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5 Ways to Enhance Your Preference Center

by: Alyssa Opella (@IBMforMarketing)
06 August 2013

Gathering customer preferences is a challenge all digital marketers face. For starters, customers typically only share the bare essentials when they sign up for your email program. And once they’ve opted in, getting them to click the “Update Preferences” button at the bottom of your email is nearly impossible. So how do you learn more about your customers? A few simple tricks and tweaks will help you gather a lot of valuable information about your subscribers to improve relevance and provide a better relationship for all.

1) Don’t restrict your preference center to one location.

Step one is to stop thinking of your preference center as just a form you link to at the bottom of emails, and start thinking about it as a hub of multiple locations where you gather preferences based on what customers tell you (at opt-in, via surveys, etc.) and what they do (site behaviors, email clicks, purchases, etc.). Your customers are telling you about themselves every day, giving you a golden opportunity to track the entire bread crumb trail of their history with you. You just need to listen more closely and ask more directly.

PaperStyle email example2) Listen to subscriber email behaviors.

One of my favorite ways to capture customer preferences is to design your email creative so customers’ clicks tell you what they are interested in. A great example is PaperStyle’s email about wedding products (see image at right). The creative has two calls to action: “Your Wedding? Start Planning” and “Friend or Relative’s Wedding? Start Planning.” The simple act of clicking lets customers identify the event they are currently planning for and can send them down very different programs. Philosophy employs a similar approach, leveraging a lower promo area to ask about the recipient’s skin type and showing images of dry, oily and combination product lines to click to. The concept is pretty straightforward, easy to track and doesn’t require much extra effort on the customer’s part.

3) Ask a different way – send a survey.

Sending an email to your subscribers asking them to give you feedback typically generates high response rates and is another great way to gather customer interests. You can use surveys to capture more specific information, as well as some high-level product or company opinions – such as a customer’s favorite shoe style for the fall or cover photo for the next issue of a magazine. Asking subscribers for a combination of preferences and product feedback has an added side bonus of increasing their engagement with you as they feel more bought in to your brand by having vested their time. I’d suggest keeping the survey short though – generally, seven questions is ideal. You can always do a follow-up survey later with more questions – perhaps every couple of months or every year at their subscription anniversary.

4) Implement social sign-in. 

Offering social login is another smart way to learn a lot about your customers without them having to answer any questions. By signing in with their social account (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), visitors give the social entity permission to pass along a lot of valuable information about them from their account (gender, city, age, etc.). This makes the registration process easier for your subscribers and gives you key data you can use to send more relevant content.

5) Make your preference center a priority.

There’s still a place for your preference center form too, but give it greater prominence. Make your preference center a prominent call to action in your welcome campaign and re-engagement emails, and regularly include it in your preheader or email body. By actively asking for your customers’ preferences, you have a higher likelihood of getting a response.

It’s not that hard to learn more about your subscribers, you just need to break out of the norm and try a little. Don’t forget, people’s preferences change, so it’s good to ask regularly and in different ways to ensure you stay relevant to your subscribers and enhance your analytics.    

Related Resources:
1) Video: “The New Preference Center
2) Blog: “How-to: Setting Up a Basic Preference Center
3) White Paper: “20 Ways to Personalize Content and Enhance the Customer Experience


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