Working with subscription preferences

Understanding and respecting your audiences' subscription preferences is essential for compliance and it is important to ensure all are correctly captured. Additionally, providing alternatives to a one-click "unsubscribe from all" will help retain contacts that may want to limit certain types of communications from your brand but are still interested in hearing from you.

Building and using preference centers helps you to protect your sender reputation by providing your subscribers with the ability to control the communications they receive from you. Customers may change their mind about receiving messages on certain topics from you, so a preference center allows them to unsubscribe from a particular list (audience) only, instead of opting out of all communications.

Build and manage the preference centers

Having well-built email and SMS preference centers for your subscribers comes with a number of benefits:

  1. Retaining more subscribers by giving them more nuanced preference options rather than forcing an all-or-nothing experience.
  2. Retaining more engaged and satisfied subscribers by allowing them to personalize their marketing experience with your content and business.
  3. Obtaining more data around your customer’s desires and interests to help guide future products, sales, etc.

Sender reputation is built on having a more engaged than unengaged subscriber reaction with your content. By allowing subscribers to limit what content they do and don’t receive, you are actually letting them help you maintain a list of engaged and interested subscribers to keep your sender reputation strong.

A way to give subscribers control over the content they receive is by creating audiences based on the types of content you wish to send. For example, you could create audiences based on content type and expected frequency:

  • Monthly newsletter
  • Weekly promotions
  • Daily sale alerts
  • New product releases.

Example email preference center with frequency indicated

The more power you give the subscriber the more focused your marketing campaigns can become, which is beneficial all the way around.

Add an audience to the email or SMS preference center

Subscription preferences are tied to audiences. People can unsubscribe from all email and SMS communications, or just specific audiences, via the email and SMS preference centers.

It’s a good idea to build in detail to your preference centers to make them informative and easy for your audiences to use.

The preference centers will only show a person the audiences that:

  • are public, and
  • the person viewing the preference center is a member.

You can make an audience public (enabled) or private (disabled) in the audience’s view (SMS) or from the email preference center settings (email).

This means that if you have 6 public audiences, a person who is a member of 3 of them will only ever see the 3 relevant audiences in their preference center.

TIP: Providing a easily understandable public audience name and a clear description will help customers understand what communications they are likely to receive if they are subscribed.

Email preference center

To add an audience to your email preference center:

  1. Navigate to Settings > Email > Preference center.
  2. Click the Audiences tab.
  3. Click Add subscription audience.
  4. Select an audience.
  5. Once the audience has been added, click its name to expand the display text options.
  6. Click Save & exit to finish.

Learn more about the email preference center.

You can also access this page from the audience's view, under Preference centers. If you click the edit icon, you will be taken to the email preference center settings.

SMS preference center

To add an audience to your SMS preference center:

  1. On the Audiences page, click on the name of the audience you wish to configure.
  2. In the left-hand panel of the audience’s view, under Preference centers, click the edit icon.
  3. Select the checkbox to enable the audience for the SMS preference center.
  4. Type a public name and description for the audience.
  5. Click Save when you are done.

You can also view and edit the content of the SMS preference center via Settings > SMS > Preference center.

Subscription preferences in email and SMS messages

Email message footers will display different subscription management options depending on how you configure the email audience.

Sending an email message to a private audience will give audience members the following options in the email footer:

  • Unsubscribe — by clicking this link the person will be unsubscribed from all email.
  • Update your preferences — clicking this link will take the person to the email preference center where they can update their email preferences.

Sending an email message to a public audience will give audience members the following options in the email footer:

  • Unsubscribe from this list — by clicking this link the person will be unsubscribed from the specific audience the email campaign was sent to.
  • Update your preferences — clicking this link will take the person to the email preference center where they can update their email preferences.

Learn more about email unsubscribe links under Unsubscribe links in the footer in Creating an email campaign.

All SMS campaigns include an opt-out link which is not dependent on whether the audience is public or private. The opt-out link takes the person to the SMS preference center. SMS opt-out content can be edited under Settings > SMS > Consent opt out and default responses.

Understand and manage people’s subscription preferences

When adding people (contacts) to your CDP it is important to remember that people, unless created as an unsubscribed record via a data source or via the appropriate API call, are subscribed by default. For example, importing a person via a spreadsheet (CSV file) containing their name, email address and phone number (with no permission mapping) will mean that the person is automatically subscribed to email and SMS, and is placed in default audiences such as Subscribers and SMS subscribers.

Learn more about managing subscription permissions using an API call under Configuring people’s subscription permissions.

Some data source integrations can only send Ortto a person’s subscription permission; a change of permission cannot be sent from Ortto to the data source. This is the case for Shopify, for example, where a person’s subscription permissions reflect their permissions in Shopify. Permission settings for new and existing customers will only be updated if the permission change comes from Shopify.


You can create different audiences based on people who have opted in to receive email communications.

When creating your audiences, it’s a good idea to organize these based on the types of communications you wish to send. For example, you might create an audience named "Product" for communicating with subscribers about product releases and updates. This will also help your audience members understand and decide which communications they wish to receive, if you add the audiences to the email and SMS preference centers.

NOTE: If you choose to create a new audience to replace an existing audience (rather than editing the existing audience settings) you will need to ensure that people who are members of the new audience are added respective of their subscription preferences in the original audience.

Learn more about creating audiences under Creating a new audience.

Unsubscribed people

When a person is unsubscribed, they can be added to a journey or playbook but will not qualify to receive any email or SMS messages.

The only exception is with transactional messages, where:

  • people who are unsubscribed from email can still receive transactional messages, but
  • people who are opted-out of SMS cannot receive transactional messages.

Learn more about transactional messages under Making journey and campaign messages transactional.

In playbooks and journeys, depending on the entry criteria, people may qualify for (enter) the campaign even though they aren’t subscribed (such as if you use entry conditions unrelated to audience membership). You can set up your campaign to ensure that only subscribers of a particular audience receive the campaign messages:

  • Journeys — In the journey details panel, under Audience, select To subscribers of a specific audience and a relevant audience.
  • Playbooks — In the playbook details panel, under Send messages, select To subscribers of a specific audience and a relevant audience.

Learn more about creating journey and playbook campaigns under Creating a journey campaign and Playbook campaigns.

Extract subscription changes

When you export your CDP data, audience membership is not included.

As such, if you wish to store audience subscription preferences in your own external database you will need to create a webhook that is triggered based on an Unsubscribed from <audience name> audience activity.

Learn more about Creating a webhook under Configuring a webhook.

Archive people

Archiving a person soft deletes them from your main people list. It is important to heed the following warning about archiving people, in relation to subscription preferences.

WARNING: Exercise caution when archiving people, since doing so puts them in a state where they are no longer tracked or recognized.

If Ortto receives an activity involving an archived person from a data source (which is configured to add unknown people by default) then a duplicate contact/person record will be created for this person in your CDP.

The duplicate person will not retain the person’s original subscription status (unless created as an unsubscribed record via a data source or via the appropriate API call), as the duplicate is treated as a new record. Similarly, should you re-add people you have archived, you will need to verify their subscription status before they are added back.

Learn more about archiving and restoring people under Archive people.