Email Marketing

Email Preference Centers: 11 Best Practices and Examples

August 9, 2022
Rishi Shah

Building an email preference center? Follow these best practices to reduce unsubscribe rates and keep subscribers happy.

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%. This may seem low, but when compound 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! But why are these subscribers opting out?

Receiving “too many emails” is the number one reason people unsubscribe, while others may unsubscribe because they feel your emails aren’t relevant. Maybe they get product updates when all they want are discounts. Or, you send them your entertainment newsletter when they just want sports 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 choose what emails they subscribe to, set how frequently they receive email, and 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%.

That's why we want to share proven ways to trim your losses.

Preference Center Best Practices (with Examples)

Here, we’ll share some best practices for creating custom preference centers, along with examples of each practice. These best practices are based on our experience working with clients including Fortune, MeUndies, Redbubble, G2, and more. For additional examples, check out our gallery of preference center examples and templates.

1. Let subscribers set their email frequency or even pause all emails.

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

enervee pause email option preference center

Digioh customer Enervee allows their email subscribers to choose whether they receive all promotional emails, get emails twice a month, or just get one monthly email. You could also show a toggle list with three options: "Send me all emails," "Send fewer emails," or “Unsubscribe me from everything”. Either way, you can engage your biggest fans more frequently without fatiguing the rest of your list.

But what happens if subscribers do get email fatigue? A great way to handle this is with the option to pause emails.

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

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 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.

2. Put subscribers in control of their email 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.

In many cases, when visitors initially subscribe, they’re automatically opted into receiving a default, generic newsletter. If these emails are irrelevant to them, 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%.

In addition to letting subscribers choose the subject matter in their emails, you can also let them choose the types of marketing communication they receive. Check out Digioh customer CreditNinja's preference center below.

creditninja preference center

Maybe your subscribers want your promotional offers. Maybe they just want to hear about new features or receive your content. Either way, you can keep subscribers happy by giving them a say in what you send them.

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.

Another best practice is to make sure your preference center URL matches the domain that subscribers recognize.

Branded URLs help build trust with your subscribers and provide a consistent experience. That's why, in addition to our provided URLs, Digioh preference centers allow you to host your preference page at the URL of your choice.

4. Allow users to edit their contact information in your preference center.

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

Most of us have multiple email addresses, and on occasion, users may decide to retire one email address. Alternatively, subscribers may join your list using their personal email address, but later switch to a work email or alternate address.

Make sure subscribers have a way to change where they receive your email. That way, a new email address won't lead to an inactive subscriber.

5. Personalize your email preference center.

personalized preference center

Whether in your ESP, CDP, or CRM, you likely have a wealth of zero-party data about the content your subscribers consume, the products they buy, and their preferences. 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. Show subscribers an example of your content.

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 newsletters, let potential subscribers "sample" a newsletter option. In the example above, 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 zero-party data that helps you send better email.

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

Use your preference centers to collect data that you can use to personalize their content. 

In this example, a skincare 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, recommend products, or to aid in customer support.

If you collect preference data from new subscribers with a marketing quiz funnel or multi-step form, this can be a good place for subscribers to edit their responses if their preferences or interests change.

8. Provide a good unsubscribe experience.

Even a perfect preference center won't save every subscriber. If a user wants out, it's best to make the unsubscribe process seamless.

Use clear wording and let users 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.

If you don't frustrate your unsubscribers, you may have a 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!

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

10. Make your preference center design match your branding!

custom preference center example from redbubble
Digioh client Redbubble's preference center matches both their brand design and voice.

Your preference center should look like your website, not the default settings in your email marketing platform.

Stay consistent with your brand voice, colors, fonts, and imagery. Of course, you should prioritize usability over flash, but don't be afraid to be fun! For instance, the unicorn image in the Redbubble example above dynamically changes based on how many newsletters a user receives. The more subscriptions, the happier it is!

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, the lack of flexibility could cost you subscribers.

That's why Digioh offers a 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, dynamic content, and preference center and landing page 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.

Rishi Shah
Co-Founder & CEO
For over a decade, Rishi Shah has been a noteworthy leader in the digital marketing space. He is the CEO and Co-Founder of Digioh and is passionate about helping businesses increase their marketing ROI by converting more website visitors to subscribers and customers. He currently resides in San Francisco, California, and enjoys hiking on the weekend with his wife and 2 kids.

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