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Subject lines: The power of a good introduction

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While a beautiful email is obviously important, most subscribers will only see the subject line – making it the single most critical part of your email content. Before the email is opened, the subject line is the only way to tell people what you have to offer and persuade prospective purchasers to open.

These few words really can make a difference. In fact, research we conducted revealed that some of the best words to use in retail are ‘platinum’ and ‘VIP’. However, a seemingly small change can also have a significant impact with words like ‘promotional’ and ‘congratulations’ faring much better in the subject line than words like ‘discount’ or ‘discounts’.

One great example of using language in a subject line is from D&D London in the run-up to Christmas 2013. The subject line reads: ‘Either give me more wine or leave me alone’. This is one of the more provocative approaches we’ve seen used by a brand and in a busy world where time is precious this sentiment is something that rings true. It’s also intriguing because of the unusual context and draws the recipient in for more. But this is more than just an intriguingly ambiguous statement designed to increase open rates, as once a customer opens the email, the content delivers on the subject line and actually mitigates it by revealing that it is a quote.

This shows how intelligent use of language and an ultimatum can go beyond the use of sunshine’s in summer and love hearts at Valentine’s. However, while the right subject line can drive action online, marketers should also be aware that email can be more than just a click-to-buy channel and be sure they have a way to measure offline responses as well. In the real world, not everyone will click on your emails and make a purchase. In fact, there is strong evidence to suggest that some people might see the subject line mentioning a call to action, for example a sale, and make a mental note of it. 

This could result in a purchase through another channel or in store a few days or even weeks later. The UK DMA’s 2013 Consumer Tracking Report found that 23 per cent of respondents mentioned “visiting the company’s website via another route” as a likely response to an interesting mail. Some 25 per cent also cited “visiting a shop or retail outlet”. 

Therefore, the power of a good introduction is much more than an open or click of an email, but can also generate sales via other channels and leave the consumer with a lasting impression of a brand. After all, they say first impressions stick with you so why not make the best one you can?

Dela Quist is CEO at Alchemy Worx.

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