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Retail email subject lines
Ashley GrantFeb 12, 2024 7:19:37 AM8 min read

Best Retail Email Subject Lines

We’re all really busy and, and have crowded inboxes. The average office worker sends 40 emails a day. Even if we signed up for an email list, only the best retail email subject lines will actually get a reader to take notice and open it.

How can you be one of the amazing retailers that increases your email open rates? Well my friend, we have you covered. Below we’re sharing everything we know about the most opened email subject lines and what actually constitutes good subject lines for emails.

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How Important Are Retail Email Subject Lines?

The subject line of a retail email is extremely important as it is often the first and only thing a customer sees before deciding whether to open the email or not. A good subject line can grab attention, create curiosity to open the email, and increase open rates. On the other hand, a poor subject line can lead to low open rates and missed opportunities.

There are several reasons why retail email subject lines are so critical:

They influence open rates

The subject line gives readers a preview of the content and value proposition of the email. If the subject line is boring, irrelevant or doesn't communicate value, readers will simply ignore the email. Strong subject lines pique interest and drive higher open rates.

They set expectations

The subject line acts as a promise to readers about what they will find inside the email. It needs to be relevant to the actual content so you deliver what you promised. Misleading subject lines lead to disappointment and unsubscribes.

They speak directly to the target audience

Subject lines should be tailored to your subscribers and written in language they relate to. Using emotional triggers relevant to them grabs their attention amidst crowded inboxes.

They allow for testing

Subject lines are easy to A/B test and optimize. Even slight changes to things like wording, emojis, urgency, etc. can impact open rates. Testing allows you to refine lines over time.

They work within design constraints

Subject lines have to be compelling but concise within a limited character count. This requires creativity and precision with language to communicate effectively in a small space.

To put it mildly, optimizing retail email subject lines takes skill and effort but can really pay off.

The extra seconds spent writing engaging subject lines for each audience can result in more opens, clicks, and ultimately more customers and revenue. They set the tone for the entire email and shouldn't be treated as an afterthought.

What Makes an Effective Retail Email Subject Line?

There are several elements that go into making an effective retail email subject line. Below is the advice we recommend to our clients most.

Focus on Relevance

The subject line should clearly relate to the content and offers in the email. Using keywords and phrases from the email ensures relevancy and avoids misleading readers.

One way to get the attention of your reader is to leverage purchase history. For example, "Back in stock! Those sneakers you wanted"

You can build on browsing data too. "You viewed this necklace - it’s now 30% off."

This is also a great time to bring up their abandoned cart. For example, "John, you left something in your cart!"

Along with relevance, you have to keep clarity and value top of mind. Be clear about the purpose of the email. Subject lines that are vague or cryptic will get overlooked. Use clear language to communicate the key message.

It’s also important that you communicate the value readers will get from opening the email. Subject lines that demonstrate tangible benefits or savings are more compelling.

Drive Urgency

Creating a sense of urgency or scarcity helps prompt action. Phrases like "24 hours only" or "Sale Ends Today" add urgency. But use judiciously to avoid sounding desperate.

For example:

- Limited time - "24 hours left! Final markdowns"

- Low stock - "Hurry! Only 2 left in your size"

Highlight Exclusivity

People love feeling like they are getting the white glove treatment so think about things like VIP access and/or first access. For example, "You're invited: Preview our private sale" or "As a top customer, shop our newest arrivals first!"

When highlighting exclusivity, don’t forget about personalization - Using first names, location or past purchases makes it feel customized. Segmenting lets you tailor subject lines and increase relevance. For example,  "Jane’s VIP Offer - Here's how to get free 2-day shipping"

Utilize Social Proof

People want to feel like what they are about to purchase has been purchased and loved before. This means focusing on peer recommendations (i.e.”Items trending with fashionistas like you"), and showcasing bestsellers (i.e. "Our #1 bestselling leggings - a must-have!").

It’s also important to focus on customer benefits rather than product features. For example, "Refresh Your Spring Wardrobe for Less" rather than "New Styles Just Arrived."

Tap Into Emotions

Tap into emotions like excitement, fun, achievement or nostalgia. Avoid overusing FOMO (fear of missing out) which can disengage readers. Here are a examples we recommend:

- Nostalgia - "Remember these? Shop our retro tees"

- Pride - "Wear your team colors proudly"

- Humor - "These leggings prove you can be comfy AND chic"

While we’re on the subject of emotions, don’t neglect the power of curiosity - Asking questions, using incomplete phrases or intriguing clauses like "You won't believe..." leaves readers curious to open and learn more.

Here are some additional example retail email subject line frameworks that could be effective:

  • Feedback request - "John, please take our quick 3 question survey"
  • Sale announcement - "Our biggest sale of the season starts now!"
  • New arrival - "Fresh styles just added - come take a look!"
  • Contest/giveaway - "Enter to win a $500 shopping spree!"
  • Holiday/seasonal - "Memorial Day Sale is here! Save 30% or more this weekend" or "It's boot season! Shop the top trends now"
  • How-to/advice - "5 tips for building the perfect capsule wardrobe" or "3 ways to wear our new maxi dress"
  • Behind-the-scenes - "See how our new collection came to life"
  • Interactive - "Which spring trend are you most excited for? Vote now!"
  • Appreciation/Gift incentive - "Thank you for being an amazing customer!" or "Here's a little something special for being a VIP customer"

The most compelling retail email subject lines creatively combine personalization, urgency, exclusivity and other tactics to motivate opens and clicks. Continually test and optimize based on data.

Remember, the right subject line can grab attention amidst an overflowing inbox and prompt opens. That’s why you shouldn’t go about drafting one haphazardly.

Big Email Subject Line Mistakes We See Retailers MakeBig-Email-Subject-Mistakes-We-See-Retailers-Make-Internal-Image-1-Feb-2024

We see a lot of emails in our line of work. Unfortunately, not all the emails we see are good ones. The truth is, there are a lot of mistakes being made when it comes to writing retail email subject lines. Below are many of them - do you think you’re making some of these mistakes?

  • Being too generic - Subjects like "New arrivals" or "Weekly update" are vague and don't convey any specific reason to open the email.
  • Not being active with your voice - Subject lines with active, vivid verbs tend to perform better than passive voice. "Transform Your Bedroom" rather than "Your Bedroom Can Be Transformed".
  • Using all caps or too many exclamation points - This comes across as shouty or spammy.
  • Making it all about discounts - Constantly pushing sales/promotions trains customers to only engage when there's a deal.
  • Focusing on your brand over the customer - Subjects should highlight customer benefits, not brand names.
  • Exaggerating offers - Don't say "Lowest prices ever!" unless you can truly back that up.
  • Being misleading - Make sure the subject matches the email content. Don't trick people into opening.
  • Forgetting personalization - Brands have data to craft relevant, personalized subject lines. Use it!
  • Ignoring length - It’s best to keep email subject lines under 50 characters. Long subject lines may get cut off on mobile. Short and focused is best.
  • Overusing industry jargon - Write for a mainstream audience without excessive retail terminology.
  • Neglecting emotional hooks - Tap into excitement, nostalgia, or humor vs. always being functional.
  • Not testing - Keep iterating on subject line phrasing to see what optimizes open rate.

Want good subject lines for emails?

The most effective retail email subjects convey relevance, deliver value, and motivate engagement. Avoid common pitfalls through testing and a customer-centric approach.

Are Your Retail Email Subject Lines Good Enough?Are-Your-Retail-Email-Subject-Lines-Good-Enough-Internal-Image-1-Feb-2024

Trying to determine your most opened email subject lines? We recommend A/B testing different subject lines. Create 2-3 different subject line options and send each one to a split segment of your email list to see which one gets better open and click-through rates. This helps you identify which types of subject lines resonate most with your audience.

We also recommend you test days/times. See if certain days or times of day perform better for your brand. Adjust send times accordingly.

Analyze performance data as well. Look at open rates, CTRs, conversion rates, etc. and optimize based on insights. Subject lines with high opens but low CTR may indicate misleading subjects. Finally, iterate and improve.

Unfortunately, there's no one "perfect" formula that works across all retail businesses. That’s why it’s important to continuously test new subject line ideas and evolve based on data.

And, when you’re ready to level up your retail email game, we hope you’ll consider using SendX! Click here to sign up free and learn what we can do for you.

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