference center.

Here are some more sophisticated fields to consider adding (especially if you’re in retail or commerce):

  • Gender
  • Mailing address
  • Company
  • Phone
  • Mobile
  • Favorites
  • Purchase history
  • Different mailing lists
  • Social media profiles

Benefits of using a preference center for subscribers

Think back to the last time you updated your email preferences to a company…

There’s a reason you did it, right?

preference center example subscription options

Maybe they were sending you content that wasn’t relevant to you.

Or you had a new email address you wanted to change.

Or they were sending you too much email.

You want to keep your subscribers happy and still receive your emails…

…just on their terms.

Allowing subscribers to edit their preferences can, and will, help keep them on your list.

And help keep your email list clean.

Here are some great benefits to not only using a preference center, but customizing it too:

Reduce the number of unsubscribes and spam reports

Nobody likes to see hard earned subscribers say “buh-bye” to your emails.

It’s worse when they say you were spamming them.

That’s a big email deliverability killer.

The truth is most people unsubscribe because of frequency, interest, or volume.

So, let us throw this question out there…

Why not let your subscribers control those three factors?

preference center example with frequency options

You would much rather have them change one of those factors than completely unsubscribe.

It’s all about giving subscribers control.

With control comes retention.

And here’s what we mean by that…

When you are given control of something you feel empowered to do what is best for you.

That’s exactly how you want your subscribers to feel.

If you subscribers feel like they’re in control choosing what emails they receive and how often they’re more likely to stick around.

And certainly not report you as spam.

Create multiple subscription types and let your subscribers choose what they want.

TicketMaster gives subscribers 59 categories of interest to choose from.

preference center example multiple lists

Describe each subscription type so they know exactly what to expect from you.

And if they are looking for a change, give them the option to re-subscribe to a different email list.

Expand your brand’s reach

Just because someone doesn’t want to keep receiving your emails…

…doesn’t mean they want to stop hearing from you all together.

There’s a lot of reasons why someone would want to walk away from your emails.

Maybe they get a ton of emails everyday and it gets lost in the mix.

Maybe they spend more time checking their Twitter feed than they do in their inbox.

Maybe they DO want to get your emails, AND get content from you in every way possible.

So, why not give them the option in your email preference center?

A great place to start growing your reach is across your other marketing channels.

It makes a subscriber more sticky, and likely to engage or purchase from you.

If you have a blog, why not ask contacts to subscribe to receive your latest posts?

preference center example subscribe to a new list

Make it into a separate subscription type, like we talked about before.

Do you have a large social following or an interactive online community?

Link out to these places and ask them to follow or join in.

The stickier they are to your brand, the more likely they’ll remember you and become a loyal customer.

Helps create your segmentation strategy

Sometimes figuring out how to segment your subscribers can be a challenge.

But you can take out a lot of the guesswork by using the data collected in your preference options.

Asking for specific interests and preferences from your subscribers gives you the information needed to create targeted campaigns.

Hibbett Sports asks subscribers to include their preferred store location for geo-targeted email campaigns.

preference center example hibbett sports 1

Ways to promote your email preference center

You have an incredible subscriber center with tons of ways to capture information about your contacts…

…now you need subscribers to get there and use it.

You want to make sure you promote your preference center properly.

So why not just ask them?

old navy example update your preference center

Asking contacts to update their email preferences doesn’t need to be tricky at all.

In fact, there are some simple ways to softly ask them to do it.

You can include it right off the bat in their welcome message when they subscribe.

If you have inactive subscribers, you can create an email automation campaign and make the preference center the primary call-to-action in a re-engagement email.

acura email relevancy still want to receive emails from us

Things change with subscribers over time.

It’s not bad practice to send a regular email a couple times a year asking them to update or revisit their subscription preferences.

They won’t find it annoying.

They’ll see it as you being considerate to their inbox wants and needs.

Common email preference center mistakes

There are some pitfalls companies stumble into when it comes to their subscription center.

But the good thing is these are avoidable.

And we’re going to walk you through them so you can evade these mistakes.

Only capturing the email address

If you only collect their email address, how will you personalize your emails?

Make sure your forms collect some basic information.

Or incorporate a two step opt-in so you can capture additional info after the form.

Trying to capture too much info

There is a balance between asking for too much and too little.

Overwhelming would-be subscribers will a long sign-up form is one way to increase your bounce rate.

Capture what you need and ask for more later.

Making every field required

Salespeople may say they need every piece of data in order to work a lead.

They don’t.

If you have optional fields, keep them optional.

Through proper nurturing you can collect additional information later on.

Offering no alternative to unsubscribe

preference center example with no alternative to unsubscribing

There’s nothing more maddening than trying to update your email preferences and the only thing you can do is unsubscribe.

All or nothing isn’t a good option for subscribers.

Give them the opportunity to receive fewer messages or different content if they want.

Not setting subscription expectations

What’s in it for me?

That’s what subscribers ask before joining your mailing list.

Detail on the form the benefits of subscribing, include frequency, and the type of content they’ll receive.

Start your relationship with new and existing subscribers off on the right foot by asking them how they’d prefer to be communicated with.

Delivra offers an intuitive preference center for companies looking to improve their segmentation and data collection capabilities. Schedule a live demo of Delivra here or watch our recorded video tour.


Join the email marketing community at an upcoming event near you.