Skip navigation

4 Subject Line Strategies to Increase Your Email Open Rates

Share This Post

Email subject lines can significantly increase open rates.Whether you’re a retailer or hotel or media company, it’s probably safe to say that you’re always working hard to increase your email open rate. The competition can be tough. Every day, customers are getting bombarded with emails and, if they use Gmail, all those emails are going into the “Promotions” tab by default.

So to increase your email open rates, you need a great subject line. Something that catches your customer’s eye. But should the subject line be clever or straightforward? Should you have an offer right there in the headline or put it in the body of the email?

Here are four ways that will help you increase your email open rates with a great subject line:

1. Focus on Content.

If you’ve been in the email marketing space a while, you’ve probably heard a lot of discussion around subject lines – what’s effective, how long it needs to be, how short it needs to be… or if it even matters.

The truth is that the content of the subject line is a lot more important than length. Back in 2012, MailChimp crunched a lot of subject line data (about 12 billion email sends) and found that subject line length really didn’t seem to impact open rates either way.

At this point, so many people are opening emails on mobile inboxes that anything longer than three or four words is going to get cut off anyway. Instead, use bold, declarative words and be very clear when writing the subject line.

Think of your email subject line as the big poster in a store window: what’s in your email campaign? What do subscribers have to see and why should they open it?

2. Offer Ideas Upfront.

Vague subject lines might work sometimes, but it’s a lot better to focus on the kind of value that you can deliver to your subscribers. Experian found that, during Valentine’s Day, for example, idea-related subject lines increase open rates by 30%.

That’s not just restricted to Valentine’s Day. News media companies should always lead with the latest headlines. Retail companies should create subject lines that discuss great deals, but instead of talking about “50% off winter jackets” you should focus on the end-value, writing something like “Keep warm this winter” instead.

3. Be a Friend, Not a Sales Person.

In fact, focusing too much on price or discounts can decrease open rates dramatically. Research ranging across more than 20 billion emails has found that sales words in subject lines actually backfire.

According to Clickz, words such as “sale” and “down” can decrease opens by 2%. The same goes for “discount” (-5%), “budget” (-15%), and “half” (-27%).

4. Make it Relevant.

People in Florida aren’t going to be interested in jackets. Probably ever. Men might be less interested in dresses and jewelry than women. Retail shoppers might expect something local from your campaign.

Increasing email open rates is about making the subject line and the email campaign relevant to the individual subscriber.

That means thinking carefully about the customer’s context – how is he or she going to open the email? What kind of content and sale will be most relevant to them at that moment? What will help them as they make a purchase decision?

This is where contextual marketing is starting to come into play. Once you’ve written a great subject line and increased open rates, the next step is to increase your click-through rates. To do that, the email content has to be relevant and timely for every subscriber.

ContextCTA2Want to learn how to take your email marketing to the next level with customer context?

Register for our webinar on Thursday, February 19, “The Definitive Guide to Contextual Marketing.”

Register Today!

Marketing News that Matters

Sign up for Movable Ink's newsletter to receive the latest news, research, and omnichannel personalization resources.

Sign Up Now