9 Subject Line Best Practices to Engage your Audience and Drive Opens

This content provides nine best practices for creating engaging subject lines that drive email opens and customer engagement.

By Anima ・3 min read
Email Marketing

Subject lines are often the first impression your customers have about your email and brand. It’s important that they draw attention and encourage customers to open your email. They may seem like the smallest part of an email campaign but they actually play a huge role in driving engagement. Studies show that 35% of readers open emails based on subject lines alone!There’s no point in sending emails that aren’t being opened and, as email marketing experts, we always say that subject lines are the first step in engaging customers. Inboxes can be noisy so you want to make sure that your email stands out in a crowd. Let’s dive into some recommended subject line best practices.

Studies show that 35% of readers open emails based on subject lines alone!

1. Get personal

Including personal touches like names or recent purchases make your emails more engaging for customers. Sprinkling subject lines with elements like these help build a relationship and increase loyalty to your brand over time. Emails with the recipient’s name in the subject line are also known to increase open rates.

2. Segment your audience

Segmenting your audience is a must for all email campaigns. Sending email blasts to all of your subscribers isn’t recommended because they won’t be relevant to everyone and you will get drop-off. Instead, segment your audience based on interests, demographic data, and past purchasing behavior to keep customers interested in your emails.Segmenting is key to creating a strong email campaign. To learn more and to dive deeper into subject lines and designing emails that optimize for engagement, check out Hive’s Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing.

3. Use numbers

A good subject line lets customers know what they are getting themselves into and using numbers manages expectations for what’s in the email. Using numbers can drive twice as much traffic to your email especially if they’re placed in the front. Using stats in the subject line offers straightforward insight while also intriguing the customer so they want to read more.Here’s an example by Williams Sonoma:

4. Use the power of FOMO

The fear of missing out is real! Create urgency for sales or events so customers feel like they have to act now to get in on the action. Make sure to use this sparingly and when there is some time sensitivity.Check out some of our favorite examples below:

  • Uh-oh, your prescription is expiring
  • [WEEKEND ONLY] Get this NOW before it’s gone…
  • Tonight only: A denim lover’s dream
  • Last day to see what this mystery email is all about
  • You’re missing out on points

5. Ask questions

Questions are great because they get the customers to start thinking about the answer before they’ve even opened the email! The key here is to be relatable so customers can think about the answer right away and open the email to compare their thoughts!A few ideas:

  • Did you find what you were looking for?
  • Do you want to know a secret?
  • Feeling [emoji]?
  • Have you checked our weekly events calendar?
  • Want rock star treatment?

6. Show them your funny side

Who doesn’t love a good joke or a pun? Adding humor to your emails can be a great way to engage your customers, but you want to use this carefully! Make sure to read the room and use jokes appropriately so they don’t backfire. Nothing is worse than a joke that doesn’t land with your audience.

  • Do not not open!
  • Great, another email!
  • We’re the real deal (Unlike Pluto)
  • How safe are your family jewels?
  • You can't buy this on Amazon…
Over 75% of email opens occur on mobile

7. Make them curious

Playing on your customers’ curiosity is a solid way to grab their attention and get them to open your email. Using the curiosity gap (what we know vs. what we want to know) works best when the customer already has a little bit of knowledge and interest in the topic. If they’re signed up to your email list, this will be easy!Here are some examples:

  • You’re invited
  • THIS is: High-performance ✅ sustainable ✅ already our best seller ✅
  • You can’t come in
  • Shhh… Don’t tell anyone
  • They said it couldn’t be done

8. Keep it short and sweet

The worst thing you can do is create a super long subject line that will get cut off when viewed on mobile. Over 75% of email opens occur on mobile, so it’s recommended to stay within 50 characters so the entire subject line fits. The key is to keep your subject line concise and clear so readers know exactly what’s in the email.

  • Welcome, [name]!
  • Up to 40% off
  • You + [product] = 🔥🔥🔥
  • Fall Hunting Sale
  • ICYMI: We’re open

9. Use emojis (carefully)

Emojis are a great way to add some fun to your email when used properly. Limit your emoji usage to one so it’s not distracting and the message is still clear. You also want to make sure that the chosen emojis are appropriate for the segment that’s receiving the email.Check out these examples:

  • You doughn’t want to miss out on this pair! 🍪
  • Ready. Sit. GO! ✈️🚗🏖💩
  • A Sale of ❄️ and 🔥
  • Level up your lederhosen 🍺
  • We’ve heard some good things… 😊

Wrap up

Subject lines are a super important part of your email strategy and shouldn’t be overlooked! Use these nine best practices to create engaging subject lines that will drive opens from your audience.

About the author

By Anima ・3 min read

Anima is a Marketing Communications Specialist at - Books, eBooks, DVDs, Blu-ray, Stationery, Music CDs, a smart email marketing CRM. She loves writing and helping brands develop their email marketing strategy to increase engagement and drive revenue longterm.

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