What Drives Email Subject
Lines For Ecommerce?
Written by Rob Lane.
Now that the Christmas season has wound down, grumblings are emerging of paltry sales figures in many traditional retail sectors, but ecommerce continues to thrive. This Holiday Season: “Online sales grew by 8.3 percent over 2013, according to the latest figures from IBM.” VentureBeat
Most online storeowners know that digital marketing fuels ecommerce, and that effective email pitches are crucial. On the demand side, consumers are bombarded with a daily deluge of email messages ranging from critical to countless, irrelevant time wasters that are quickly filtered out at a glance. The gateway between product and customer is the subject line in the email you send them.
I’m sure many of your inboxes were laden, this Holiday Season, with email subject lines like: “Final Day To Save 50% Off,” “DON’T MISS OUT,” and “Two Days Only,” all attempting to create a sense of urgency about some vague product or deal; most of which, are bound to be ignored or moved to your trash bin.
2. Subject Line Characteristics For Positive Pop
So what makes a good subject line that not only entices a customer to open your email, but also to follow-up with some type of purchase or conversion, and happily promote your brand? Start by looking at the subject line through the lens of your customers. Look at what they are they trying to discern when they scan your email: Is there something I want or need in there? Is this message speaking to me, personally, or is it an obvious blanket attempt to mass market some marginal product that I have no interest in? And… do I trust this sender?
A fresh, comprehensive study by MailChimp: Best Practices for Email Subject Lines (Dec. 08, 2014) highlights some of the emerging characteristics of effective email subject lines:
For our subject line study, MailChimp analyzed the open rates for over 200 million emails. Open rates ranged from 93% to 0.5%. Many factors affect how an email is viewed, such as frequency, sender, and the nature of the message. Personal messages are at the top of the interest scale, followed by affiliations and timely news. At the other end of the scale are stale newsletters, requests for money, and offers that are too good to be true.
3. Know Your Audience
In ecommerce, knowing the buying preferences of your best selling customer segments is critical. What products or offers would they be personally interested in? What bits of timely news, associated with your offering, would catch their attention?
Mail Chimp’s emphasis on the personal element in the subject line reinforces the results of a study we examined in a earlier post, by Experian Marketing Services, in which it concluded that: “Personalized promotional mailings have 29 percent higher unique open rates and 41 percent higher unique click rates than non-personalized mailings.”
4. Truth In Advertising Applies To Subject Lines
Classic bait and switch techniques, where eye-catching intros lead to a completely different pitch later in the subject, or worse, something totally unrelated in the email message, lead to mistrust and consumer dissonance.
Once trust has been lost, consumers are less likely to open your email going forward. Generally speaking, your subject lines should be, “Short and to the point, benefit-focused [and] accurate about what’s inside the email.” act-on
5. Size Does Matter For Subject Lines
The MailChimp study also looked at the ideal size for subject lines:
Our analysis confirmed the email marketing rule of thumb: you should keep your subject line to 50 characters or fewer. One exception stood out. For campaigns whose subscribers were highly targeted, the readers seemed to appreciate the additional information in the subject line.
So if you have some idea what a particular customer, or segment, is interested in, more information about a specific offering can help an individual decide whether the email is worth having a look at, otherwise keep it short and to the point. There is a parallel here with search engine results that restrict SEO titles to around 65 characters… it’s all about helping the searcher, or email recipient quickly decide if a message is right for them and worth clicking on.
6. Words To Avoid In Subject Lines
Today’s digital savvy consumers can smell a deal that is too good to be true, don’t like reminders for things they are not interested in and are adverse to helping where there is no personal connection. The MailChimp study uncovered some noteworthy findings regarding certain terms to avoid in your subject lines:
An unexpected discovery in our analysis was the negative impact of three innocent words. Email marketers are familiar with words such as “free,” which should be avoided since it triggers spam filters. We identified innocuous words that won’t trigger a spam filter, but will negatively affect your open rates. They are: Help, Percent off, and Reminder.
7. Go For Customer-Centric Subject Lines
As consumers, we quickly scan our email subject lines for those gems that might benefit or interest us. Many consumers don’t bother too much with spam filters, for fear of losing an important or timely message; as a result, we are becoming more seasoned at discerning the ploys of spammers or sketchy sellers and avoiding them. Equally, those email subject lines that are personalized to our interests, are concise, truthful, and are designed to offer us something we will likely value, solicit higher open and click-through rates… fueling your online store in our growing digital economy.
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And if you’re one of the thousands of merchants who are already using Rare’s Smart Email Marketing software and want to see how our Customer Success Team can work with your brand to grow your revenue – feel free to book a call at your convenience here.