Make Your Email Preference Center a Priority and Your Customers Will Reward You
An email preference center is among the most powerful—but often underutilised—tools for gathering vital customer data and empowering your subscribers. But with trends and laws, like the pervasive General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), always changing, it's important that your preference center is kept up to date.
Since GDPR has placed increased importance on user-facing data controls, the email preference center has become a regular part of any online marketer's toolkit. They're the best of both worlds: Prospects and customers can control the communications they receive, and marketers get to send better quality, more targeted communications.
The first time that customers encounter your email preference center is during sign-up. As a rule of thumb, sign-up shouldn't take more than a couple minutes, so make them count.
Present customers with a well-designed page that strikes a balance between the importance of the information and number of fields. A field for "best friend's favourite color" might yield a lot of data, but it will scare off customers. Conversely, a lone field for "email" doesn't leave you with enough data to send well-tailored emails.
A multitude of required fields is likely to discourage customers. The more privacy-concerned might input a minimum of data, whereas others might want maximum customization of the experience. Allow users to input as much data as they feel comfortable with; it’s better to gather some data than none.
An increasingly popular option for mobile users is to use a social sign-up, like Google or Facebook, which provides basic data like name and age without the user needing to input them. Finally, no matter how they're signing up or how much data they hand over, remind them that they can always return later to change and update their preferences.
Change Is Good
When the user does return to the preference center, it's because he wants to make specific changes. Make it easy for him. Provide a link to the email preference center at the bottom of all of your emails.
Fundamentally, an email preference center should let users tell you what they want, with minimal friction. To achieve this, the preference center needs to be flexible with options for frequency and types of content. Some customers might just want a monthly email with discount offers; others might want more frequent emails about new products. Your email preference options should facilitate both.
As useful as your email preference center is, you don't want users to feel trapped there. Make it easy to find, let them navigate and make changes quickly and easily, and then move on.
Making It Multiplatform
Part of the all-too-common neglect that email preference centers face is being stuck with old-fashioned web formatting while the rest of the world moves on to adaptive, mobile-friendly templates.
Mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, are here to stay, and it's about time that email preference centers adapted to them. Trying to view a desktop form on a smartphone is a frustrating task that will drive people away. Dynamic formatting is common, and the tools for adapting websites are widespread, so it shouldn't be too much work for your website and email design teams.
Offer users options when they want to unsubscribe. A single unsubscribe option is imprecise and a missed opportunity to collect data. A handful of carefully considered alternatives offer the customer a more precise tool to express preferences.
It can be tough saying goodbye, but sometimes users just want out. If they are determined to leave, let them go with a polite message, but not a guilt trip. Send your customers off with positive feelings toward your company and they might be more likely to return.
Revisit and Refresh
The bottom line is that it's important to keep your email preference center lean and in line with current trends. As customers shift to mobile devices, for example, it becomes increasingly important that your preference center is responsive and adapts to the user's device of choice.
A good-looking preference center that is easy to use will garner more frequent visits and more positive interactions. With 15 percent to 25 percent of all email addresses discarded annually, increased visits will also help retain your customer base.
Above all, your email preference center shouldn't feel like an afterthought; keep it as up to date as the rest of your website. It offers a valuable opportunity to gather data straight from the customer's mouth—or keyboard—and to ensure you're not pushing them away with overly frequent or irrelevant messages. Prioritizing your email preference center will yield more frequent updates, better data, greater retention, and, most importantly, happier customers.
Jason Lark is co-founder and managing director of Celerity, a data, marketing, and technology consultancy.