Apr 24, 2006

Subject Line Experiment

In our Subject Line Comparison Study, we found that brief, matter-of-fact subject lines got better open rates than "salesy" ones. To further test our findings, we conducted a little experiment with long-time MailChimp user GourmetStation.com.

They were planning to send this Easter promotion to a list from their customer database (we don’t want to reveal too much, but the list was in the thousands—plenty for an experiment). The promotion was for free shipping, which is a pretty strong offer.

We split the list in half, and tested 2 different subject lines to see what open rates they’d get…

Subject Lines we tested, and the resulting open rates:

  • "Free Shipping this Easter – Offer Code Inside" (13% open rate)
  • "Free Shipping – Happy Easter" (16.6% open rate)

As you can see, the brief subject line was a 28% improvement over the long, salesy one with "offer code inside." They both pretty much say the same thing: "Free shipping this Easter." But the 1st one throws in that "offer code inside" line, which makes the whole thing sound like an ad. And nobody needs another ad in their inbox, do they?

How are your subject lines written? Do they tell what’s inside, or do they sell what’s inside?

Finally, we want to thank GourmetStation for letting us experiment with their campaign. Mothers Day is coming, and if you’re looking for a nice gift, you should try one of their chef-prepared gourmet meals. Over the years, we’ve ordered almost every single meal on their menu, and they’re delicious.