Do You Still Believe These ‘Old Wives’ Tales’ About Email?
“Don’t make that face — it will freeze that way!”
“Walking under a ladder brings bad luck.”
“Indigestion during pregnancy means the baby will have lots of hair.”
All of these statements are examples of old wives’ tales … superstition from long ago. In most cases, these ideas have been around for so long that no one knows quite where they came from or how they started. Nonetheless, they persist. (I don’t know about you, but I avoid walking under ladders “just in case”!)
The email industry has old wives’ tales of its own — i.e., advice from years gone by of which the origins have been lost, yet they manage to stick around and plague email strategies far and wide. Let’s examine two of these a bit closer to determine whether they contain any measure of truth.
Subject Line Length Should Be Less Than 35 Characters
Studies like this one measure effectiveness of subject lines by correlating read rate performance with character length. Evaluating more than 3,000 retailers, the study found that most subject lines are longer than the long-recommended 35-character length, at 41 to 51 characters. Campaigns with the highest read rates couldn’t be directly attributed to subject line length, as subject lines with 61 to 70 characters and 91 to 100 characters performed as well as the supposed “sweet spot” length of 31 to 40 characters.
The actual content of a subject line matters much more than the length. Focusing on the words (and symbols) that make up your subject line is more beneficial for your subscribers and your program than obsessing over its length. Choose words with a positive tone, such as “Limited Time” or “Prettiest,” as these word choices allude to exclusivity and improvement of lifestyle or status. Tapping into the emotional response mechanism is much stronger and compelling to subscribers (to the tune of 30 percent higher read rates), and has a significantly higher impact to building your brand’s equity.
The advice to keep subject lines under 35 characters is a MYTH.
Tuesday Morning is the Ideal Time to Send Emails
With the move toward personalized, one-to-one communication strategies, many companies have tried to pinpoint the exact right time of day to send a message to an individual subscriber. The idea seems to make sense. However, the results are often hit or miss. As mobile continues to reign supreme over viewership of inboxes, there's no longer a reliable way to determine when consumers will be on- or offline. Today’s consumers are online all of the time, and the average consumer spends over four hours a day on their mobile device. This “always on” lifestyle has led to big changes in our daily routines. Our common behavior pattern since 2014 has been to wake up, look at email on our phones, get to work, look at email on laptop/desktop, get home, multitask with TV and tablet, go to bed, repeat.
9:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning may be an effective time to connect with subscribers — if you're an office supplies retailer. However, if you're a fashion retailer, the ideal time to send a campaign could be 6:00 p.m. on a Thursday or 3:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, or literally any other time and day. It all comes down to when your subscribers are most in the market to consume content, take time to browse, and, ultimately, make a purchase. Review your customers’ purchase patterns to determine natural windows for complementary email communications. What days of the week and time of day do most purchases occur? Is there a hot product placement in a prime-time show that could be highlighted with a well-timed email to help drive purchases?
The advice that the ideal email sending time is on Tuesday mornings is MOSTLY MYTH.
The moral of the story is that you can’t believe everything you hear. Be skeptical of blanket advice. What works for one sender won’t necessarily work for your brand. What worked for your brand five years ago won’t necessarily work now. Email is a dynamic digital landscape, so we need to respond and adjust accordingly. Adopt a consistent testing practice and incorporate changes into your program using a methodology to measure impact and prove success before rolling out anything new to your entire program.
Bonnie Malone leads the consulting, client training, and knowledge and editorial organization of Return Path, an email data solutions provider.
Related story: Emojis: A New Tool to Help Marketers Win the Inbox
Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape. Bonnie leads the knowledge and consulting teams at Return Path, the global leader in email deliverability. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and writes monthly for the Return Path blog and Total Retail.