Detox Your Data: Making Use of Preference Centers

In the next installment of our ‘Detox your Data’ series, we take a look at the role a preference center can play in maintaining compliance and transparency.

Over the last year GDPR has been the main topic of discussion and concern among marketers. This is normal and expected, as it will undoubtedly have an impact on the marketing landscape as whole. Rest assured you are not alone and, more importantly, you don’t need to panic.

While some changes will need to be implemented, this should instead be viewed as a beneficial process rather than a chore. As our president Matt McGowan likes to say, transparency will be the next buzzword, since GDPR will effectively require companies to become more transparent in their data privacy and data collection.

We’ve already advised you to detox your data this month by maintaining a clean list; now let’s look at the added benefits that having a preference center can bring. Preference centers generally are a good idea, however in this instance it all boils down to 3 clear benefits:

  • Contacts are in control of how they interact with your emails, which can increase engagement
  • You can reduce unsubscribes and complaint rates
  • Your data will be cleaner and up-to-date if you allow your subscribers to amend their preferences. This is particularly important in light of GDPR

Ryan Phelan, our VP Marketing Insights, has previously explained that one of the first challenges to a good preference centre is making sure that you have a good strategy. This will ensure that you are giving your customers the best options and you are gathering the most relevant information on them.

Once you’ve addressed these initial strategy questions, you’ll need to bear the following in mind:

1. Keep it simple

There’s no need to over-complicate things! If you’re using a sign-up form, make sure you include all the channels and brands covered within it. Don’t forget that you should have a separate option for each channel and type of communication.

2. It’s all about affirmative action

Under new regulations nothing can be pre-ticked; the subscriber has to make an affirmative action if they want to hear from you. This is very much a positive as it will make it easy for you to be sure of (and, where necessary, prove) a customer’s consent.

3. Don’t forget to set expectations

As mentioned above, preference centers allow the individual to remain in control, so it may be worth giving them information on how many emails they should expect to receive from you. Are they signing up for a weekly newsletter, for example? Or perhaps you’ll be sending monthly offers, or bi-monthly marketing updates?

4. Customers can unsubscribe or “opt down”

Forrester research has found that the top two reasons unsubscribes happen are irrelevant emails (74%) and too many emails (71%). However, only 26% said they did not want to hear from the brand or company ever again, so giving customers the option to “press snooze” on your communications without unsubscribing completely can be very valuable here. Let the customer be in charge of the frequency of their emails by opting down instead of out.

As you can see from the chart below, some marketers do use preference centers to help with the unsubscribe process. That being said, you have to make sure you get this right and that any consequent unsubscribes are handled correctly.

5. It’s all about updating your preferences

Remember to give your subscribers the option to update their preferences. It’s beneficial to have this on an ongoing basis as it can enrich your data, helping you to personalize and target your communication. This will undoubtedly result in higher engagement rates.

For example, the University of Birmingham used email automation and a preference center to gather customer preferences and create targeted campaigns. They created a multi-stage automated re-engagement program encouraging contacts to fill in their preferences with behavioral filters targeting engagement and completion. This resulted in a better understanding of customer preferences as well as a 68% higher click-through rate overall. The complete case study is available here.


The bottom line? Preference centers will help you detox your data. Whether it’s unsubscribes or updating your details, they are instrumental in ensuring you are transparent about your data practices.


DISCLAIMER: The content and opinions within this blog are for information purposes only. They are not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice, and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice relevant to particular circumstances, the Data Protection Act, or any other current or future legislation. Adestra shall accept no responsibility for any errors, omissions or misleading statements, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on materials contained within this blog.

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