In today’s highly competitive world of online communication, every email you send not only competes against hundreds of other email messages at any given time but also with the dwindling attention span of subscribers. As a result, any email you send, including your marketing emails, should aim to grab a subscriber’s attention in their crowded inbox.
Most of your email recipients are now Skyping, Twittering, Facebooking, or simply scrolling through their Instagram feed, while they are jumping between a couple of active browser tabs.
If your subject line is not interesting enough to catch their attention in a fraction of a second, you might not have a second chance of getting your message across. Besides, if you regularly practice email marketing, ineffective subject lines can noticeably harm your open rates, and consequently your potential revenue.
On the surface, crafting subject lines seems to be a trivial task and unfortunately, many marketers prefer to start writing an email draft and then think of a suitable subject line to go along with it – a mistake that often leads to lower open rates.
35% of customers open an email based on the subject line. Therefore, your subject lines deserve special attention if you want to increase your email campaign open rate.
How to improve email open rates with your subject lines
Let’s understand the art of summarizing the contents of an email into the little subject line and making it work…
1. Create a great first impression
The very first email that your subscribers receive is the welcome email. Make sure its subject line is enough to pique curiosity and tempt the subscriber to open the email.
For example: Ellevest Digital sends an interesting email with the subject line: You got Ellevested! Here’s what’s next.
The recipients will instantly understand that the email is from Ellevest and intends to talk about the next steps they can take. It is professional, simple and reflects the brand personality.
2. Deliver value to the reader
The purpose of your subject line should not be to sell. Its purpose should be to deliver value to the reader and get them to open your email. An email subject line binds the sender to a commitment and therefore, it is incumbent upon them to stand true to the promise. Once your subscribers open the email, they should find it valuable and not regret their decision of trusting you.
3. Watch the character limit
Your subscribers are using diverse email clients and browsers to access their emails, which influences the ideal length of your subject line. Here’s a chart showing the number of characters that get displayed across the commonly used email clients.
While it is convenient to think that less is more, subject lines tend to get read when they are around 61-70 characters long.
Take a look at a few examples of long subject lines.
Nonetheless, most of the subject lines I receive in my inbox are around 41 to 50 characters or even shorter. What I have learned from my seven years of experience is that you should assess your subscriber list; if most subscribers on your list are using mobile phones to check their emails, shorter subject lines are the safest bet for you. Just make sure that the subject line is impactful for the reader even with few characters or words.
4. Make your preview text informative
If you are not able to convey the entire context through the subject line, you can make use of the preview text. It works as a short summary of the email that follows the subject line. To make sure that your preheader works, you ought to write a good subject line that would make sense for those who are unable to see the preheader.
Connect the purpose of the email with the call-to-action to think of an effective combination of subject line and preheader. The main aim should be to inform the email recipients and prompt them to take the next action. Make the right choice of words and place them correctly so that it creates the same effect, regardless of the device and email client it is viewed on.
Here are two examples to inspire you – Formaggio Kitchen and Airbnb. The subject line and preheader text work together to entice the subscriber to open the email.
5. Avoid sounding spammy
Never write subject lines in all caps or use too many punctuation marks and avoid using too many exclamation marks. Such subject lines instantly trigger the spam filters and, in the end, hamper the open rates. It may be tempting to use ‘Re’ or ‘Fwd’ in the subject lines to get instant open rates but spam filters will weed out these misleading emails and your email marketing will go down the drain.
6. Keep your email copy in sync with the subject line
No matter how compelling your subject line is, it will not work if your copy and subject line do not match. Your email copy should elaborate on the subject line and be a continuation of that message.
Have a look at this subject line and email sent by Urban Outfitters.
7. Create a sense of urgency
Humans have the innate “fear of missing out”. Your subject lines should tap into this instinct and create a sense of urgency so that the recipient opens the email and takes action. This tactic works wonders during the most lucrative holiday season when your prospects are ready to splurge, and you can drive higher conversions.
Tough Mudder presents a nice subject line example that would encourage a subscriber to immediately open the email.
8. Highlight the offer in the subject line
Subject lines work the best when they provide an offer to the subscriber. I have impulsively made so many purchases just because the subject line said something like: “Congratulations! You have earned 200 points in your XYZ wallet” or “Here’s your 25$ off coupon code”.
I have ordered food just because I received their email with a similar subject line and got tempted to gorge on junk food. At times, I have just read the subject line and skipped to their mobile app to make the order. I am sure you would also have such subscribers who make spontaneous decisions and BUY.
9. Test, iterate, and improve
Last but not least, you should always test your subject lines to see what is working for your brand and industry – be it the length of the subject lines or kind of offers promoted. Monitor the metrics and iterate based on the results you get. This will give you a clear idea about how your target audience is connecting with your subject lines and give you better ideas.
Email subject line trends for 2019
Email marketing has changed over the years and so have subject lines. I still remember the boring subject lines we used to draft a few years ago. Things have changed for the good. Subject lines have evolved to get more customer-centric. That said, let me share what the future of subject lines looks like and what kind of trends can be anticipated in the days to come.
1. Use of emojis
Emojis make subject lines more human and at the same time, convey your message as effectively as words. Use of emojis will be a fad among marketers to grab a subscriber’s attention. They not only increase the email campaign open rates but also connect with a subscriber on an emotional level.
Emojis bring 56% higher open rates when compared to plain subject lines. The good part is that even millennials have extended their strong support to this growing trend.
See how brands are using various emojis in their subject lines to improve their email open rates.
2. Personalized and humanized approach
First name personalization will be used in email subject lines and it has almost become an email marketing best practice. Every second email in my inbox addresses me by “Hey Chintan” and honestly, it feels good to be called by my name. That’s exactly how your subscribers would be feeling when they receive an email addressed with their name and they are more likely to open it.
3. Apply the principle of artificial intelligence
Suppose a subscriber has searched for a red tunic top on your apparel store app. How about sending them an email with the subject line: “25% off on red tunic tops you were looking for”?
If that sounds good to you, artificial intelligence can help you out. You can set up email automation and send out triggered emails with more relevant subject lines. It will keep your subscribers hooked to your brand and bring more conversions for you.
4. Think outside the box
Put your thinking cap on and come up with a creative idea for your subject lines. Your subscribers must have received enough emails with subject lines such as “50% off on your next order”. It is time you try out something new to woo your subscribers and get them to open your emails.
See how Chubbies does it.
Here, “we bribed the post office” is the subject line and “you hang up first” is the from name.
This will arouse the subscriber’s curiosity but make sure that you give more weight to clarity over innovation without getting over the top.
You can even ask intriguing questions and make the use of numbers in subject lines to drive more opens.
5. Create mobile-friendly subject lines
As more and more emails are being checked on mobile phones, marketers will create more mobile-friendly emails, using the principle of 2-2-2 where the first two represents the first two seconds that will determine if your email will be opened, the second two means that the first two words of your subject line must convey the most important message and the third two refers to 2day. It should inform the subscribers that the email is important for that day and they should open it at that very moment.
Just like the headline of a newspaper article determines how many people will read through it, your subject line decides how many people will open your email. Rather than keeping it pending as an afterthought once you are finished writing the email copy, think about it right from the beginning and give it the attention it deserves.
Guest author: Chintan is Head of Operations at InboxArmy LLC. He has been into email marketing domain from last 7 years. Chintan is connected to InboxArmy, an email marketing agency that specializes in providing advanced email marketing services from email production to deployment. Chintan’s track record of email marketing success covers building email programs from scratch and using data-driven strategies to turn around underperforming accounts.