This past summer, I wrote a blog post about subject lines, which generated some positive reader feedback. Perhaps the spike in interest was because subject lines are the first hurdle to overcome when creating an email message. Maybe it was because marketers realize their importance, and that’s why they continue to struggle with them.
It turns out, there is some good news – and some specific things that can be done about subject lines as the holiday season approaches. An analysis of a billion emails by Retention Science to determine which ones get opened the most shows that the months and weeks leading up to Christmas offer the highest click-through rates and lowest unsubscribe rates compared to the rest of the year.
It seems ‘tis the season for a real opportunity for email marketers: people are on the lookout for shopping deals, need to get through their long to-do lists, and are more open to your message. With that in mind, here are a few things you need to know about email subject lines during the months of November and December.
- Discount messages more welcomed: The Retention Science study shows that percent-off messages are 38% more likely to get clicked approaching the Christmas buying season. That means now is the time to lead with a discount message in your subject line, and perhaps 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.
- Keep them short: 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:to 14% and loweras more words are added. Some email platforms, such as Gmail and Outlook, even limit the number of characters that can be in a subject line. Add it all up and it’s clear thatin your quest to pique interest with an intriguing subject line, you’ll want to keep it as short as possible.
- Don’t forget mobile: Anyone who’s read my blog posts this year knows that mobile has been a constant point of emphasis.That’s because more than half of all email messages are read on mobile devices now, and those marketers who ignore the constraints of mobile devices are only further 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 it even further, use abbreviation, or use an entirely different approach.
- Raise a good question: The Retention Science study also 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, making it clear that an intriguing question beats shouting loudly.
- Show good manners: Be courteous and polite with your email subject line and message. According to a recent study, 78% of consumers say email etiquette has an impact on their decision to engage. If email marketers are in doubt, there are even online etiquette tools that can assess the tone of your message to ensure it passes the politeness test.
When it comes to subject lines, the stakes are indeed high. If marketers get this wrong, the rest of the message will probably not be read – or may not be delivered in the first place – making the overall communication irrelevant. It seems the stakes are even higher as the holiday season approaches, and the rewards are greater, too. With all that’s happening in the months ahead, a subject line and message from you that’s on point can help your prospects get through their busy holiday bustle, and put you in position to end the year on a high note.
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