How do subscription preferences and types work?

Last updated: May 23, 2018

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The way you track and manage your contacts’ communication preferences inside HubSpot has changed, with a more evolved version of email types called subscription types. Once you enable Learn more about what's changing with the switch from email types to subscription types, and how to set up and implement subscription types in your HubSpot account.

This feature will be available once you enable General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) functionality in your account.

How email types were used in the past

Before GDPR was implemented, the email tool relied on email types to organize your marketing email campaigns. Email types allowed a HubSpot contact to opt out of a specific type of email from you. They also helped you as an email marketer to align the theme or objective of your email campaign with your audience. When you sent an email from HubSpot Marketing Hub, you were required to associate it with a specific email type, and contacts who were opted out of that specific email type were automatically removed from the send. 

One important feature missing from email types was an opportunity for contacts themselves to indicate an affirmative grant of permission. With email types, the only juncture where a contact was given full control of their subscription preferences was if they clicked on a link in an existing marketing email to opt out. Essentially, the only subscription options available were:

  • Not opted out
  • Opted out 

This framework is problematic if you’re using consent as your lawful basis to process or communicate; for legitimate interest, different rules apply. This is why subscription types were created.

What's new in subscription types

Please note: while GDPR features live in HubSpot, your legal team is the best resource to give you compliance advice for your specific situation.

Subscription types are designed to more accurately capture your contacts' email subscription preferences. Rather than relying solely on the opt-out functionality, email subscription types capture three states to more clearly represent a contact's subscription status.

For each subscription type, contacts may have any of the following three statuses:

  • Opted in
  • Not opted in or out (default)
  • Opted out 

Enabling GDPR functionality will also impact your email preferences page. When a contact clicks the link at the bottom of a marketing email, the checkboxes for your subscription types will all be unchecked by default.

With this shift, contacts can proactively opt into specific subscription types when submitting a form on your website to mark themselves as opted in. Unless the contact explicitly requests to opt into a specific subscription type, they'll be added to your database in Not opted in or out status. Subscription types can be assigned if you are adding your contacts to your database via API. Alternatively, if you're adding contacts to your database via import, you can assign contacts a subscription type and add consent and lawful basis to communicate during the import process.

Another feature of subscription types is that you'll see more detailed information on the contact timeline about how and when a contact subscribed. You’ll be able to see the consent your contacts gave, along with the notice they were shown and the timestamp on their timeline.

Subscription types represent the lawful basis to communicate for a certain category of communications. Just like with lawful basis to process, the lawful basis to communicate could be consent, but it doesn’t have to be (e.g. it might be performance of a contract, if the contact is a customer). So, if you’re manually applying lawful basis to a specific contact, you won’t just be choosing a subscription type; you’ll also be selecting a lawful basis to communicate.

Setting up email subscription types in HubSpot

Email subscription types can be created and managed from your email settings:

  • In your HubSpot account, click the settings icon settings in the main navigation bar.
  • In the left sidebar menu, click MarketingEmail , then click the Subscription Types tab.
  • Click Create subscription type to add a new subscription type.
  • Use the dropdown menus to select or create a Process and Operation for this subscription type.
  • Enter a name for your subscription type.
  • Enter a brief description of how this subscription type will be used.
  • Use the checkbox to indicate whether this subscription type is currently active.
  • Click Save to save your subscription type.


Subscription types also have their own section on the left-hand side of the contact record:

  • Click Add subscription to view and edit the subscription types for a specific contact.
  • In the dialogue box that appears click Add subscription to add, view, and remove subscriptions. This will show you the subscription type information along with the email address that has opted into that subscription type.


  • Click + Add another subscription to add another subscription type from the contact record.


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