We in the sales world and our marketing cousins are always trying to better our email open rates. It’s a tough thing to do, especially these days when people are bombarded constantly with messages - 105 billion emails are sent every day!. Add in filtering systems like Gmail’s Social and Promotions tabs, and it becomes even more difficult to cut through the noise.
A Few Quick Numbers
- 47% of email recipients open email based on the subject line
- Almost 70% of email recipients report email as spam based on the subject line
- 67% of email opens happen on a mobile device, with almost 50% on a smartphone
Taken all together, it’s clear that a bad subject line will cause you to miss out on a lot of opens, and more significantly, runs the risk of you getting hit with the spam sender tag (and once that happens, you’ve got a lot of work to do to clear your name). If you’re in the B2B sector, most email does get opened on a computer. But in most cases, you’ll also need to write for a mobile audience, which leads us to our first point:
- Keep your subject line to under 50 characters
Go over 50 characters in your subject line, and your open and click-through rates will plummet. Another important rule of thumb: Many mobile devices will only show the first 30 characters, so the more succinct you can make your subject line, the better off you’ll be.
- Personalize your subject line for most industries
In a 2015 study, Experian found that personalizing a subject line (including the recipient’s name) resulted in an average of 29.3% increase open rate across all industries, including a staggering 40.8% and 41.8% increase respectively in travel and consumer products and services (on the other hand, the publishing, media, and entertainment industries shrugged off personalization, with 0% and 1.1% increases). More significantly, transaction rates increased 49% and revenue shot up 73% as a result of personalized emails.
- Know your own industry’s open rates to accurately gauge metrics and effectiveness
The aggregate open rate across all industries ranging from 21.7% to 24.8%, depending on the study, but the numbers vary significantly from industry to industry. Accounting and Finance? You’re at the bottom at just under 5%. In the pet and animal services industry? Welcome to a 22.1% open rate. Therefore a 10% open rate for an accounting firm would be cause for celebration, whereas a veterinarian with a 10% open rate should be looking for ways to improve their email marketing.
- Your subject line should make it clear what the email is about
Remember, you have less than 50 characters to work with, and if you want to have the best shot of an email opened, something like “25% Off Widgets Today” is much more specific than “Widget Sales Today”. Also eliminate any unnecessary words, such as “Hello”. That can be included in the body of the email, and you want to be as streamlined as possible in your subject line.
- Be aware of your audience's communication preferences
We’ve all seen the hilarious subject lines from organizations like Buzzfeed and young, hip businesses. But if you’re, say, an established provider of legal services for Fortune 500 companies, humor likely isn’t the way to go. That isn’t who you are, nor is it what the persona of your target audience expects. On the other hand, if you’re a retailer of novelty products aimed at millennials, joke away.
- Use welcome emails for first-time purchasers and subscribers
The welcome email, upon first purchase or subscription, not only confirms the applicable transaction, but starts the relationship. It’s also a freebie for your metrics, with four times the open rate and five times the click through rate of normal email campaigns. The big one – 320% revenue per email increase. You’ll also need to do it fast - 74% of subscribers expect a welcome email – and 45% of first-time purchases by new subscribers happen within the first 24 hours after signing up.
Figuring out the blended art and science of increasing email open and clickthrough rates is an ongoing challenge, but following these best practices will give you the foundation you need to start bettering your numbers. The finer details and tweaks are, of course, up to you.