Practical Ecommerce

Comparing 5 Ecommerce Email Subject Lines from June 2014

Email subject lines should capture a reader’s attention with a concise, relevant, and, perhaps, personalized appeal. Done well, email marketing can have a significant and positive impact on ecommerce sales and profits.

A well written email subject line should state the facts, if you will, about what the email contains and focus on how the recipient benefits from the information in the email.

Many large online and multichannel retailers depend on email and on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 companies like Gap, Overstock.com, and MyHabit all sent out emails aimed at boosting sales. Comparing the subject lines from these retail emails may help small or mid-sized sellers do a better job writing their own email subject lines.

As you consider each of these examples, ask if the subject line would have encouraged you to open the email, and if you would have been happy with the content you found.

MyHabit

Launched in May 2009, MyHabit is Amazon’s membership fashion site. MyHabit sells selected or curated fashion items at deeply discounted prices. It has an excellent fashion blog called TheFix, and exceptional product detail pages (many with 360-degree product videos) and good overall site design. So one would expect MyHabit to be very good at marketing, including in developing its email subject lines.

On June 24, 2014, MYHABIT sent an email with this subject.

Up to 70% off: Designer Shoes & Accessories | Up to 80% Off: Designer Sportswear | Just $30: Nat Nast Swimwear | Rounderbum | WP by Without Prejudice

The email content included 53 product images that did indeed make good on everything promised in the very long subject line. In the image below, note the first three of the product images.

MyHabit's email had a long subject line and a long list of offers.

MyHabit’s email had a long subject line and a long list of offers.

There are at least a few interesting things to notice about the MyHabit email subject line.

First, it is 150 characters long, including the spaces. This is about three times the recommended maximum length for an email subject line, according to folks like MailChimp. But notice that the subject line is somewhat progressive. The first phrase is 43 characters in length, and it states what MyHabit apparently deemed to be the single most important fact about the email’s content, “Up to 70% off: Designer Shoes & Accessories.” In some email clients, this would be all that the recipient would see, however, in other email clients the entire message would be visible or at least progressively more of the subject line.

Second, MyHabit clearly states percentage off discounts and even product prices directly in the subject line. This is also something that some email service providers tend to discourage. For example, MailChimp recommended avoiding the words “help,” “percent off,” and “reminder” in a June 13, 2014 post about email subject line best practices. Here, however, MyHabit seems to be following another email subject line best practice, telling the recipient what the email message is about.

Gap

Gap is an international apparel retailer with a strong web presence in addition to its many brick-and-mortar stores. The company’s website uses a pop-up to encourage email registration, implying that the Gap values email marketing.

On June 24, 2014, GAP sent an email marketing message with a two-word subject line.

What humidity?

The email message started with a 25-percent discount offer. A bit further down in the email there was a section titled “How to Look Chic in the Heat, Your guide to effortless summer style.”

Gap's email subject line did not mention the first offer shown in the email message.

Gap’s email subject line did not mention the first offer shown in the email message.

Here the subject line asked a question which would have appealed to many recipients, but that question did not directly relate to the email content and certainly not to the very first offer in the email. Also, a bit more email list segmentation may have been in order as the email’s recipient resides in Southwestern Idaho, which was experiencing a relatively low 36 percent relative humidity on the day the message arrived.

Overstock

American online retailer Overstock sells everything from pet supplies to furniture and more, typically at a discount. The company has a reputation for being a progressive marketer and also seems to place an emphasis on email registration with a pop-up on its site.

Its June 24, 2014 email subject line read:

Extra 10% off Select Bedding & Bath, Home Decor, Garden & Patio and More!

The email message lead with the bedding offer, noting that it was actually 45 percent off plus an extra 10 percent off. The balance of the email content generally followed the order of product categories listed in the subject, with refurbished desktop computers serving as the “More.”

Overstock's email subject listed discounted product categories.

Overstock’s email subject listed discounted product categories.

Overstock, similar to MyHabit, combined many offers into a single message, and did its best to list out all of those offers in a long (73 characters with spaces) subject. It is interesting that Overstock did not focus on a single offer and segment the customer list into areas of interest. This might be a good area for ecommerce marketers to test, sending emails and email subjects that include a single offer and emails and subjects containing multiple offers, measuring which of these produces more clicks and sales.

Cost Plus World Market

Multi-channel retailer, Cost Plus World Market, offers imported goods including home decor items, furniture, and even food. The company is known for deeply discounting products and running very frequent sales.

To spur sales on June 24, 2014, Cost Plus World Market sent an email marketing message with this subject line:

LAST CHANCE — up to 50% off select Furniture, Throw Pillows and Lighting.

As the subject line promised, the email message began with a “Last Chance” offer to save 50 percent on select furniture.

World Market's email message was closely related to its subject line.

World Market’s email message was closely related to its subject line.

This email subject line begins with all capital letters. There are many email service providers that believe using capital letters in this way will likely relegate your message to the dreaded spam filter, but this message did make it through this at least one recipient’s inbox. It is also worth mentioning that like many other of the messages compared here, World Market is very specific about the offer in the subject line and does a good job of delivering content in support of the subject.

Design by Humans

Online t-shirt retailer Design By Humans has an edgy product line and edgy email subject lines. The company’s June 24, 2014 message carried this subject.

These Tees Will Scare Small Children + Weekly Shirt Giveaways!

The email message featured a line of t-shirts called “The Dark Arts” with images that may truly scare kids, so the first part of the subject line seemed right on subject. The second portion, however, seems a bit like a last minute addition. One can almost imagine the first section of the subject line being read in a truck rally announcer’s voice, while the second phrase in the subject is happy-go-lucky.

The images in this email message could truly scare small children.

The images in this email message could truly scare small children.

Other Email Subject Lines

Several other interesting email subject lines arrived on June 24, 2014. Here they are for you to consider and compare.

  • One Kings Lane: “A fun Brooklyn backyard makeover, bath favorites from Matouk & D. Porthault, Pearson furniture, pillows & more”

  • Old Navy: “Trend Alert: Soft Dressing + Save 20% Online”

  • Williams-Sonoma (first of two): “Here’s the Scoop: Save $60 on Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker”

  • Williams-Sonoma (second of two): “Meet All-Clad’s New One-Pot Wonder”

  • Best Buy: “It’s a HUGE Tuesday to save”

  • Men’s Wearhouse: “Your Daily Deal: Extra 30% Off Clearance Shorts”

  • Hayneedle: “Extra 35% OFF! It’s the Go All Out Sale!

  • Eastbay: “Last Chance to score 20% off Brazil gear and more!

  • Coldwater Creek: “LAST DAY OF ONLINE LIQUIDATION!–Spectacular Savings on Everything–Everything Must Go!

  • Franklin Planner: “Last Week To Save – Shop The Sale Now”

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Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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Comments ( 3 )

  1. AL June 26, 2014 Reply

    Worst article I’ve ever read on email subject lines. Doesn’t give any indication of what was successful and what wasn’t, open rates, click through rates, etc…waste of time.

  2. Terence Gray June 29, 2014 Reply

    Video Sells

    I’m not a fan of keyword stuffing in email subject lines but this report at Marketprofs http://bit.ly/emailheaderlines gives some interesting stats. What is particularly noticeable, and is born out by a Mailchimp report http://bit.ly/subjectlinecomparison is that pushy sales headlines don’t work. Describe don’t sell !

    And yes, ‘Video’ and ‘Sales’ are both strong enticements to get people to open their emails. It would be interesting to see how successful Worldmarket’s email was

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