Crafting an effective retail email subject line can put you under a lot of pressure: After all, your subscribers receive a lot of promotional emails, so how do you make yours stand out amidst all that noise? Email subject lines need to be relevant, thought-provoking, interesting, and, most importantly, they need to entice people to actually open the email, all in just a few words.
Carefully crafting the right email subject line for your subscribers (or subset of subscribers) can make the difference between getting your subscribers to convert and having your emails marked as spam.
Here’s how to get it right and 30 incredible examples we love to use as inspiration.
How to write amazing retail email subject lines
Designing the right retail email subject lines isn’t necessarily difficult or challenging, but it will require substantial thought. Nonetheless, it’s worth the extra effort.
According to research, 35% of people will open an email based purely on the subject line.
At the same time, a whopping 69% will report an email as spam based solely on the subject line. As you can see, your email subject lines have the power to either make or break your consumer impact, ROI, and even brand authority.
Implement the following basic principles and rest assured that you’ve crafted an email subject line that will drive better results.
Keep length at the front of your mind
Before you even consider content, think about the length of your subject line.
Keep in mind that most users check emails on their phones at all hours of the day and night which means that you’ll need to accommodate mobile subject line cut-off lengths. What good is a solid subject line if your subscribers don’t see half of it?
As a general rule, shoot for about 50 characters.
Personalize as much as possible
Yes, but avoid crossing a line into Big Brother territory. There’s definitely a sweet spot here. According to research from Experian, personalized emails generate six times higher transaction rates. It makes sense: email is a personal medium so treat it that way.
Get straight to the point
Being concise is key to an effective subject line. When you only have 50 characters to get your point across, you better use those 50 characters wisely. People don’t want to waste time trying to decipher what you mean. And you can assume they won’t. If you beat around the bush or mislead your subscribers, expect your email to go straight to their trash, and maybe take the next few emails with it.
Deliver on your promises
A good strategy is to make a promise in your subject line and then deliver on that promise within the body of your email.
Whatever you do, be sure that your email delivers.
Failure to do so will not only earn you some quick unsubscribes but it could also put you in violation of international spam laws. It will also cost you your subscriber’s trust and hurt your credibility with them.
This email from Legacy Box included a subject line highlighting 40% off and the body text delivered just that. Plus, the email gets straight to the point, much like the subject line, proving that concision is a good principle not only in your subject line but in your email itself, too.
Consider the time and date
Why not take the time and date into consideration when crafting your subject line?
You know the value of sending promotions and announcements during the holiday season. Try implementing this tactic year round. For example, if you’re having a flash sale in the evening, you could send emails just as people are getting ready to leave work for the day.
No one knows your customers as well as you do. Door buster deals, flash sales, and similar time-sensitive announcements deserve just as much excitement as you give the holiday season.
Dropping in the relevant date or time into your subject line and considering what your audience is doing at any particular time of day will help you craft a subject line that will inspire opens and visitors to your store.
Source: Really Good Emails
Though not in the retail industry, Pizza Express understands that the weekend is the ideal time for promoting deals. Who doesn’t love ordering pizza on the weekends? That’s exactly why they sent this email to let readers know about their weekend specials.
As a bonus, it includes various specials to suit different tastes and needs.
Use action verbs
This might seem like a no-brainer. After all, you want people to take action when reading your subject line and after reading your email.
Use words that encourage them to do just that. If you don’t tell people what you want them to do, they are more likely to not do anything, so be direct with your intentions. Action verbs encourage your subscribers to take action but they also build trust with your audience by showing your transparency.
Some good examples of action verbs for retail email marketing subject lines (depending on your industry) might include:
Source: Really Good Emails
This email from The Greenbank Hotel has plenty of action verbs like “enrich,” “dine,” and “nourish” throughout the text, encouraging the reader to take action in different ways. These active and industry-specific words would be a great addition to their subject line.
Take advantage of numbers and emojis
Emojis are a great way to convey emotions and feelings in your emails. In fact, according to a report from Experian, 56% of brands that used emojis in their email subject lines enjoyed a better open rate than those that didn’t. Emojis and numbers have the added benefit of standing out in a crowded inbox.
Just be sure not to overdo it: You don’t want to appear spammy. One or two will work better than five or six.
Invoke a specific emotion
Are you trying to hit on greed, FOMO, laziness, fear, anxiety, or comfort with your email? Certain emotions will motivate your subscribers to open, click-through, and act on your emails, especially when they appear in your subject line.
Pick an emotion and use your email subject line to convey that emotion. Being able to tap into the emotions that motivate your audience is one reason why it’s so important to thoroughly understand them.
Source: Really Good Emails
The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is very real and this email from Suiteness understands its importance to subscribers.
The subject line, “you’re missing out on more chances to win” literally lets the reader know that they’ll lose if they don’t open the email.
Often, it’s a good idea to get straight to the point with your retail email subject lines. Other times, however, you might want to create some interest or intrigue that entices your subscribers to open the email and see what you have to say.
Pose interesting questions that leave your subscribers hanging or suggest at a surprise benefit waiting within the email. Subject lines such as, “Is this the perfect sweater?” or “We have a gift for you” can accomplish exactly that.
But remember, if you’re going for a teaser in your subject line, your email copy better deliver by answering the question or the special promo.
Avoid spam red flags
There are a few major dos and don’ts when it comes to avoiding spam filters.
As a general rule, don’t capitalize your entire subject line. It’s also a bad idea to use a question mark and exclamation point in the same subject line, or over use punctuation in general.
Use common sense: You know what emails in your own inbox appear spammy. And when it doubt, remember, if it looks or sounds spammy, then it’s spammy.
Don’t neglect the preview text
This is especially important for mobile readers who might read the preheader text before they decide whether or not it’s a good idea to actually open the email. Add some clarification for your subject line or use the preview text as an opportunity to follow through with your promise. Just make sure not to repeat any text.
A/B test your retail email subject lines
After you’ve made sure your email subject line fulfills all these criteria, you might have multiple subject lines you could potentially use. If so, you can A/B test your subject lines to see which performs best.
In an A/B test, you’ll craft two different subject lines, but leave your email the same for both. Send out the two variations to subsets of your most engaged audience. When you see which one performs the best, you send that subject line out to the rest of your email list, knowing that you’ll see the best results possible.
A/B tesing might sound time consuming and intimidating, but a few simple suggestions make it an easy task to complete before completing your full send. And ultimately, your improved results—not to mention peace of mind—are well worth a little extra effort.
30 retail email subject lines to impress your subscribers
Use these retail email subject lines as inspiration to draw in your subscribers and increase your open and clickthrough rates.
- Joann Fabric: Today only! Haul-a-day doorbusters! You’re going to want these
- Western Union: Sam, want to enjoy your My WU membership rewards?
- Adidas: 30% off store-wide happening now!
- Club Quarters Hotels: Psst… We’ve got cyber Tuesday savings
- Hurst Publishers: 50% off everything for Black Friday
- Uncle Ed’s Oil Shop: Winter weather is on its way – is your vehicle ready? Savings inside
- Hungry Howie’s: Flavored crust is missing in ur life
- Starbucks: Today only: come in for a red reusable cup!
- The Fix Chiropractic: Reminder: Have you ever wondered what your spine looks like?
- Ulta Beauty: Yes! Free Laura Geller Deluxe Illuminator
- LIDS: Wouldn’t it be great to get your list done this weekend?
- Guitar Center: I have a special coupon for you
- Lucky Brand: You up? It’s time to shop!
- Guess: Don’t wear last year’s styles
- Huntington Bank: Protect yourself against identity theft this holiday season
- Pet Supplies Plus: Save on calming products that fight firework freak-outs
- Live Nation Concerts: Presale: Massive Attack at the Masonic Temple
- Kohl’s: Final hours to save 20%, take $10 off, and earn 3x points!
- Sephora: Your beauty issues solved
- Cottage Inn Pizza: Calling all garlic lovers!
- Midas: One week left for savings on tires
- Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth: Fall into splash savings: take 20% off any room style
- Glik’s: A gift for you: $30 off because we miss you
- Irene’s Myomassology: Space is limited. Sign up now for our free massage class!
- Target: Psst! Get the scoop on Black Friday
- Bass Pro Shops: Final Hours! Stretch your payments for 6 months
- Sports Authority: Hurry! Only hours left for Cyber Monday savings
- Rip Curl: 5 reasons you need a Search GPS this Xmas
- Brilliant Books: This was banned?!
- HP: Must-haves for your new office
Retail email subject lines aren’t rocket science but they should take some considerable time and effort on your part. After all, you’ve spent so much time crafting an email, you want to make sure your subscribers actually see all your hard work.
At the end of the day, you’re making a promise in the subject line and then using the body to follow through with that promise.
By understanding your audience and following these guidelines, you can develop subject lines they can’t wait to open.