Marketing preferences overview

Learn how to set up marketing preferences for your contacts.


Marketing preferences and categories are used to organise your contacts based on their likes and interests. Using marketing preferences, therefore, lets you improve the targeting and effectiveness of your communications to boost engagement rates and improve ROI.

Contacts can choose their marketing preferences through a web form or you can include preferences while manually uploading contacts into your account.

How preferences are organised

You can create unlimited marketing preferences, and unlimited categories to put your preferences in. But, not all preferences need to belong to a category — they can stand alone.

Preferences can be either public or private:

  • Public
    Visible in your signup forms, preference centres, and pages and forms for contacts to opt in and out of. A preference can have a public name that's different to its private name. Your contacts only see the public name.
  • Private
    Hidden from contacts and not visible to them. Intended for your internal use only.

Categories can have a public or private name. A category only shows to contacts if it contains at least one public preference.

A sports and outdoor equipment store uses two categories, each containing three preferences:

  • Category 1: Camping
    • Preference 1: Tents
    • Preference 2: Clothing
    • Preference 3: Rucksacks
  • Category 2: Sports
    • Preference 1: Football
    • Preference 2: Running
    • Preference 3: Tennis

Create a category

To create a category for marketing preferences:

  1. Go to Email > Contacts > Marketing preferences.
  3. On the New preference or category side panel, for Select type, select CATEGORY.
  4. Enter a private name and public name for your category.
    You only need to enter a public name if you want it to be different from the private name. Categories, as well as preferences that appear in the same category, or that don't belong to a category, must have a unique private name.
  5. Select CREATE.

Create a marketing preference

To create a marketing preference:

  1. Go to Email > Contacts > Marketing preferences.
  3. On the New preference or category side panel, for Select type, select PREFERENCE.
  4. Enter a private name and public name for your preference.
  5. Expand the Access drop-down menu, and choose either This preference is public or This preference is private.
  6. If you want to place the preference into a category, expand the Category drop-down menu, and choose a category for your preference.
  7. Select CREATE.

View marketing preferences

To view, manage, edit, and delete your marketing preferences go to Email > Contacts > Marketing preferences.

From here you can drag your preferences into and out of categories, and reorder them.


You can also delete a preference or category. To do this:

  1. Select the checkbox for the category or preference you want to delete.
    You can select multiple options if you want to. Selecting a category automatically selects any preferences inside it.
  2. Select DELETE.
  3. You see a warning that the action cannot be undone. Select DELETE to confirm.

To edit the properties of a category or preference:

  1. Select the category or preference to open the Edit preference/category side panel.
  2. Make your desired changes.
  3. Select UPDATE.

Any changes you make here automatically take effect in the default preference centre, the signup form generator and the Preferences block in the pages and forms builder.

Any signup forms you have generated prior to making changes to your marketing preferences do not update, and need to be regenerated or edited to reflect any updates.

Manage contact preferences

To manually opt a contact -into or -out of a preference:

  1. Go to Email > Contacts > All contacts.
  2. Find and select the contact.
  3. Select the Marketing preferences tab.
    This tab lists all of your preferences and shows which ones a contact is opted into.
  4. Select or clear the preference or category checkbox to opt a contact in or out.
  5. Select SAVE.

View contacts in a preference

To see the contacts who are opted-in to a particular preference:

  1. Go to Email > Contacts > Marketing preferences.
  2. In the Contacts column, select the number to see a list of opted-in contacts.

From here, you can select EXPORT to download the list of contacts as a .csv file, or select MORE ACTIONS to:

  • Copy the contacts to an existing address book.
  • Send the contacts a previously sent campaign.
  • Delete the contacts from your account.
  • Unsubscribe the contacts from your account.
  • Suppress the contacts from your account.
    To learn more about the difference between manually unsubscribing and supressing a contact, check out the section Suppressed vs unsubscribed contacts.


Upload contacts in bulk with preferences

You can upload contacts in bulk with their preferences by including preference columns in the import file.

To learn more about uploading contacts in bulk, check out the section Add a list of contacts from an Excel or .csv file.

To create a source file:

  1. Start all preference column headers with Preference:.
    Make sure to include the colon at the end. The word Preference should be translated to match the account language you have set in your Account Settings.
  2. Add your preference name, and category name if applicable, after the Preference: column header. For example:
    1. Preferences that are in a category must be formatted like this:
    2. Preferences that are alone and not in a category must be formatted like this:
  3. Add the opted-in or opted-out status for each contact in the column for the relevant preference. You must use one of:
    1. True or False
    2. Yes or No
    3. 1 or 0
      The status can also be blank. Check out the tables below to see how blank statuses are handled.


Manage marketing preference statuses

If you use advanced settings for merging uploaded data, a blank status for a preference in an uploaded file is treated differently depending on which setting you choose.

You can only have Opted-in and Not opted-in as a status in-app for a marketing preference.

You can see the possible outcomes for a contact based on their marketing preference status in your import file, and their corresponding status in your account, in the tables below.

Update all data fields (default)

When you select this setting, a blank value for a preference in the import file overwrites the current status in-app, effectively acting as an opt-out for that preference.

As this is the default setting for imported files, this table represents the results you see when you do not select Show advanced settings during the data-mapping step.
Preference Existing status in-app Status in import file Result
Preference:Camping>Tents Not opted-in Yes Opted-in
Preference:Camping>Clothing Opted-in No Not opted-in
Preference:Camping>Rucksacks Opted-in   Not opted-in
Preference:Camping>Shoes Not opted-in Yes Opted-in

Don't update data fields with blank values

When you select this setting, a blank value for a preference in the import file is ignored, and the current status in-app does not change. Otherwise, statuses are updated to reflect the status included in the import file.

Preference Existing status in-app Status in import file Result
Preference:Camping>Rucksack Opted-in   Opted-in
Preference:Camping>Shoes Not opted-in   Not opted-in


Don't update data fields that already have a value

When you select this setting, no values from the import file, blank or otherwise, affect existing preference statuses in-app.

Preference Existing status in-app Status in import file Result
Preference:Camping>Tents Opted-in No Opted-in
Preference:Camping>Clothing Not opted-in Yes Not opted-in
Preference:Camping>Rucksacks Opted-in   Opted-in
Preference:Camping>Shoes Not opted-in   Not opted-in

Export contact preferences

Contact preferences are included when you export contacts individually or in bulk. This helps with Subject Access Request (SAR) compliance.

To learn more about SAR, check out the article How to process a Subject Access Request (SAR).
  • Individual export
    Each of your contact's preferences are exported when you do an individual export. If you're using preferences in combination with ConsentInsight, then the contact's preferences are also included in the ConsentInsight collection JSON file.
    To learn how to do an individual export, check out the section Export a contact.
  • Bulk export
    You're asked if you want to include marketing preferences or not when you do a bulk export of multiple contacts.
    To learn how to do a bulk export, check out the article Export an address book.

Marketing preferences in reporting

You can find marketing preferences in reporting in the following areas:

  • If you send a campaign to one or more marketing preferences, then in the Campaign details section of the campaign report overview you can see which preferences you sent a campaign to.
  • At the bottom of the email dashboard, a chart shows a breakdown of your preferences by popularity (maximum of 25 preferences) as they stand at the current time.
    Using the filter or date range functions on the email dashboard does not affect this chart.

See also

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