Subject lines under 21 characters generate a 31 percent higher-than-average open rate in email marketing efforts—yet they account for less than 5 percent of all email subject lines, according to new data from Yes Lifecycle Marketing.
In the newly released report, Subject Line Benchmarks: How Length and Personalization Impact Email Performance Across Message Type and Industry, Yes analyzed the subject lines of more than 7 billion emails deployed through its cross-channel marketing communication platform Yesmail360.
The study found that more concise subject lines drove higher open rates and more clicks. In fact, those using 10 characters or less accounted for less than 1 percent of all subject lines but generated an impressive average open rate of 26 percent—almost double the 14.2 percent average. However, 45 percent of subject lines in this category belonged to triggered emails, driving engagement rates up and underscoring the value of message relevance, timeliness and personalization.
“While shorter subject lines can sometimes stand out in the inbox, especially on mobile, length is only one of the many email components marketers should take into account when developing their campaigns,” said Michael Fisher, president of Yes Lifecycle Marketing, in a news release. “The key is still to give subscribers enough information up front to encourage them to open—either through a relevant, personalized subject line or through one that piques interest and appeals to consumers’ curiosity.”
The majority of subject lines (74 percent) fell between 21 and 60 characters, yet this length saw the lowest open rate at 13.8 percent. These emails also generated an 8.5 percent click-to-open rate. In contrast, emails with subject lines under 21 characters received double the unique click rate (2.4 percent) and a 12.9 percent click-to-open rate.
Just over a fifth of all subject lines exceeded 60 characters and they generated a 14.8 percent open rate and 8.9 percent click-to-open rate.
“Strategic marketing communications partners like Yes Lifecycle Marketing can help marketers craft messages that resonate with customers, and ultimately lead to higher ROI,” said Michael Iaccarino, president of Yes parent company Infogroup, in the release. “Marketers should listen to data, particularly how their customers respond to tweaks in communication. Ultimately, what customers do is more telling than what they say they want from marketers.”
Additional findings from the analysis include:
- Subject line length impacted open rates most significantly for the retail and technology industries.
- Eighty-four percent of retail subject lines were between 21 and 60 characters, yet they generated the lowest open rate for the industry at 12.8 percent.
- For the financial services, publishing, and hospitality/travel industries subject line length was not a significant factor in email engagement.
- Only 2 percent of all emails sent in Q2 2017 included personalization in the subject line; yet these emails generated 50 percent higher open rates than those without personalization.