*This post was originally published July 14, 2020
You can spend hours writing the perfect email for your subscribers.
...but if your subject line doesn’t pique their interest, it won’t matter.
Because they’re not going to open your email to learn about a brand new product, or get the answer to a question that’s been keeping them from purchasing your product, or get in on that super secret sale you’re having.
That’s why it’s so important to take the time to nail your subject line.
Just think about your own inbox. You probably get dozens of marketing emails from some of your favorite brands every single day. You can’t possibly read through every single one of them, so which stand out enough to get you to open?
Put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes every time you’re thinking about a subject line for your emails. If it’s not something you’d open if it popped up in your inbox, assume the people on your list aren’t going to read it either.
And at the end of the day, the more opens you get on your emails, the more money you’re going to bring in for your business.
Here’s what you need to know about writing killer subject lines that are going to get your emails opened and ultimately, drive sales for your store.
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Table of Contents:
- Email subject lines: Your key to increase open rate
- 11 tips to write an effective email subject line
- Best email subject line examples (and why they work)
- Level up your email campaigns with Privy
- Email subject line FAQ
Email subject lines: Your key to increase open rates
Your subject line is just as important as the content of your email itself. Because remember: it’s the first step to getting your subscribers to open (and read) your emails.
Think about it as the hook that’s going to get your email list wanting to know more.
Because your goal is to get readers to open, engage with, and hopefully make a purchase after reading your emails.
And the subject line is the first step.
The best way to tell if your subject line is a success? Your open rate is the best metric to look at here. Because if you nailed the subject line, a larger percentage of your subscribers are going to open your email.
So if you’ve been sending emails for months or years, go find your highest-performing subject lines. That’ll give you a great jumping off point when it comes to knowing what will work best with your email list.
And if you haven’t sent enough emails for your business yet to know what works, that’s OK! As you start sending emails regularly, keep an eye on your open rates and you’ll start to notice trends and eventually get to a point where you have a sense of what’s going to resonate before you send an email.
But a great place to start (whether you’ve sent hundreds of emails or you’re new to email marketing) is to look at your own inbox. Find the subject lines from brands that got you to open! Keep a list of the awesome subject lines you come across and use that as a starting point if you’re feeling stuck.By the way, there are tons of subject line examples further down in this post. So your list is already started for you. 😉
11 tips to write an effective email subject line
By now, you know that a stellar subject line is the key to getting your emails opened and read, so you can ultimately get your readers to take an action (like sign up for a waitlist for a new product, purchase a best-seller, complete their purchase, learn more about why your products rock, follow you on social, etc.).
Luckily, these 11 writing tips will help you get started.
1. Use a familiar sender name
The people on your email list likely want to support small businesses - it might even be part of what drew them to you in the first place!
So you want to make it really clear that you’re the person behind the brand. Put a face to your business, and over time, your subscribers will feel like they know you. And they’ll want to support you even more (and be much more likely to open your emails).
A really easy way to do this? Send your emails from a real person, you!
Something like [Your Name] from [Your Business Name] will go a long way for building a personal connection with the people on your list.
See how the sender name here is “Kim from Gale and Hayes?” It adds a personal touch that just sending emails from your business name just doesn’t have.
2. Keep your subject line clear and to the point
You might be wondering, “how long should my subject line be?” And you’re not alone. This is something we hear a lot.
And while there’s no cut and dry answer, studies have found that subject lines in the range of ~65 characters (or 5-9 words) tend to be most effective.
Our Customer Success team actually loves the formula “3 Seconds. 3 Words.” when it comes to writing great subject lines. Your email is (hopefully) hitting lots of eyes, so try to use simple language that can be easily understood by the largest possible audience. Now’s not the time to bust out your SAT words.
Remember, you only have your readers’ attention for a few seconds (if that), and sometimes less is more.
And it’s important to remember that longer subject lines will likely get cut off on mobile, where many of your subscribers will be reading emails. Even more reason to keep your subject lines short and sweet.
3. Use action-oriented verbs
Another quick psychology lesson for you: people respond positively to clear, direct instructions when receiving messages. So don't shy away from using action-oriented words in your subject line!
Many small business owners shy away from being too "salesy," but telling people to take the action you want them to take helps clarify your message and convert more buyers.
Words like “get,” “buy,” “look,” and “shop” are short, yet effective. You can always test the tone of your message to see what kind of language has the highest open rate and drives the most sales.
4. Personalize your messaging
You should be writing your emails like you’re writing to a friend. So don’t be overly formal. And the more personal and specific you can make every email you send, the better they’ll perform.
In fact, it’s estimated that personalized subject lines improve click-through rates by an average of 14%.
You can include your subscriber’s name in the subject line, or take it a step further by using segmentation to send messages that are ultra-specific. For example, you might want to send certain messages to new customers, existing and loyal customers, serial browsers, customers interested in a particular type of product, or customers within a particular geographic area.
Whatever you do, stay away from generic subject lines, like July Newsletter. Would you be tempted to open that email? No? Didn’t think so.
So whether you’re including someone’s name or information that’s specific to their experience with your business, it’s always a good idea to make your messages feel personal.
5. Make an impression with the preview text
A great subject line has two parts: the actual subject line, and the preview text that follows. Preview text is the little snippet of copy that appears next to the subject line or under the sender in the recipient’s inbox.
And your preview text is an underrated way to influence your open rate. It should reinforce (or add to) your subject line. And might just be the thing that pushes someone over the edge to open and read your email.
So don’t take that space for granted. Use it to get your readers even more interested about what’s in your email.
And quick PSA: you don’t want your preview text to pull in your footer…
Just take a look at this example and you’ll see what I mean (and this is honestly way more common than you’d think).
Unsubscribe shouldn’t be one of the first things people see, before they’ve even opened your email!
6. Get to the offer ASAP
You already know that you should try to keep your subject lines as short and sweet as possible.
But you also want to include the most important information first. It’s less likely to get cut off that way, and will catch people’s attention.
If you’re running a time-sensitive promo, call it out! Have a new product? Use words like “Introducing” or “It’s here.”
Whatever message you really want your readers to know should be the very first thing they see.
Tell them exactly what’s in it for them. Because if they don’t understand the value immediately, chances are they’re not going to open the email at all.
7. Ask questions to connect with subscribers
Human psychology dictates, when you ask a question, someone will try to fill in the blanks with an answer. Asking a question of your readers will buy you a couple of seconds of their attention as they consider what their response is. It can be a completely hypothetical question, inspired by what you’re selling. Just make sure it actually relates to the content of the email.
Similarly, you can set your subject line up as a teaser, like having it be the first part of a trivia question, fun fact, or riddle, so your readers need to open the email in order to see the rest.
8. Use FOMO to drive open rates
Everyone is susceptible to the fear of missing out, or FOMO. That’s why things like “another person is viewing this item” or “only 3 left!” make you want to buy something even more.
But it doesn’t just have to be on your product page, you can also use FOMO in your subject lines.
Use this fear of regret to drive urgency for your readers to open your emails, click, and hopefully buy. Whether you’re alluding to product scarcity or a limited-time offer, giving your audience a deadline or a sense of belonging if they engage is a surefire way to grab their attention and seal the deal quickly.
9. Emojis help you stand out
Which email catches your eye the most?
With inboxes being more crowded than ever before, emojis are a great way to get attention in the inbox.
BUT it’s definitely possible to overdo it and come across as spammy.
Here are some examples of subject lines with emojis that don’t feel like too much:
- NEW Rugs are here! 👌
- New! Pure Matcha 100 🍵
- Our Tees Plant Trees 🌲
- Shop 21% off sitewide early 🎉
Play around with putting your emojis at the beginning of your subject line, between text, and in the preview text.
You have a ton of opportunities here. But try to stay away from long strings of emojis. Like this:
At that point, it’s hard to even pay attention to the text. Not to mention it feels over the top and doesn’t make me want to click (no matter what’s inside).
So use emojis sparingly and test their placement. They’re a great way to make your message scannable and help you stand out in a crowded inbox. Again, use them like you would with your friends. Make it feel personal, not spammy.
10. A/B test to find out what works
Your subject line is the perfect place to use an A/B test. All that means is that a portion of your email list will see one subject line, and the other will see another variation.
Then, the winning subject line will be shown to the rest of your list, so they see the most popular subject line (and you get more opens).
Once you run enough A/B tests, you’ll start to notice trends about the winning variations and that will influence the subject lines you use in the future.
Don’t overcomplicate this. Write two different subject lines you think are great options, and run the test. If you do it enough, it’s a really simple way to find out what works with your audience.
11. Lean into timely content and current events
When you use holidays or current events to come up with offers or reasons to send an email to your list, the subject lines practically write themselves.
It’s the reason you see just so many emails around holidays and why more and more businesses are starting to send heartfelt notes to their list when there’s a jarring (or exciting) current event.
While sending holiday or current event emails with related subject lines isn’t guaranteed to boost your open rates, it definitely helps. And it gives you a reason to reach out to your subscribers and continue building a relationship with them on a more personal level, rather than just promoting product after product.
Best email subject lines (and why they work)
Real life examples are the best way to get inspiration for your own subject lines. So the next time you get an email with a subject line that makes you open, save it somewhere! Keep a running list so you never run out of ideas for your own subject lines.
And if you’re not sure where to start, here are 66 killer subject line examples you can steal and make your own.
By the way, you’ll notice that a handful of brands show up more than once on this list of the best subject line examples. It’s because they consistently have awesome subject lines, so you might want to subscribe to their email lists for constant inspiration.
Welcome email subject lines
Think about your welcome email as your chance to make an amazing first impression on your new subscribers.
So your welcome email is the perfect place to introduce yourself as the founder and share why you created your business in the first place.
Take a look at a couple great examples from Gainful and Muddy Bites.
It’s also a really great place to lean into the value prop behind your brand, like Lingua Franca, Behave, and Fly by Jing do.
Wouldn’t you feel good about changing the world by supporting a brand that donates a percentage of the proceeds from every single order to organizations working to make the world a better place?
Or eating candy that only has 3g of sugar?
What about sauces that are all natural and small-batch crafted?
Abandoned cart email subject lines
If you’re not doing anything to combat cart abandonment, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity for your store.
Abandoned cart emails can bring people who left items in their cart back and encourage them to complete the purchase.
So your abandoned cart email subject lines should pique your subscribers’ interest so they’ll open your email and (ideally) go complete their purchase.
Ask questions and bring in scarcity, like these examples:
New product email subject lines
Whenever you announce a new product, you should absolutely be sending an email to your list. It’s a no-brainer.
And you have the opportunity to get clever here. Use words like “meet,” “it’s here,” and “new” to really get the point across that this is something brand new they’ve gotta see.
Here are 5 examples of new product subject lines I love:
Review email subject lines
Reviews are incredibly important for ecommerce businesses. Especially because a lot of times, it’s not possible to check out your products in person before buying.
But visitors to your site don’t really want to know what you have to say about your products, they want to know what real customers have to say.
That’s where your reviews come in.
And when it comes to writing awesome subject lines for review emails, it wasn’t hard to find these examples.
When your products hit a certain number of 5-star reviews, that’s a great time to send an email!
And it definitely doesn’t have to be this many...even something like 52 five-star reviews (or whatever makes sense for where you are as a business) will make people want to read your email to see what they might be missing out on.
Being specific here will give you credibility (for example, 27 five-star reviews rather than rounding up to 30 30).
Another classic way to use your reviews in a subject line is to steal a snippet of a real review. Aren’t you thinking to yourself, “What can’t this person live without?!”
That’s exactly what you’re looking for here.
And here are a handful of other review subject line ideas you can steal:
Best-seller email subject lines
Showcasing your most popular products is an amazing reason to send an email. I don’t know about you, but whenever I find out something is a best-seller, it always gets my attention. It must be that popular for a reason, right?
Check out these best-seller subject lines to get inspiration the next time you want to feature your most popular product in an email:
(By the way, they’ve used “These will sell out” as a subject line more than once. Which means it probably works.)
AYR does an AMAZING job leaning into FOMO and scarcity. Things like “we can’t keep this in stock,” “these will sell out,” and “1,500-person waitlist” all make me want to open to see what’s so popular.
So if you know for sure something is going to sell out or has absolutely flown off the shelves in the past, you should hands down use that in your subject line.
Teaser email subject lines
The next time you’re getting ready to launch something new, send an email to tease what’s coming! That way, when you send the actual announcement email, more of your subscribers are going to want to know what you have to say.
Prime your list for the next big thing, I promise it won’t feel like too much communication.
Check out these teaser email subject lines you can use next time you’re gearing up for a launch your subscribers need to know about:
Back in stock email subject lines
If something was so popular it sold out, it’s probably worth sending an email to your list to re-introduce the product and let them know it’s back (even if they weren’t on a waitlist).
I don’t know about you, but things like “fastest-selling product ever,” “the dress with the 6,000 person waitlist” and “our #1 best-seller,” definitely make me want to open the email to find out exactly what I’m missing out on.
Here are some of my favorite back in stock email subject lines you can use the next time one of your products is restocked:
New content email subject lines
If you’re producing content like blog posts or podcast episodes for your business, it’s awesome to mix in that education with your promotional emails to make sure you’re not constantly trying to push sales, but also showing value to your subscribers.
So for Curie, a clean deodorant brand, they know their subscribers care about the products they’re putting in and on their bodies, so they wrote a post about ingredients to stay away from.
And VETTA wrote a post about why they charge what they do for their products (which, by the way, is really smart if you ever get questions about your pricing).
You get the idea…
Another great reason to write a blog post or share helpful content with your list is something like a recipe if that makes sense for your business.
Sale email subject lines
This is a no brainer. If you’re running a sale or promotion of any kind, your subscribers should know about it.
But if protecting your margins is especially important to you and sales aren’t the norm for your business, it’s awesome to tie this messaging to a specific event or make it extra clear that this isn’t something your subscribers are going to see very often.
Like Otherland does with this subject line by mentioning “only sale of the year.”
Moving is another awesome reason to run a promotion for your email list without setting the expectation that this is the norm.
That’s exactly what Fly by Jing, Mala the brand, and DONNI did with these subject lines:
Winback email subject lines
It’s no secret that your existing customers are more valuable than first-time buyers. So to make sure your customers keep coming back to you, customer winback emails are an incredible option.
Often, they’ll give customers an incentive to come back to shop again. Something like money off, free shipping or a free gift with purchase.
So to encourage your customers to come back to your store, check out these winback email subject line examples:
Make it clear that there’s something in it for them.
Order follow-up email subject lines
After you make a purchase, order follow-up emails give you confidence and build excitement about your order.
And I’m not talking about the order confirmation email. Technically, it’s an order follow-up email, but that’s table stakes. You absolutely have to let your customers know their order went through.
But after that, the businesses that take it a step further and do things like:
- Explain next steps and what to expect
- Share helpful tips to make sure you’re successful with the product
- Generally keep you in the loop about your order
Really stand out.
Here are a few subject line examples for your next order follow-up email:
Level up your email campaigns with Privy
Your subject line is the first step to getting your subscribers to open your emails and take action to get sales for your store.
And Privy is the all-in-one email marketing platform that can help you turn your emails into sales.
Send automated emails to drive revenue while you sleep, one-off newsletter promotions to let your subscribers know about things like sales and best-sellers, all using pre-made templates so you can get up and running in minutes, not days.
Connect with your customers using professional emails
If you’ve ever tried to set up and send an email for your ecommerce store, you know that half the battle is making it look good.
Luckily, Privy has templates you can use off the shelf or customize them to work for your brand. Save your colors and use the drag and drop editor to set up professional-looking emails that don’t take hours of your precious time.
So you can focus on sending emails that impact your bottom line.
Automate different promotional campaigns
Privy helps you automate your email campaigns so you can get sales for your store whether you’re asleep, responding to customer emails, or one of the many other tasks you have to do every single day to run your store.
24 hours a day. 7 days a week. That’s why you need automated email campaigns like:
- A welcome email
- An abandoned cart series
- Purchase follow-ups
- Customer winback emails
- Coupon reminders
And so much more.
Easily see how your emails impact your bottom line
With the Privy dashboard, you can easily see how much money every email you send brings in for your store.
Find out how many abandoned carts you’ve saved, how effective your newsletters are, and so much more. All in one place.
Email Subject Line FAQ
How long should my email subject line be?
Generally speaking, your email subject lines should be ~65 characters long, which is approximately 5-9 words. Don’t be afraid to get creative to communicate the key point of your email. The goal of your subject line is to engage your subscribers to open it to read the content!
How to write email subject lines that drive open rates?
Your open rate is the most important metric to pay attention to in order to gauge the success of your subject line. To write a subject line that drives opens, you want to keep it short and to the point, send from a real person, and use the preview text to enhance your messaging. Read the 11 tips and check out the examples above to find out what really works.
What are email subject line best practices?
There is no silver bullet when it comes to crafting the perfect email subject line. But there are definitely some best practices you should keep in mind. Keep it short and get to the point ASAP. Use emojis to stand out, but don’t overdo it. Use FOMO and scarcity to get your readers interested and remember that subject lines related to current events usually perform well. For a full breakdown, read all 11 tips.
What are examples of good email subject lines?
When it comes to finding examples of killer subject lines, you should start by looking in your own inbox and finding the emails and brands that you always want to hear from. But to get you started, we put together 66+ examples you can pull from above. So you have ideas of good email subject lines for everything from your welcome emails to your abandoned cart emails.