The days of batch-and-blast marketing are over. Today's savvy consumers want—and expect—the commercial communications they receive to be timely, relevant and based on their previous interactions with the brand or program. They expect marketers to know what interests them and provide customized offers and information based on these interests, both explicitly stated through preference centers and implicitly stated through past purchases and previous interactions. The good news is technology is available to facilitate this activity, and marketers certainly are capable of providing content that meets consumer needs.
The ways of capturing consumer preferences have extended beyond simple opt-in and opt-out pages to far more advanced preference centers that capture and maintain consumer wants and interests over time. Preference centers are a must in today's complicated marketing landscape and provide the prime opportunity to gather as much relevant information about an individual consumer as possible. Some marketers have used them wisely to fill in the gaps to know what subscribers want to receive and when, especially as these companies move to more complicated programs and targeted communications. For example, preferences for transactional messages (shipping confirmations, e-statement notifications) may be very different from regular marketing messages (weekly deals, specials, coupons) and product information (warranties, recalls, upgrades).
Begin With Your
A good place to start is with a map of all the communications your e-mail program supports, against the contact frequency at which those messages are sent. Examine current subscriber preferences and contact frequencies to determine the right cadence of messages. Then use the preference center to allow users to select which programs they receive more of and which they prefer not to receive as often if there is overriding content in the queue.
The key to a successful preference center is efficiently capturing just the information that can be used immediately for content preparation, such as program interests, lifestyle and desired content, without gratuitous data collection like postal address if there is no offline component to the program. As users provide information, an unspoken promise is made that by providing the information, he or she will receive a customized experience. If not, this is a good check to ask yourself: Is this really information we need to collect? That said, subscribers willingly will offer up identification information like name, address or ZIP code to allow marketers to match data behind the scenes. But it must be kept to a minimum and used to demonstrably recognize and cater to each customer individually. Otherwise, it will be seen as a turnoff.