Email Preference Centers: Best Practices to Reduce Unsubscribes (with Examples)

April 9, 2021
Email Marketing

Your email list growth is a function of both your opt-in rates and your unsubscribe rates. Here are our top tips to trim your unsubscribes.

Unsubscribes keep your email lists clean and help prevent deliverability issues. 

But there comes a point when too many unsubscribes can hurt your business. The average unsubscribe rate is between 0.09 and 0.4%. In isolation, this may seem like a low number but when you start compounding the numbers, the impact can be significant. 

Let's say you start with a list of 100,000 subscribers. At an unsubscribe rate of 0.4%, you'll lose about 18,000 subscribers (or 18%) over a year’s worth of weekly emails. To keep things simple, this calculation doesn't factor in added subscribers.

In any case, that's a lot of lost subscribers. That's why we want to share some proven ways to trim your losses. These preference center best practices are based on our experience working with clients including Fortune, Algenist, and MiracleGro.

Why do email subscribers opt out?

Receiving “too many emails” is the number one reason people unsubscribe. If you send daily emails, your biggest fans probably don't mind receiving each email, but there are likely others who would prefer to receive them less often. It's nothing personal; they just like fewer emails!

The second reason members may unsubscribe is feeling that the emails aren’t relevant. Maybe they're getting product updates when all they want are discounts. Or, you send them emails about entertainment when they actually want health-related news.

Many email service providers default to a one-click master unsubscribe link, so a subscriber clicks once and unsubscribes from all your lists. That’s simple, but it can lead to lots of unnecessary unsubscribes. 

A better option is a custom email preference center.

What is an email preference center?

An email preference center is a page that allows your subscribers to control their email experience. These pages give subscribers the option to subscribe to certain newsletters, opt out of others, or unsubscribe from all email communication.

By providing options in addition to "unsubscribe," you may convince potential unsubscribers to opt into other communication, rather than opting out of everything. In fact, a well-designed preference center can help you reduce unsubscribes by as much as 30%.

Preference Center Best Practices and Examples

Here, we’ll share some best practices for creating custom preference centers that provide subscribers with a better email experience. You can watch the video to see these best practices, or scroll down to read them for yourself.

Here are 10 best practices for creating great preference pages, along with examples of each practice. For more examples, check out our guide to preference center design.

1. Give your email subscribers time-based options.

preference center examples with email frequency options
Allow subscribers to pause emails (left) or opt into fewer emails (right).

Our first tip is simple but powerful: let subscribers choose how often they hear from you. 

Above is an email preference center that allows subscribers to pause emails for 30 or 60 days. Say you’re an eCommerce brand targeting people buying homes. Some of your subscribers may have bought a home, so they're on the hunt for discounts to help furnish their home. Others might be planning a move in the near future, so they’ll want your promotions eventually, just not right now. Instead of opting out for good, they can take a break.

You can also provide a toggle list with three options: "Send me all emails," "Send fewer emails," or “Unsubscribe me from everything”. In this example, the second option (fewer emails) is the default selection, so your subscribers are more likely to stick with that option (because they do want fewer emails). Your biggest fans may want to hear from you more often, and this allows you to engage them more frequently without fatiguing the rest of your list.

2. Let subscribers control the content.

preference center with options to choose lawn, garden, or pest control content
This preference center allows subscribers to choose specific lawn, garden, or pest control email communication.

Our second tip will help you send emails that your subscribers want to receive.

In many cases, when visitors initially subscribe, they’re automatically opted into receiving default content, such as a generic newsletter. If they start to receive irrelevant content, they may hit the preference center link in your email with the intention of opting out. However, if they’re presented with a list of themed newsletters that they can opt into instead, they’re more likely to stick around as a subscriber.

For our clients, we’ve seen this tactic alone reduce unsubscribes by 30%.


3. Create preference centers on your own domain.

preference center with a custom domain
Choose a preference center solution that allows you to set a custom domain.

Make sure your preference center URL matches your main company domain (i.e. the brand that your subscribers and customers recognize).

Branded URLs help to build trust with your subscribers and provide a consistent experience. That's why Digioh preference centers provide the ability to host your preference page at the URL of your choice.


4. Allow users to edit their email and contact information in your subscription center.

subscription center page with a field to edit email address
This preference page allows subscribers to edit their email address.

It’s surprising that many preference centers don’t give subscribers the option to edit their email address or contact information. Most of us have multiple email addresses, and on occasion, users may decide to retire one email address. Your subscribers may also join your list using their personal email address, but later want to switch to a work email.

With a custom preference center, you can add an option to update addresses, birthdays, or even content preference. This information can help you segment subscribers into even more relevant lists.


5. Personalize your email preference center.

personalized preference center

Whether in your ESP, CDP, or CRM, you likely have a wealth of data about the content your subscribers consume and the products they buy. Use your data to dynamically display the lists that each subscriber is subscribed to. Then, go a step further and use behavioral data to dynamically recommend related newsletters. 

This way, your email preference center becomes much more than a place to manage subscriptions. It becomes an upsell page where you can invite subscribers to opt into additional email.


6. Give subscribers a content preview on your preference page.

preference center with content preview pane
This page has a preview pane showing what newsletters will look like.

If you’ve been to Costco, Sam's Club, or perhaps even your local grocery store, you’ve probably tried the free samples on display. That's likely motivated you to purchase a product you hadn't considered before.

The same goes for your subscribers. Instead of just listing your newsletters, you can allow potential subscribers to "sample" a newsletter option. In our example, each list has a “See Sample” link that leads to a page with the latest newsletter content.

This is especially useful for publishers with many newsletters to promote.


7. Collect first-party data from your email subscribers.

subscription center with subscriber details
This preference page collects first-party data for deeper personalization.

Use your preference centers to invite subscribers to provide data that you can use to personalize their content. 

In this example, a skin brand can ask about skin concerns so they can segment their subscribers and send more relevant emails. This data can also be used to send personal offers or to aid in customer support.

8. Provide a good experience for unsubscribers.

Even a perfect preference center won't retain every subscriber. When a user wants to leave, it's best to make the unsubscribe process seamless.

Use clear wording, and provide an easy way to quickly unsubscribe from all communication, especially if you have a long list of newsletters. In the example preference center below, checking "unsubscribe from all" will automatically uncheck the rest of the list. With an uncheck all option, unsubscribers don't have to play whack-a-mole to uncheck each of their email subscriptions.

animated example of a preference center that unchecks all subscriptions when a user clicks unsubscribe from all
In this example, checking the "unsubscribe from all" option automatically unchecks all other options on the page.

As long as you don't frustrate your unsubscribers, you may have a good chance of staying connected on other channels!


9. Use post-unsubscribe surveys to improve your email program.

post-unsubscribe survey
Add an optional post-unsubscribe survey to learn from your unsubscribes.

Knowledge is power. Adding an optional post-unsubscribe survey to your preference center allows you to understand why subscribers leave.

Note that in the example above, the user is unsubscribed before seeing the survey. This reduces friction in the unsubscribe process, providing the best possible experience for your unsubscribers. These users have already decided to unsubscribe; requiring them to complete an extra step before they can leave won't make them any happier. In fact, you'll probably end up with some negative feedback about your unsubscribe process!

With the data you collect from this survey, you can take steps needed to improve your email program for your remaining subscribers. For example, if a large number of respondents say, "I'm getting too many emails," you may decide to provide additional frequency options on your preference page.


10. Make sure your preference center design matches your branding.

custom preference page branding
These examples match the branding of their respective sites.

Your subscribers know your brand. That's why your preference center should look like your website, not your ESP. Stay consistent with your brand voice, and make sure you choose a preference center provider that allows you to customize pages with your brand's design. 


11. Use a preference center builder that allows you to customize your page.

If your ESP doesn't allow you to fully customize your default preference center, it could cost you subscribers.

That's why Digioh offers a flexible page editor that enables brands to build the custom preference center that meets their needs. For an easier way to create a custom preference center, check out our drag-and-drop email preference center builder. With plenty of customization options and built-in preference center templates, you can build your optimized preference center quickly.

examples of Digioh email preference center templates
These preference center templates are available in Digioh.

Start Building a Custom Preference Center Today

Ready to create your new preference center? We've compiled some how-to docs for setting up custom preference centers for some of the leading ESPs, CRMs, and CDPs.

Digioh's custom preference centers integrate with these solutions, plus Klaviyo, Omnisend, Sendgrid, Iterable, Marketo, and virtually every other ESP. Want to learn more? Contact us, and we're happy to help.

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