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Blog post By Paula Chiocchi on 2017-11-01

According to a report by Retention Science, the weeks leading up to the holidays offer higher click-through rates and lower unsubscribe rates compared to campaigns run throughout the rest of the year. For email marketers, the holidays are “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (as the classic song goes) for these three key reasons: prospects are more receptive to marketing messages, they are on the lookout for holiday season deals, and they need to get through their long Christmas shopping lists.


Because holiday email campaigns are so critical for businesses, the importance of compelling subject lines cannot be underestimated. After all, if you can’t pique a reader’s interest as they glance at their crowded inbox, there’s a good chance the rest of your message will go unread.


With that in mind, here are my top email subject line suggestions for the upcoming holiday season:


  • Discounts welcomed: The Retention Science study shows that percent-off messages are 38% more likely to generate a click approaching the Christmas buying season. That’s why now is an ideal time to include a discount message in your subject line, and remind your audience of how your offering might make a great gift, help a colleague or otherwise set them up for success in the coming year.


  • Got a good question?: The Retention Science study found that use of punctuation can increase open rates an additional 9%. For example, using a question mark increased open rates a whopping 44% above emails with an exclamation point. So, consider piquing your audience’s interest with an intriguing question, as opposed to shouting loudly with an exclamatory sentence.


  • Maximize Cyber Monday: Cyber Monday 2016 (the first Monday following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend) was the biggest day in the history of U.S. e-commerce, with consumers spending $3.45 billion. Because of the volume of shopping taking place on this day, a subject line highlighting your Cyber Monday specials should be well received.


  • Less is more: According to the report, shorter subject lines lead to increased open rates. Subject lines with 6-10 words have the highest open rate (21%), followed by 5 words or less (16%). Open rates fall dramatically with subject lines over 10 words and continue to drop as more words are added. Some email providers, such as Gmail and Outlook, even limit the number of characters that can be in a subject line. That’s why part of the challenge to pique interest with an intriguing subject line is to also keep it as brief as possible.


  • Mind your manners: According to a study by Fractl and BuzzStream, 78% of consumers say email etiquette has an impact on their decision to engage. That means ALL CAP SUBJECT LINES and exclamation points will surely turn off your recipients!!!! If you’re not certain, there are online etiquette guides that cover the essentials to ensure you are being polite and courteous to your audience.


  • Market for mobile: It’s a well-known fact that the impact of mobile is rising dramatically, with more than half of all email messages now read on mobile devices. Those marketers who ignore mobile email design are only limiting their potential for success. The same is true when it comes to subject lines; in addition to keeping them short, you’ll want to test them on various devices to see if your subject line message is being cut off. If so, you may need to shorten them even further, use abbreviation, or try another one.


As you strive to close out the year for your business on a high note, don’t miss out on all the opportunities that this most wonderful time of year has to offer using the email channel. Have you set your holiday email campaigns in motion yet?



Outward Media’s accurate, targeted email data can help you achieve better email marketing ROI, and convert more prospects into customers. Ask us how. Also, take a look at our complimentary e-book on building a successful B2B email marketing database. 

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