10 of the best email subject lines designed to boost your open rates

It’s no secret that email subject lines and open rates go hand in hand. What you really need to know is how to create subject lines that boost those open rates. 

Are you intimidated by the task of creating stellar subject lines? Let us help you employ strategies that have been shown to work to increase open rates. With the right tools in place and a few top-performing examples to inspire your creativity, you can create subject lines that get results. 

What is a good open rate? 

The average email open rate is 17.92%, according to an analysis conducted by Campaign Monitor in 2018. Non-profit organizations saw some of the highest open rates, while the retail industry experienced some of the lowest. 

Strategies to improve email subject lines and open rates

Subject lines play a substantial role in determining whether emails will be opened. According to Convince&Convert, more than one-third of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone. How do you improve your subject line? Here’s some helpful tips: 

  • Know your audience: Use words in your subject line to get the attention of your audience, stimulate interest, and create a desire to find out what’s inside your email.

  • Use tools to your advantage: There are plenty of free tools available today that help you test the waters before you send your email. For example, CoSchedule features a subject line tester that provides valuable data on how your subject line is likely to perform. 

  • Perform split testing: Also known as A/B testing, this process allows you to try out different variations of your subject line to see which specific wording performs the best based on the preferences of your audience.  

Beyond these basic strategies from Campaign Monitor, we have 10 examples of high-performing subject lines to boost open rates. Let these examples help you get the creative juices flowing so you can use subject lines to improve open rates in your own email marketing campaigns. 

10 subject lines to help improve open rates 

Here are 10 different types of subject lines and examples of each to inspire you in your own email creations:  

1. Show the benefits  

Self-interest subject lines are one of the most common and effective methods of getting customers to open your emails. If your customer thinks there is a benefit to opening your email, it is much more likely to happen. For example, “How to write blog posts that sell,” lets your customer know there is valuable information inside your email. It also provides a hint of the information that is to come. 

2. Stimulate curiosity 

Does this email make you curious about what it might entail? It’s true most people would like to talk about anything besides overdue library books, but what is this email referring to exactly?  

Storq - Retail Email Marketing Campaign

Source: Campaign Monitor

You can use the same concept with your subject lines to increase open rates. For example, what if you received an email with the subject line, “An Evil Facebook Genius.” Would you want to know more about the subject of the email? 

In addition to improving open rates, stimulating curiosity improves your click-through rates and drives more traffic to your site. Try asking a question in your subject line. Address (but don’t answer) the question in the email. If your customer really wants to find out the answer, they will need to go to your website. It can be a highly effective approach when you use an intriguing subject to continue to entice your customer.

3. Leverage FOMO (fear of missing out)

The fear of missing out drives many customers to open emails. In fact, subject lines that convey urgency have a 22% higher open rate. Customers want to get in on deals before they are over. In the email below, the words, “Going Fast” are prominent on the page, producing that need for urgency before the rest of the message is even read.

FontShop - Email Marketing Campaign - Email Newsletter

Source: Campaign Monitor

You can create FOMO by telling customers a deal isn’t going to last long. You can also create a sense of scarcity with phrases like, “going fast” and “only four left in stock.” An effective subject line might be something like, “$7 today, $47 tomorrow.” These words not only create urgency that opens your email but can also drive more traffic to your website from your emails. 

4. Make an offer  

Everyone likes getting a good deal. If the deal is a freebie, it’s even better. Check out this email that offers the chance to win a free trip to Paris. You can use the same concept in your subject lines. 

Sephora - Email Marketing Campaign - Incentive Email

Source: Campaign Monitor

Although the word “free” doesn’t necessarily guarantee your email will be opened, there are other ways to convey a deal that could have a positive effect. For example, “My gift to you,” suggests there is something to gain from opening your email.

5. Get personal  

The email below is not just targeted to an audience. It is directed to a person. A person named Hannah, who Trello hasn’t heard from in a while. 

Trello email marketing examples

Source: Rebrandly

If the subject line is as personal as the email, the message is more likely to get opened. You can also personalize subject lines through birthdays, previous purchases, and the customer’s location. 

6. Hit the pain points  

The Trello email above addresses a common pain point for some customers. Your customers may have experienced the cost and inconvenience of sending responsive emails. They may have also suffered the consequences of failing to do so. This email focuses on that pain point and provides a solution. If your subject line does the same, your customers will be more likely to open your email to learn the solution to their problem. 

Litmus - Email Marketing Campaign - Email Newsletter

Source: Campaign Monitor

Some examples of using pain points in subject lines include Pizza Hut’s, “Feed your guests without breaking the bank” and Sephora’s, “Your beauty issues, solved.”

Keep in mind you can’t understand your customer’s pain points until you understand your customer. This takes us back to our point at the beginning, which is to know your audience. Spend time on your buyer personas and you can identify the pain points that really motivate your customers. 

7. Give them breaking news  

Customers want to be in the know, so news headlines are apt to get their attention. The key is finding news that applies directly to your product or service. This email from Oribe nailed the concept, highlighting the fact that the Today Show featured one of their products.

Oribe - Email Marketing Campaign - Email Newsletter & Product Announcement

Source: Campaign Monitor

Find a news story that your customers will find interesting. If it’s not directly related to your industry, find a way to tie them together. Be creative. Draft a headline for your subject line that will make your customers want to read more. 

8. Use humor  

Everyone enjoys a good laugh, which is why funny subject lines get noticed. When a subject makes you chuckle, you are also more likely to open the email to get more. This approach requires more thought and creativity, but the rewards are worth the extra effort. 

Consider this subject line from Groupon, “Best of Groupon: The Deals that Make Us Proud (Unlike our Nephew, Steve).” Did you laugh? Can you relate? 

How about this line from OpenTable, “Licking your phone never tasted so good.” These lines are fun and stimulate curiosity at the same time. 

9. Appeal to vanity 

Vanity is a universal characteristic as nearly everyone wants to be liked and accepted. Truth be told, most of us want to look good as well. The email below appeals to the desire to flaunt the latest styles and look good doing so. 

Topshop - Retail Email Marketing Campaign - Product Email

Source: Campaign Monitor

Vanity subject lines can use the tactic of helping customers look better or feel better about themselves. You can also use the fear of being shamed by peers by not wearing the right fashions. Guess used this concept and kept it simple with, “Don’t wear last year’s styles.” Fabletics uses a more positive approach with, “Your butt will look great in these workout pants.” 

10. Show social proof 

The need to fit in is related to vanity but takes the idea a step further. In addition to looking good, you customers want to look like everyone else. This is particularly true when it comes to celebrities, athletes, or other influencers. By showing social proof, your email demonstrates how your product will help customers keep up with the Jones or the Kardashians, depending on who they relate to most. 

There are different ways to demonstrate social proof in your email lines. You can show how many people use your product. You can tease with a line like, “Learn the secret hundreds of people already know.” You can also appeal to the desire we have to emulate celebrities. For example, Sephora used the line, “Products the celebrities are wearing.” Rapha used, “As seen on the World Tour.” 

Wrap Up 

Subject lines and open rates are a package deal, so boost your rates with subject lines designed for results. Keep these ideas in mind as you craft your subject lines: 

  • Show benefits and offer deals.

  • Appeal to your customer’s vanity and desire to follow others. 

  • Capitalize on FOMO.

  • Give them breaking news or make them laugh. 

  • Identify pain points and offer solutions 

Keywords are another way to improve your open rates. Find out how to use a keyword checker to create killer subject lines. 

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