Wondering how to write an email subject line people will open? You’re in luck! In this blog post I’m going to share email subject line best practices, along with examples from major brands that you can copy.
Before we jump into the best practices, let’s talk about the basics of why writing an irresistably clickable subject line is vitally important.
What’s Your Average Email Open Rate?
According to a recent study by Experian, the average email open rate across all industries is 25%. That means if a company sends an email to 1,000 people, that company can expect 250 people to open it on average.
If your current email open rate is below 25%, now is the time to start working on improving this percentage.
Because the greater the percentage of people who open your email, the more chances you have to generate a sale!
If you send an email to 1,000 people and your open rate is 5% that’s 50 people who see your message. If your open rate is 10% that’s 100 people. If your open rate is 25% that’s 250 people and if your open rate is 40% that’s 400 people!
It’s just simple math that if you have 400 people vs. 50 people to see your email message you have a better chance at making more sales.
Even if your goal isn’t to make money directly from a sale, you still get your important message in front of more eyeballs.
Use Personalization to Customize the Subject Line
One of the best ways to increase the click-through rate of your subject line is to personalize it. There are many fun ways you can execute this approach.
If you don’t know the first name of your email recipients, you can still personalize the subject line by speaking directly to the recipient by using the word “you.” Here is an example from the jewelry company, Monica Vinader:
If you do know the first name of your email recipients you can try adding it into the subject line like Dick’s Sporting Goods does:
All of the popular email marketing platforms like HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, and others allow you to automatically insert the first name of each recipient by simply inserting a snippet of code into the subject line.
Here’s a great example of a personalized subject line from Runner’s World:
Another option for personalization is to use the region, city, or state that the recipient lives in if you have that information.
Here’s an example from Vivid Seats using “South Florida” in an email sent to me because I live in South Florida. This personalized subject line lets me know that this email is relevant to me.
There are so many ways you can personalize an email subject line. The pet insurance company, Embrace, frequently sends email subject lines that include the recipient’s pet’s name.
Yes, my cat’s name is Cecil, and I will always open an email that mentions his name!
Create Urgency with “Last Chance” Offers
Another excellent way to get your email recipients to open your messages is by creating urgency using “Last Chance” in your subject line.
You can use “Last Chance” to get people to take advantage of an expiring offer or flash sale like the makeup brand NYX does. They get extra bonus points because their offer is big and exciting. Who doesn’t want to get a product they really like for 50% off?
You can also use the “Last Chance” wording in your subject lines to encourage people to take advantage of products that you’re discontinuing, or a month long sale that’s finally coming to an end like T3 Tools does:
Using “Last Chance” in a subject line is an excellent way to create urgency but it’s not the only way. Another tactic that many experienced marketers use is including “ends tonight” or similar in their subject lines.
Generate Sales by Including “Tonight” in the Subject Line
When you have a flash 1-day sale or a promotion ending at midnight, one great way to move email recipients down the purchasing path is to send an email that says “tonight” in it.
If you’re running a 1-day sale you might use the words “TONIGHT ONLY” like Tarte cosmetics does here:
If you have a sale that’s ending at midnight you might use the words “ends tonight” like Old Navy does in this example:
You could even talk about a price “increasing tonight” like The Color Run does in this example:
Talking about a price increasing instead of a sale ending is one way to capture the attention of someone scrolling through their inbox. A lot of companies use subject lines referencing “percentage off” or “sale starts now” and even “offer ends tonight” but very few references a price increase occurring.
I would recommend a/b testing the “percentage off” and “price increase coming” subject lines against each other to see which one your audience responds to best!
Speaking of A/B Testing – It’s Important!
If you’re not familiar with a/b testing email campaigns, let me help. In an a/b test you’ll create two versions of your email. You’ll use your email platform to send one version of the email to 50% of your testing list, and you’ll send the second version to the other 50% of your testing list.
Your testing list is going to be a percentage of people from your overall list that you want to send an email to – usually about 20% of the list.
Once you send out the two versions of the email you then sit back and watch the results. Which one generates more opens? Which one generates more clicks? Which one generates more conversions? Depending on the answer(s) you’ll then select the “winning” version to send to the remaining 80% of your list.
You can a/b test many different parts of an email including:
- Subject line [Product XYZ on Sale vs. Discounts on Products XYZ]
- Call to action [Buy Now vs. Learn More]
- Testimonials [Whether to include them and how many to include]
- The layout of an email [Placement of elements]
- Personalization [First Name vs. State Someone Lives In]
- Offers [ 50% off vs. BOGO]
- Body copy
Now, if your email list is quite small, you might send the a/b test to your entire list instead of just 20%. Sure that means you won’t be able to send the winning version out to everyone else, but you do need to get statistically relevent data by having a large enough sample size to work with.
If you have to send the a/b test to your entire list, there are still ways you can capitalize on the results moving forward.
First, you’ll get a good idea of which options your email recipients respond to best for your next email.
Second, you could use this information in your other marketing and advertising campaigns immediately. For example, if you find that your audience responds better to one product image over the other, you could use the winning image in your Facebook Ads, in your Instagram feed, in a website hero image and so on.
The results of your a/b test can be used in a variety of ways to increase your click-through rates and improve your sales across the board.
If you have an email that you’d like to send out soon don’t hesitate!
The only way to learn what your email recipients will respond well to is to start sending them emails. Just like with any other marketing campaign you’ll review the data and make changes accordingly.