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How To Improve Email Open Rates Using An Effective Subject Line

In the world of digital commerce, email-marketing is essential for the success of practically every business on the market. With Helpfull, business owners and marketers can test their headlines in front of hundreds of panelists.

February 5, 2023

How To Improve Email Open Rates Using An Effective Subject Line

In the world of digital commerce, email-marketing is essential for the success of practically every business on the market. There are a variety of reasons why email marketing has remained a relevant form of advertising for nearly three decades:

  • It’s very easy
  • It integrates well with other marketing channels
  • Email advertisements are extremely cost-effective
  • Nearly every consumer has an email address

These days, most email campaigns can be run almost entirely by automation. The ability to plan and set schedules for content dissemination also allows businesses to engage with their consumers on a regular basis. Emails drive heavy webflow traffic, and they’re often the most immediate way a business can introduce a sale or promotion to their customers.

The most common reason email marketing campaigns fail is due to under-performing open rates.
The most common reason email marketing campaigns suffer from under-performing open rates is poor subject line design.
Email template header

In order for the emails to be effective, the intended recipient has to click and open it up; for this to happen, you must draw them in with an engaging and relevant title.

Even if the consumer is actively looking for your content, they have to search for it through a sea of distracting email headlines and product offers. This is why many marketers choose to test their email titles with a consumer focus group. Without an engaging title that attracts the consumer’s attention, the success of the email marketing campaign is significantly diminished.

Using Helpfull surveying, business owners and marketers can test subject lines in front of hundreds of panelists.
With a variety of demographic options to choose from, Helpfull surveys are the ideal tool for getting quick, effective feedback from your target market.

Before we can take a look at the ways to improve and increase open rates, we must first look at what makes an effective email subject line - one that won't get us caught in the spam filters.

How To Create An Effective Email Subject Line

Imagine your email subject line is a phrase being shouted at the top of someone’s lungs over a crowd of other voices inside of a bustling street market. You’re looking to draw your audience’s attention away from all of the other bright and distracting stalls. Your email list is bound to overlap with those of your competitors - so you have to consider your audience before you send your emails.

In order to cut through all of the noise that is otherwise preventing you from making a sale, you’ll need to adapt some of the traditional psychological tricks employed in traditional marketing efforts.

When developing your email subject lines, keep the following tips in mind:
  • Use “You” to draw the consumer into your email - consumers love to feel catered to, and if they feel considered they will give you that same consideration
  • Ex. “You can save up to 25% off by shopping now!”
  • Play on a customer’s sense of urgency to spur them to action
  • Ex. “ALERT - 15% off site-wide sale is ENDING TONIGHT!”
  • Keep your title short & sweet - too long, and they’ll be cut off by the email software or disregarded by the consumer
  • Ex. “Announcing - Our New Album”
  • Keep the title relevant and related to the content of the email
  • Ex. “Introducing our Newest Line of Luxury Sandals”
  • Use important dates - customer birthdays, holidays - to draw in their attention
  • Ex. “Tis The Season To Check Out Our Holiday Deals!”
  • Pose a question to the consumers
  • Ex. “Are you satisfied with your health insurance?”

The techniques listed above are tried and true methods for increasing the open-rate for your emails. After developing a series of test titles that utilize different elements of these marketing techniques, you’re ready to start surveying.

Survey #1 - Testing Subject Lines For Sale Announcements

For our first set of tests, we posed as a cosmetics brand looking to announce an extra-special 30% off store-wide sale. Due to the limited-time nature of this deal, it’s important that we’re able to grab our audiences’ attention with an email subject that is captivating.

Using the techniques outlined prior, we developed eight “test subjects” to run in a split option survey:

  • “Tell your friends - we’re having a 30% off sale store-wide.”
  • “URGENT - 30% off store-wide sale is ENDING TONIGHT!”
  • “You can save up to 30% off our entire store by shopping now!”
  • “Cosmetics for Cheap - Shop 30% off luxury makeup brands”
  • “Are we crazy? Check out our latest sale & find out for yourself.”
  • “You don’t want to miss this - save 30% off your entire purchase.”
  • “30% off sale store-wide. Yeah, we went there.”

We asked 100 Helpfull panelists to vote on the email header they found to be the most “attention-grabbing”. After just 17 minutes, we had our answer.

Helpfull panelists to vote on the email header
Pollsters comments on Improving Email Open Rates

Of the eight options, the largest percentage of the audience preferred the most bold and energetic subject line, “30% OFF STORE-WIDE SALE - ENDS MIDNIGHT TONIGHT”.

Our test audiences overwhelmingly preferred the headlines they felt were direct, informative, and inspired urgency. The use of all capital letters was found to be more effective in expressing the magnitude and veracity of the sale; capping the subject lines off with a deadline urges consumers to act quickly.

When we use the subject lines that gather the most votes, we know we will be bolstering our email open rate.

Survey #2 - Announcing New Product Lines

Moving away from sales promotion, we’re now looking to bring awareness to our brand. We’ve got a new line of sneakers we would like to advertise to our consumers; due to the transient nature of sneaker trends, most of our sales are going to come within the first few weeks following the initial product drop.

To find the most effective subject line for our announcement email, we’ve asked another 100 Helpfull panelists to consider the following test titles:

  • “Introducing our Newest Line of Premium Sneakers”
  • “Look Fresh - Feel Fresh. Shop our newest line of sneakers today.”
  • “Looking this good should be illegal.”
  • “Hey all you sneakerheads - check out our latest shoe drop!”
  • “These new kicks look 🔥HOT!🔥 Shop now!”
  • “Kick off your holiday season with these fresh kicks!”
  • “How did we outdo ourselves yet again?”
  • “BRAND NEW Sneaker Line Dropping TODAY - Shop Now!”

Now, it's time to send our survey out to our email list - and wait for the results to start rolling in.

Announcing New Product Lines
Comments of pollsters on  Improving Email Open Rates

As was the case with our first survey, consumers were most drawn to the title they felt was the most direct and relevant. “BRAND NEW Sneaker Line Dropping TODAY - Shop Now!” not only captures audience attention with the strategic use of capital letters - it urges consumers to click through and purchase our product immediately. Don’t shop tomorrow, don’t shop next week - shop now.

Survey #3 - Soliciting Donations Through Email

For organizations that don’t have a product to sell, email marketing still serves many important functions. Perhaps the most important function email marketing serves for not-for-profit and charity organizations is the ability to solicit donations from your customers.

Asking for consumers to donate money can be a very contentious act. Most consumers will feel averse to anything that asks them to donate; such one-sided transactions can be a very hard sell. Testing the effectiveness of your subject lines before you start your marketing campaign can really improve your email open rate in a dramatic way.

For our final survey, we told our Helpfull panelists we represented a political organizing group that promotes exotic pet law reform. Taking on the role of our email subscribers, our Helpfull panelists were asked to tell us what subject line is the “most likely to inspire you to give our email a read”. We tested the following subject lines before an audience of 200 pollsters:

  • “Announcing”
  • “What $5 can do for our mission”
  • “UPDATE - We’re nearing our donation goal, just $5 will help!”
  • “Donate $5 and get a free campaign sticker!”
  • “3 reasons for you to donate TODAY”
  • “Join us in our cause - here’s how you can help now”
  • “ALERT - Time is running out: here’s why we need your help”
  • “A small donation makes a BIG impact”
Here are the results:

Soliciting Donations Through Email
Comments of pollsters on Soliciting Donations Through Email

The subject line that tested best with our audience was a simple, affirmative statement - “A small donation makes a BIG impact.”

It’s unsurprising that our subject line with the best open rate was one that didn’t directly solicit money from the recipient.

Our email subject was able to plant the idea of donation into our consumer’s head without raising the alarms associated with directly asking them for money. We want to make sure our title inspired our consumers to learn more about our cause, but did not judge them for the amount of money they were able to donate to our cause. When we place less stress or onus on our customers, they will be far more likely to open our emails.

Improve Your Open Rate With Helpfull Feedback

Utilizing Helpfull surveys is the most effective way to improve the email open rates for your marketing campaigns.

With Helpfull testing, we’ve received real, concrete results that prove the effectiveness of our email subject lines. The advice we’ve been given by an audience of hundreds of real consumers has given us the confidence we need to continue developing bold, effective email titles; titles that will drive our open-rate through the roof.

An intuitive user-interface, coupled with the ability to gather hundreds of consumer responses in just minutes, are just a few of the features that make Helpfull the ultimate tool for any artist, marketer, author, or content creator.

Refine your marketing - sign up with Helpfull today, and get surveying within minutes!

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