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Higher relevance (and more work) with preference centers
When recipients decide on the content themselves
Sending recipients only emails that really interest them is rewarded with much better results and happier customers – that’s the concept behind preference centers. The advantages of more targeted communication are obvious:
- Higher relevance and acceptance among the recipients
- Less inactivity and fewer logouts
- Better KPIs for marketing
- Better deliverability
Of course, even without preference centers, email marketers are able to customize their newsletter emails to specific recipients by analyzing their purchases, clicks, and website behavior – assuming the recipients have consented to being tracked – and addressing their target groups with personalized offers. Even so, analyzing this data and modulating individual communication requires a certain amount of machine intelligence and manual effort.
For many CRM marketing planners, much seems to argue for allowing subscribers to decide on the content themselves, what interests them and even how often they want to receive emails on that particular content.
Where does profile management make sense?
On a landing page for profile and interest management, recipients can define their personal preferences for subscribable topics or email formats in (greater or lesser) detail: Do I only want news about bicycles or also about other outdoor sports? Do I only want information on special offers but not on fashion?
Senders offer interest management functions at various points in the customer lifecycle. This method of specifying interests is most frequently offered at the time the subscriber registers or as part of the welcome sequence. The idea is that the interest in the content offered and the willingness to take a few minutes for “fine-tuning” is greatest when registering.
“Wizards” that guide subscribers step-by-step through the profiling questions have the best success rates here. A clear benefit argumentation is very useful: What does the recipient have to gain if he or she provides certain information? It boosts customer confidence (“We need your post code to show you events and offerings in your vicinity”) and provides additional incentives (“Can we interest you in a birthday present? If so, let us know your date of birth”). Both lower the inhibition threshold for disclosing personal data.
How up-to-date are the interests in the preference center?
In addition or as an alternative to the information requested when subscribers register, many companies offer their e-mail subscribers and customers the possibility of refining their interests at any time by means of a profile management landing page. This can mostly be found in the footer area of the email (“Change email preferences”, “Manage profile”) and is therefore difficult to find.
Our experience shows that only very few e-mail recipients actively use and refine their profiles in such preference centers. Companies with very high standard email sending frequencies are an exception: If customers are keen to continue receiving some but not all emails from this company, they use the preference center to channel the email volume. But in most cases this takes place only once and then never again – even if interest in other, new product categories or offers has meanwhile increased.
This reveals a general problem with preference centers: Information about interests and preferences quickly becomes outdated and fails to provide the full picture.
Brands that offer recipients incentives to manage their profiles record a high profiling rate once in the customer lifecycle. The deadweight effect prompts an activity, but the profile specifications then remain unchanged until the customer unsubscribes.
Customers often only encounter the preference center again when they click on the unsubscribe link: In order to avert the risk of recipient loss, the unsubscribe landing page offers the possibility of customizing content and frequencies instead of a complete opt-out.
Promises made to be kept
One aspect of email profile management that should not be underestimated is the recipient’s expectation that the promise of customized information will be fulfilled. If the customer has explicitly said that he or she is only interested in Asian cuisine, does such a recipe have to be included in every newsletter for this promise to be fulfilled? And if certain content is not desired, the marketer must be technically capable of removing such content from the mails (by means of modularly structured emails) and offer sufficient alternative content. The same applies to frequency: If the recipient can limit the maximum number of emails by means of frequency capping, all mails have to be prioritized internally: Which email has priority? Newsletters over emails on seasonal sales, personal product recommendations over anniversary emails? Especially with automated marketing programs, this quickly becomes complicated.
This means that
- complex preference management involves a great deal of conceptual and technical work.
- mail sequences, frequencies and content must be served accordingly.
A realistic cost-benefit analysis is therefore important when introducing an interest management system. From the technical side, it is necessary to ensure that the required infrastructure is available to establish preference and frequency management with all exclusion criteria.
Who has sovereignty over marketing content and frequency?
Generally speaking, preference management should not be structured in such a way that recipients select their interests by separately consenting to different newsletter types. If, for example, a recipient subscribes only to the monthly event newsletter, the marketer does not have the flexibility to send the recipient a promotion about seminar places that have become available at short notice – as this would mean sending the email outside the monthly newsletter interval. To prevent push marketing from limiting the means by which content can be flexibly communicated in different email formats, only “Events” and not “Monthly Event Newsletter” should have been offered as a subscribable interest in this particular case. Incidentally, basing email consent on internal divisional structuring rather than the customer perspective is just as problematic.
Our recommendation: Don’t leave the frequency and content control completely up to the customer. At best, accept the expressions of interest for what they are: interests. The customers can be asked to provide information on the topics of particular importance to them.
And even then, these interests will only provide an indication of the things with which the customers are currently preoccupying themselves. A customer who is only interested in women’s clothing at time X may not adjust this information in the preference center – even if they have now developed an interest in DIY, children’s clothing or products from other assortments. This also becomes a problem when product ranges are expanded or new products added because the possibility of requesting information on these interests did not exist before.
An opt-in should therefore be set up as broadly as possible. Interests and website behavior can be used as a combination to make content as relevant as possible to the user.
As mentioned above, the first question should be whether a differentiation of a company’s own communication offering is at all meaningful and technically feasible. Alternatively, there is always the option of designing separate newsletters for product segments with completely separate target groups and without cross-selling potential. For companies with very large product portfolios, preference centers can be a good way to build up highly relevant communication with their recipient groups.
No matter what, preference centers involve work – but, if used correctly, this work will be rewarded by the advantages mentioned above!
Smart preference management
We would be happy to support you in the conception, design, programming and implementation of profile management in your marketing automation or multichannel marketing platform. Contact us for a non-binding discussion about your requirements!