Email Marketing

4 best practices for retailers to develop effective preference centers

Preference centers help keep hard-earned subscribers happy by allowing them to decide what, when, and how they would like to hear from you. A survey by Campaign Monitor found that 60% of consumers will unsubscribe from an email list because of too frequent communications1. Despite this, only 30% of marketers use email preference centers2, indicating a missed opportunity for many brands, especially retailers for whom email is a core marketing channel.

One of the biggest challenges retailers face is delivering content via email that is engaging and personalized across a variety of different customer segments. Why are customer segments important, you ask? Because marketers have found that segmented campaigns generate 760% increase in email revenue compared to ones that reach all of their audience. Email preference centers let customers self-identify the segment they belong to without retailers having to run complicated models and data appends to determine that.

We’ve outlined some tactics to help you fend off dreaded unsubscribes, and develop better insights into your audience’s preferences.

1. Give subscribers comprehensive options

In a recent survey of North American and UK consumers, 42% said they feel like an individual when companies enable them to customize and control their brand interactions.

In a recent survey of North American and UK consumers, 42% said they feel like an individual when companies enable them to customize and control their brand interactions.

Smart retailers go beyond enabling subscribers the pick email frequency; they allow their audience to choose the type of content they receive. For example, some brands let subscribers opt into ‘special offer’ emails, lifestyle communications, sweepstakes alerts, and ‘back-in-stock’ notifications in addition to setting email frequency. When you give your subscribers control over how they hear from you and what content they receive, you reduce the risk of unsubscribes.

Brand example: Moosejaw

Outdoor recreation apparel and gear company, Moosejaw, has a comprehensive preference center that allows subscribers to choose first the frequency and then the content of their emails. The option to unsubscribe from everything is the last on the list, reminding Moosejaw fans what they will miss if they opt out of receiving emails.


2. Design with intention

A well-designed preference center page is crucial. Your preference center should fit on a single page, and not require the customer to have to scroll. Retailers can minimize unsubscribes using design principles to draw the eye to choices that change their content preferences or reduce communications frequency, rather than the unsubscribe option.

Pro-tip: Don’t forget to make sure your preference center is mobile responsive; design for the smallest screen first and work out to larger screen sizes.

Brand example: Sephora

Beauty and makeup retailer, Sephora, uses colorful and dynamic images on their preference center to give subscribers a visual reminder of the products that motivated them to sign-up in the first place. Sephora frames the landing page with a header that reads “Stay in control of your inbox,” a message that immediately lets the subscriber know they are in the driver’s seat and there are other options besides unsubscribing. The unsubscribe option, while clearly demarcated, is the last choice.

3. Keep your brand voice consistent

There’s a reason the consumer subscribed to your emails in the first place – they connected with your products and brand. This should carry through to your preference center. If your subscribers are no-nonsense and to the point, keep the copy short and sweet. If audiences connect with your fun and cheeky style, make sure that shines through.

Brand example: West Elm

Furniture retailer, West Elm, keeps the copy of their preference center light and playful. They use exclamation points, casual language and even offer the subscribers a 90-day break – an innovative way to save the subscribe.

4. Clearly explain your subscribers’ choices and the benefit of each one

Each item on your preference center should be clearly explained. Do not expect your users to know what you mean by a “Daily Digest” or “Monthly Newsletter.” Add a sentence underneath each option that conveys the benefits of remaining subscribed and link to an example of each to provide further context for the subscriber. Is the daily digest a roundup of industry news? Is the monthly newsletter full of coupons or exclusive offers? Make sure to let your audience know precisely why they would want to continue receiving communications from you.

Brand example: ASOS

Online clothing retailer ASOS shows which communications their audience currently receives and clearly shows how subscribers can modify their preferences. Also, the fun, eye-catching icons help convey the meaning of each option.

Bonus points: Offer a channel preference – ASOS’ target audience skews young. The brand includes an SMS option because they know younger audiences are more interested in texting than checking emails.


When it comes to keeping subscribers engaged, retails have a tough hill to climb but a strong preference center can help make it a little easier. The best preference centers will be transparent, make the subscriber feel a sense of empowerment, and encourage them to sign up for relevant content through effective copy and design. To sweeten the deal, make sure you’re designing for mobile and offering channel preferences.


For more email design tips that are sure to boost conversions and drive revenue, check out our webinar, “Email design strategies that boost conversion rates.”

To learn more about how Data Axle helps retailers deliver a personalized marketing experience to high-value clients, click here.


Natasia Langfelder
Content Marketing Manager

As Content Marketing Manager, Natasia is responsible for helping strategize, produce and execute Data Axle's content. With a passion for writing and an enthusiasm for data management and technology, Natasia creates content that is designed to deliver nuggets of wisdom to help brands and individuals elevate their data governance policies. A native New Yorker, when Natasia is not at work she can be found enjoying New York’s food scene, at one of NYC’s many museums, or at one of the city’s many parks with her two teacup yorkies.