Email Preference Centers: Best Practices to Reduce your Unsubscribe Rate (with Detailed Examples)

First, the good news. Unsubscribes keep your email lists clean and your deliverability high. And as a business, you do need to comply with consumer-protection laws and make sure that people can unsubscribe from your lists. 

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. 

For example, if 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 assumes that your list isn’t growing (no new subscribers added).

In any case, that's a lot of lost subscribers over a year, so we’re going to share some proven ways to trim your losses. These are based on our experience working with clients including Fortune, Algenist, and MiracleGro.

Why subscribers unsubscribe

Receiving “too many emails” is the number one reason people unsubscribe. Maybe you're sending emails every day, maybe you're sending them every week, but not every subscriber wants to hear from you that often (no, it’s not personal…).

The second reason that prompts subscribers to hit the unsubscribe link? Feeling that the emails aren’t relevant. Maybe you're sending them emails about your products when all they want are coupons. Or, you're sending emails about entertainment when someone actually wants 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 can result in a lot of unnecessary unsubscribes. 

A much better option is a customizable “email preference center” where you can customize the options presented to subscribers. We at Digioh have seen a rising popularity in custom email preference centers, because they’re so effective at helping you manage your subscribers. In this post, we’ll share some best practices for customizing your email preference centers.

Tip #1: Give your subscribers time-based options

Email preference center pause subscription

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

In our first example, we show an email preference center that gives subscribers the ability to pause for 30 or 60 days. Say you’re an e-commerce site targeted towards people buying homes. Some of your subscribers may have bought a home, but they may not have moved in yet...Others might be planning on moving in the near future, so they’ll want your coupon emails eventually, just not right now. Instead of opting out for good, your subscribers can choose to pause emails.

Our next example is basic but powerful. You can just have a toggle with three options: "Send me all the emails," "Send me fewer emails," or “Unsubscribing 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). They still want to hear from you, just not that often.

Tip #2: Give your subscribers control over content

Email preference center shift lists

Our second tip will help you send emails that your subscribers want to receive. In many cases, when website visitors initially subscribe to your list, they’re automatically opted in to all your lists. If they start to receive irrelevant content, they may hit the “Manage My Preferences” Link in your email. If they’re presented with a list of themed newsletters that they can selectively opt in (or out) of, they’re more likely to stick around as a subscriber. For our clients, we’ve seen this tactic alone reduce unsubscribes by 30%.

Tip #3: Use your own domain

custom domain email preference center

Our next tip is short but powerful: make sure that your preference center URL matches your main company domain (i.e. the brand that your subscribers and customers recognize). This helps to build trust (there’s something disconcerting about clicking on a non-branded URL). 

Tip #4: Allow subscribers to edit their email and contact information

edit email and address email preference center

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, we may decide to do away with one of our email addresses...or we might subscribe with our personal email address, but later want to switch to our work email.

In addition to email update options, you can add in the ability to update addresses, birthdays, or even the types of content your subscriber would like to receive. This information can help you send even more personalized and relevant content.

Tip #5: Personalize your preference centers

dynamic preference center

Our next tip is extremely powerful: personalize your preference centers. Leverage the data that exists in your email marketing system to dynamically display the lists that each subscriber is subscribed to. From there, you can even dynamically recommend related newsletters. 

Your email preference center now becomes much more than a place to see which list you’re subscribed to. It becomes an upsell page where you can upsell subscribers to subscribe to even more newsletters.

Tip #6: Give subscribers a content preview

content preview preference center

If you’ve been to Costco, you’ve probably tried their free samples. In many cases, that has motivated you to purchase a product that you weren’t even considering. 

The same goes for your subscribers. Instead of just listing out your newsletters, you can include a link that allows subscribers to check out (or “sample”) your content. 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 that have lots of different lists that they want to expose.

Tip #7: Collect subscriber data

custom profile center

Personalization is no longer optional. In that vein, our next tip is to use your preference centers to collect more data from your subscribers. 

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.

Tip #8: Use surveys

preference center unsubscribe survey

Knowledge is power. Adding a post-unsubscribe survey to your preference center allows you to understand why your subscribers are unsubscribing. Based on this information, you can make changes to your preference center. 


For example, they might say, "I'm getting too many emails." You could then offer a frequency option on your email preference center page. 

A survey gives you actionable ideas to test on your preference center, so you can iterate your way to lower unsubscribe rates.

Tip #9: Stay true to your brand

branded preference center

Your subscribers know and trust your brand. For that reason, your preference center should look like part of your website, not your email marketing system’s website. Use the same language, and keep your colors and fonts. 

Tip #10: Try Digioh

If your email marketing solution allows you to customize your preference centers, we recommend testing out our tips to see if they work for you as well as they work for our customers. If you can’t customize your default preference center, you should check out our drag-and-drop email preference center builder.

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