'O' Is Only That You're Using the Wrong Subject Line

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Retailers using just the right words of love to the right people are being embraced with 40% open rates this Mother's Day.

Half of all the Mother's Day appeals appearing in inboxes this week—a total of more than 12,000 separate campaigns—had the word “mother” in their subject lines, according to eDataSource, an email intelligence company. But just four out of those thousands of campaigns managed to achieve a Holy Grail-ish 40% open rate. How? Precise targeting, says eDataSource.

The company, which tracks daily more than 25 million emails sent by 50,000 brands, sponsors a consumer panel to learn which of those emails get opened and why. “More than half of all the Mother's Day email that went out had the word ‘mother' in the subject line, but we found that, within brands, different customers got different subject lines,” noted John Landsman, the company's director of strategy and analytics. “For instance, subject lines like '10 Best Mother's Day Gifts' and ‘Mother's Day Gift of the Day' reached only about 60% of the panel. Among sharper brands, there is some degree of targeting going on based on factors like previous response and purchase.”

Four such astute brands scored big. The four above 40%:

  • Amazon won a 43% open rate from 77,000 emails sent on May 22 with the subject line: “Amazing Deals – Jewerlry Gifts for Mother's Day"
  • “Enjoy up to 30% Off Favorite Styles” sent to 163,000 subscribers on May 1 elicited a 44% open rate for Coach.
  • Nordstrom targeted brand aficionados and achieved nearly 4,000 opens, a 42% rate, with “Pandora for Mother's Day” on April 28.
  • “Macy's – Your Favorite Sale is Back” to a select customer list of 48,000 eclipsed 50% opens.

These results should be eye-openers for old-school batch-and-blasters, according to eDataSource CMO Arthur Sweetser. “Most of the time we're working with single-digit open rates. People say double digits are not attainable,” he says. “To that I say, 'B.S.' Do the work, do the targeting, use the right subject line, and it's proven it can be done.”

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