Do You Need an E-Mail Preference Center?

Recent columns have touted email database segmenting for several reasons, chief among them improving CPM and reducing unsubscribes. We’ve discussed the need for a chief slice-and-dice officer to head up database segmenting and enhancement activities.

Probably the most worthwhile undertaking is developing an email preference center (EPC). An EPC provides the ability to identify people on a granular level: avid Stephen King fans; people who can’t wait to get their hands on Usher’s next album; and people who want to know everything about keeping their lawns green.

What’s an EPC?

An EPC is a personalized Web page for each customer and prospective customer. It’s designed to give people the ability to opt in to, and opt out of, very specific email vehicles, such as newsletters, sale alerts, news bulletins, and product information. Depending on how many products you have, one individual may opt in for a handful, or even dozens, of lists.

Is It for Everyone?

No. The EPC is most effective when you have a number of products or services. Though it’s good for sellers of books, music, and movies, it’s not really effective for those selling one product or service, such as mortgages or wedding gowns.

What Does It Look Like?

For purposes of illustration, let’s use a bookseller as an example. Barnesandnoble.com has an excellent EPC, although it declined to provide details beyond what you can see on its site. As its EPC has been around for a long time, one can only assume it works.

At the top level, an EPC is simply a list of available email lists people can join. When you begin to segment them, an EPC takes on a life of its own and becomes something really special. A bookseller might come up with dozens of lists for people to join:

  • General:

    • Company news

    • New releases
    • Sale announcements
    • New product categories

  • Topic specific (history, politics, baseball, etc.):

    • New releases

    • All books on a topic

  • Subtopic specific (World War II, Jimmy Carter, the Yankees, etc.):

    • New releases

    • All books on a subtopic

  • Author specific:

    • New releases

    • News
    • All books by an author

How Does the Personalized Page Look?

Each person should have an individual EPC page. Make it easy for users to see what lists they’re on, subscribe to other lists, and unsubscribe. Here’s a simple format:


Welcome, Paul Soltoff, to the
Remarkable Books E-Mail Preference Center
E-mail lists you’re currently
subscribed to:
Subscribed Unsubscribe
Politics New Releases •
History New Releases •
Football New Releases •
John Jakes — News/All Books •
Monthly Sale Bulletin •
E-mail lists you’re not
subscribed to:
Subscribe Not Yet
Gardening New Releases •
Home Improvement New Releases •
Baseball New Releases •
Dan Brown New Releases •
Remarkable Books News •

You could have dozens, even hundreds, of lists. Each represents a group of people with a keen interest in hearing from you by email about the topic, subtopic, or author of their choice. They also represent a group likely to buy based on their stated interests.

You can build in an “auto ship” feature, allowing subscribers to give you permission to ship new releases as they become available. My EPC might look like this with the auto ship feature in place:


E-mail lists you’re
currently subscribed to:
Subscribed Unsubscribe Auto Ship
Politics New Releases •
History New Releases •
Football New Releases •
John Jakes — News/All Books • •
Monthly Sale Bulletin •

An EPC is the perfect place for information about your subscription and privacy policies, as well as customer contact and support information. ClickZ’s EPC (the non-user-specific version is here) contains information to help users add subscriptions to their whitelists, a step every email marketer should consider.

If you’ve seen examples of great EPCs, let me know.

Keep reading…

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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