You should never judge a book by its cover. It’s ridiculous, right? But whether you like it or not, people tend to determine an email’s worth by its subject line.
To give you some perspective, 35% of email recipients open emails based on subject lines alone. And 21% of subscribers mark boring ones as spam, even if they know they aren’t. Clearly, customers are tough to impress.
If you really want to get noticed and prove you are deserving of their time and attention, supercharge your email subject lines with emotion. Because in the end, no matter how much we rationalize, our buying decisions spring from our emotions.
Think of what a customer fears, dreams of, desires and wants in a solution or product. Use that as a premise of your subject lines to trigger an emotional response. Some fashion and beauty brands have already been doing consistently well in this area. It’s time you learn the ropes from them.
Fair warning: It’s not a good idea to rely on emotions alone. The purpose of retail brands, like yours, is to sell. So hit a variety of customer touchpoints, including sending personalized emails, because they are 26% more likely to be opened than those without. Even better, they deliver 6X higher transaction rates.
Anyway, let’s dive in…
Email Subject Lines That Induce FOMO
No one likes missing out on time-senitive deals, including you. Just think of the last time you grabbed an offer because you didn’t want to regret losing out on a good bargain. Or when you felt pangs of stress for not having bought something when there was still time and stock.
The same happens to your customers. So whether it’s announcing a limited time or limited stock sale, pick the right set of words like ‘last chance’, ‘Don’t miss’, etc. to create urgency. Seeing such offers immediately activates fear of missing out and drive them to act right away.
It’s exactly why this email from The North Face works. The nudge is enough to get the recipient to grab this one, last chance to save some 💰.
Examples of FOMO-Provoking Subject Lines:
Limited time offer:
- Alice & Olivia: LAST.DAY.DROP.EVERYTHING.
- Dropps: Get 15% off, but move quick.
- UNIQLO: TICK TOCK! Free shipping ends tonight
- Mango: LAST FEW HOURS to enjoy 30% off the entire collection!
Show it’s in demand:
- Nykaa: These will sell out in 3…2..⏳
- Sorel: These stunners are selling out fast
- Olay: Get it before it’s gone!🎁
- Marc Jacobs: New to sale and going fast
Imply negative outcomes:
- Nykaa: You snooze, you lose.
- Revolve: Say goodbye to 65% off 👋
- UNIQLO: Get it before it’s gone
- Nike: Good stuff in your cart…checking out > missing out
- You’ve still got time
- Offer expires tonight
- The stock’s running out
- UH-oh. Your fav styles are (almost) gone
- ATTN: This pack will DEFINITELY sell out
- Saying goodbye is the toughest
- Our top 10 at 10% off for the next 24 hours
- LAST chance to save up to $55
- <New product> is selling like hot cakes
- You’ve ONE day left: FREE shipping +20% off
- Tonight only: Your wish list items on sale
- LIMITED-time offer on items on your wishlist
Email Subject lines That Drive Curiosity
Can you guess what makes crime drama series bingeable? Why we click intriguing Upworthy and BuzzFeed posts? Or why we can’t stop reading novels? Well, blame our inherent need to close the loop between what we know and what we want to know. Otherwise known as – our curiousity!
This is also exactly why when people receive emails with partial information in the subject lines, they feel the urgent need to click ‘open.’ A perfect example is this email from Nykaa. The cliffhanger technique adds a touch of drama and mystery that is enough to tempt people to see what’s on the other side.
Examples of Using Curiosity in Subject Lines:
- Huckberry: “Want” — everyone
- Michael Kors: Give us an inch…
- J.Crew: The shorts circuit
- TwoThirds: Meet our unique pieces!
- Revolve Tomorrow’s outfit forecast
- Kate Spade: You’re getting sleepy…
- Steve Madden: TORNADO warning
- Anthropologie: Let us per-SUEDE you.
- Birchbox: We’ve got some ideas for you.
- Sephora: Because you need these.
- Estée Lauder Online: Why’s everyone obsessed with retinol?
- Jimmy Choo: Dreams are made up of these + complimentary global shipping
- Not even in your wildest dreams would…
- Got a sec? Open this email right away, or…
- FIRST time ever on sale
- New launches inside
- Is THIS what you’ve been waiting for?
- You DESERVE this
- Don’t buy from us…
- Before you regret not buying your favs
- Saying goodbye is the toughest
- Did we tell you that…
- This is personal…
Email Subject Lines That Spark Happiness
Since you already occupy a sacred space in your customers’ inboxes, why not become a reason for their happiness?
A lot of things make people happy. So right from using humor, wordplay, solving people’s problems, appealing to their vanity, surprising them with freebies and special offers to reminding them there’s good in them (think shopping = contributing to a social cause), there’s plenty you can do to light up their faces.
This email from Fortress of Inca, for example, plays the vanity card. Honest confession: I was at the receiving end and I had to open the email because my fabulous choice in shoes was being appreciated!
Examples of Happiness-Triggering Subject Lines:
- Pura Vida: Save the Amazon Rainforest!
- Michael Kors: FOOD IS LOVE: Help Us Watch Hunger Stop
- Sephora: Your beauty issues solved
- Nicole Miller: Button me up, Button me down.
- Alice & Olivia: Hot date? We’ve got you.
- J.Crew: We don’t do this (MAJOR) sale too often…
- JustFab: Your FREE money is waiting. We put $30 in your account.
- Pura Vida: Happy birthday to us (gifts for you!)
- DSW: Find out how you can make a difference.
- Patagonia: School lunch made easy
- The North Face: 5 jackets that will have everyone saying…where’d you get them from!
- Our birthday treat = gifts for you!
- Giving > Getting
- It’s true…these will look dapper on you
- What to wear for the New Year’s bash
- Style secrets you can master in under 10 minutes
- Your winter break packing list is HERE!
- You’re one click away from shopping complete spring look
- Impressed by items in your card: Buy ‘em before they’re gone
- You earned what’s INSIDE this email
Email Subject Lines That Create Excitement
So far we’ve already established that we are emotional creatures. Let’s now use excitement to get your sales meter ticking, because the word is that it results in impulse shopping.
It’s something that Paloma Vasquez points out in the essay, The Psychology of Social Shopping:
‘In a state of excitement, people think and behave very differently. Emotional states trump rational thinking; it’s easier to sell to consumers when they are excited.’
There are a number of ways to get the excitement level up. Highlight the exclusiveness of your offer. Add social proof (drop names and numbers). Capitalize the action verbs to motivate action completion. Even use emojis and exclamation marks.
In the email subject line below, team Pura Vida does two things — attract attention with a clever use of emoji; they use the word ‘holy smokes’ and a few ‘!’; and they excite subscribers with an exclusive offer.
Examples of Building Excitement in Subject Lines:
- J.Crew: What Adam Scott thinks of our suits
- Anthropologie: Just for you: the inside scoop
- Pura Vida: Special offer (but only for our BFFs)
- Olay: Over 50 million sold ❤️
- Sorel: Meet our exclusive Frozen 2 boots✨
- DSW: Reviewers have spoken: “BEST BOOTIE EVER!”
- Steve Madden: Take our shoe stylists’ word for it
- Meundies: Well, this is exciting!
- Adidas: You’re in. Welcome to Adidas
- Revolve: This collab was made for you
- theBalm Cosmetics: Welcome to #THEBALMERS community!
- Victoria’s Secret: 60% off bras & apparels, in stores only! GO, GO, GO!
- Beyonce-approved autumn wear you can’t say no to
- Sweet launch discount (for members only!)
- Howdie! Your faves are back in stock
- Sshh…you’re the FIRST ONE to be seeing this
- It’s between you and us ONLY
- For your eyes only, because you wanted it
- Baby, it’s baccccck!
- It’s your birthday! Get 30% off, a FREE gift and free shipping.
Ready to Craft Email Subject Lines That Deliver?
Full disclaimer: It takes a lot of A/B testing and patience to come up with subject lines that, within the 40-50 characters limit, stir the right emotions. But at least now you’re aware which emotions to go after.
So it’s time to get to work! But before you go, and for maximum impact, keep these equally important things in mind: