One of the most important tools to help marketers establish a healthy relationship with their subscribers is the email preference center. By providing options for managing and updating user profiles and email preferences, you can give your subscribers a sense of control over what information they receive and how often they want to receive it. This also gives you, the marketer, the opportunity to gather more subscriber data, which you can use to further target and segment the content of your messages. Early in the relationship with your subscribers, you may have little to no information about them, especially if they simply provided an email address at the time of sign-up. Until they begin to browse your site, purchase products and click on your emails, these preference options are the only data you have to help you tailor your messages and create more relevant content and offers. Yes, capturing additional preference data can be a challenge. Below are a few simple ideas to get you started and a few common mistakes to avoid:

Promote Your Preference Center

Prominently display a strong call to action for updating email preferences in your welcome message, re-engagement emails or even in the preheader text or body of your regular marketing messages. By plainly asking for your customers’ preferences, you’ll improve your chances of getting a response. Let’s not forget that preferences change over time, so it’s good to ask regularly and in different ways to ensure you stay relevant to your subscribers. Consider sending a dedicated message a couple of times a year to prompt subscribers to update or revisit their preferences.

Give Your Subscribers Control

Do you have multiple email lists? Your preference center is a great way to let subscribers know about them and allow them to control which topics they receive emails about. You could create multiple, targeted email subscription categories and allow subscribers the freedom to pick and choose among the options. Make sure to describe each subscription option, including the value of the content and the expected message frequency. Remember to ask subscribers to confirm if they no longer want your emails and always give them an option to re-subscribe to other email lists.

Common Preference Center Mistakes

Capturing only the email address
Yes, it’s better to gather an email address than nothing at all; however, there is no better time to gather a few more details than during the initial email capture. Try using a two-step opt-in process. The first form could be a simple email capture that upon submission takes the subscriber to a more progressive form to capture additional data, such as first name, state or zip, product category of interest, birthday, anniversary, gender or types of deals.
Asking for too much information
Overwhelming subscribers with too many fields can kill your completion rates, especially if your customer is on a smartphone. If the information you are asking for doesn’t provide some recognizable value to the subscriber, consider trying to capture it at another time with a dedicated email or rethink whether you need to request it at all. Narrow down the type of data you really need to segment, target and/or automate your email program.
Collecting data that you don't use
If you are asking your subscribers for their personal information, such as a birthday, then be sure you use it. Audit your current forms, and get rid of any outdated or unnecessary fields.
Failing to explain why you’re asking for certain types of data
Asking for sensitive or identifying information, especially from new customers, can increase subscriber anxiety and increase the chance of registration process abandonment. Tell them why you need this information, and explain what you’ll do with it. Link to your privacy policy and reassure your subscribers that you will not share their information with any third parties.
Making every field required
It’s wonderful to have subscribers who volunteer their personal information, but be sure to identify what is truly necessary for sending promotional messages and what information should be optional. Require only the most essential data you need for your marketing and triggered messages.
Offering no alternatives to unsubscribing
Your preference center should make it easy to opt out, but be sure to remind subscribers that they can also easily increase, decrease or change their email options instead. Give subscribers the options to receive fewer messages or different content.
Not setting expectations or explaining your email program's value
Have you clearly stated the value of your email program, the nature of what they can expect from your email messages and how frequently they’ll receive them? If not, add copy to your preference center that reminds subscribers about the benefits of subscribing and sets expectations, including frequency and content. You could even link to examples of your mailings. Most importantly, make sure you answer the question that all new subscribers are thinking: "What's in it for me?" Remember to reward subscribers for giving you their precious information. They are doing you a favor, and you should do your part to make recognize their efforts.

Examples of Preference Center messages:

The Container Store adds an interesting question (How would you describe yourself?) that caught my eye.

The Container Store offers an incentive for subscribers that update their preferences.

Using Call-outs to Promote Preference Updates:

The Gap provides a clear orange call-to-action button right below the navigation of their email.


This brand promotes their Preference center with a clever play on words using the July 4th holiday.

4th of July

Examples of Manage Preference Forms:

West Elm provides a detailed list of content options for subscribers to choose from. One suggestion would be to include the sending frequency alongside the content description. West Elm

Epson includes a surprise offer for supplying you birthday month along with a detailed list of promotion and content offerings. Epson