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The 115 Best Email Subject Lines We’ve Ever Seen

  • Email Marketing

Writing good email subject lines is tough, right?

 

Wrong.

In this post, I’ll show you how to write catchy email subject lines using real-life examples top brands are using right now.

Whether you’re looking to write a gentle follow-up or a top-performing promotional email, there’s something for you in this post.

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Get access to our best e-commerce email marketing resources including: 

  • 115 E-Commerce Email Subject Lines to Boost Your Open Rate
  • The 41 Best E-Commerce Emails We’ve Ever Seen (2019 Update)
  • Our 10 Best Performing Emails

Plus 27+ other resources (and counting).

1. Personal Subject Lines

Years ago, including a person’s name in the subject was considered the epitome of personalization. 

Today, it’s all too common. No longer is it enough to address a recipient by name directly in the subject; you need to talk to recipients like you’ve known them for years.

Chubbies are my favorite example of a brand that beautifully illustrates this principle. Check out this subject line from an email Rikke received recently:

Rather than address the recipient by name, they use a nickname

Think about that for a moment. Being on first-name terms with someone is personal, but it’s not that personal. Your local Starbucks barista knows your name, but they don’t know you. A nickname, by contrast, is something that’s often given to you by someone who likes, knows, and trusts you. And that’s special.

In another email, one that builds on their approach to personalization further, they even mention Aarhus in the preview text, Rikke’s home city:

There is no Lake Aarhus. Nor is there for the majority of cities Chubbies have in their CRM. But it doesn’t matter. Subjects like the above are ultra-unique, personalized, and above all, enticing enough to get people to open their campaigns. 

And that’s what email marketing is all about.

Personal Subject Lines

  • 😏 Rikke – ready to move a few stubborn LBS?! 😏 (Flat Tummy Co)
  • Rikke! A Free Birchbox for You When You Gift (Birchbox)
  • Can’t decide, Rikke? Get Shiraz & Co NEW mix! (Vinomofo)
  • Rikke, you don’t want to miss this… (ColourPop Cosmetics)
  • Hey Seray, we picked these for you! (Fabletics)
  • Only the best for you, Seray (Fenty Beauty)
  • Seray, this is so you and it’s 70% off! (Fabletics)
  • Hey Seray, ready for some Disney magic? (Torrid)
  • We’d love your feedback, Seray! (Joybird)
  • Seen something you liked, Seray? (Esqido)
  • 1 DAY ONLY just for you, Seray! (American Eagle)
  • Seray, 🎁 Here’s a gift to make your weekend even BETTER (Frank and Oak)

2. Promotional Subject Lines

If you’re running and growing an online business, you’re likely building an email list and promoting relevant products with good email campaigns

And if you are, it’s likely that during certain holidays—such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday—you’re driving as many people as possible to your product pages during that period.

If that’s the case, and you’re looking to get more emails opened, then you can’t go wrong with promotional subject lines.

Often distinguishable by promises of savings and significant percentage reductions in price, promotional subject lines are most effective when they’re personalized, unexpected, and timely

The Iconic Shop knows that better than anyone.

During a recent Black Friday promotion, The Australian fashion brand distinguished themselves by avoiding any mention of Black Friday altogether and instead, opted for the following subject:

While other companies, including their competitors, sent mass, impersonal (albeit timely), emails, The Iconic Shop wrote a personalized subject line that related to each recipient. How often have we added something to our wish list only to forget about it, never to return? 

With a gentle nudge, The Iconic Shop took advantage of something subscribers already wanted, turning their email from annoying pest to a welcomed guest… 

And it’s something we can all use.

Promotional Subject Lines

  • Beauty You’ve Had Your 👀 on, Now with $20 OFF! (L’Occitane)
  • This is Not a Sale. It’s a Celebration. (United by Blue)
  • open to see our top picks of sale (Kate Spade)
  • Stop EVERYTHING! Up to 50% off ALL Dresses 🚨👗 (Miss Selfridge)
  • 50% off a bra that feels good. It’s REAL. (Aerie)
  • Save money. Don’t leave the couch. (Dollar Shave Club)
  • Your favorite jeans are 20% off 🙌 (Hollister)
  • The sale’s on SALE! 😱 (THE ICONIC)
  • This sale’s too BIG for subject li– (Moo)
  • 💡 THIS SALE IS LIT 💡 20% off all lighting (west elm)
  • The Only Sale That Matters… (Violet Grey)
  • ONLY $19.99 (or less) for all of THIS? (Urban Outfitters)
  • Early bird gets the sale (Paperless)

3. Funny Subject Lines

We’ve written before about humor in email marketing. And with good reason: People are more willing to buy more when in good humor. It doesn’t matter whether it’s apparel or coffee—if you’re making prospects and customers giggle when reading your emails, you’ll stay top of mind. 

One of my favorite brands that are using humor to their advantage is Brooklinen.

And you thought bedsheets were boring.

With provocative wordplay-based subject lines like “holy sheet” and my personal favorite, “zero bull sheet,” Brooklinen manages to strike a delicate balance between offending potential customers and humoring brand advocates.

But be warned: humor isn’t for every brand. It is, as I mentioned above, a fine line. And if your audience isn’t accustomed to clever wordplay, jokes, or senses of humor, it might backfire. Try it, by all means, but tread carefully.

Funny Subject Lines

  • How d’ya like your socks in the morning? 🍳 (Happy Socks)
  • “Does this come in black?” (Sweaty Betty)
  • It’s finally (mostly) sunny! (Sunski)
  • Great, another email! (Studio Neat)
  • Call me Thigh Fieri (Chubbies)
  • “Ahhhhhhh.”—Your feet (Huckberry)
  • [True or False]: Your beard loves to lift, bro. (Beardbrand)
  • SAAALE! Extra 40%! Sorry for yelling! (Bonobos)
  • Forget Your Troubles, Come On Get Matchy! (Patpat)
  • the fresh pants of bel-AYR (AYR)
  • Sure, you *could* send a fruit basket (Blue Apron)
  • Witches be crazy, and so is this box! 🎃 (Beauty Box)
  • Nope, still NOT going out of business. Enjoy 2 for $45! (Crocs)

4. Last Chance Subject Lines

If you’re an e-commerce marketer writing about often about strategies like scarcity and social proof and urgency, you might believe that you’re special; that you’re immune from the sinking sense of regret that accompanies passing on a bargain.

But you’re not special. Everyone is susceptible to the fear of missing out—including marketers. And it’s precisely that fear of missing out that online retailers can and will leverage to drive more opens, clicks, and conversions in their emails. 

When used genuinely (and we emphasize that strongly), urgency—that is, communicating it’s the last chance to buy a product due to scarcity of availability—is one of the best ways to nudge on the fence buyers to make a purchasing decision.   

Going beyond generic, often-used last chance subject lines such as “last day,” or “hours left,” L’Occitane stands head and shoulders above their competitors with their intriguing subject, “Your Final Notice: $10, $20, or $30 OFF?”

In addition to telling their subscribers it’s their final notice, they frame it as a question, too, inviting readers to reflect not on whether they want to partake, but how much they want to save. It’s simple framing, but in instances like the above, it works exceptionally well.

Last Chance Subject Lines

  • say goodbye to your exclusive 20% offer (tarte)
  • There’s Still Time To Save On These Exclusives (Violet Grey)
  • Clock’s ticking ⏲ 50% OFF 500+ items (Urban Outfitters)
  • BOGO free clearance is over in 5…4…3… (Torrid)
  • Buy One Get One Free OR ELSE (ThinkGeek)
  • It’s there and then it’s GONE. POOF. 💥 (The Spinsterz)
  • URGENT: Need by EOD 😉 (Snowe)
  • bye, bye, bye (Proven)
  • Don’t miss out on 30% off! (Third Love)
  • Ho Ho HURRY. There’s 20% off Christmas decorations ⛄ (west elm)
  • All good things come to an end… (One Kings Lane)
  • Better Late than Never. (Tuft & Needle)
  • Don’t let your offer go cold (Happy Socks)

5. Creative Subject Lines

American author Earl Nightingale once said, “If you want to be successful and don’t have a good model to follow, then take a look at what everyone else is doing and do the opposite.”

Nowhere is this perhaps more common than in e-commerce email marketing.

To get noticed—both online, in your prospects’ inboxes, and off—you need to get creative and resist the alluring familiarity of doing what other brands are doing. (Or worse, what you think they’re doing.)

In one recent campaign, we emailed users that started a free Sleeknote trial, thanking them for trying our software…

But with a twist.

In an attempt to do the opposite of what every other software company does—that is, overwhelming the reader with options—we wrote a blatantly exaggerated story. 

Here’s an excerpt from the email.

What’s more, to play on our excitement, we wrote the following subject line to drive curiosity. (More on that later.)

Emojis. Capitalization. Playing on a subscriber’s name and location (a la Chubbies). The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. You’ve seen what’s working for us. Now it’s your turn.  

Creative Subject Lines

  • It’s a plaid, plaid world (Torrid)
  • You Doughn’t Want to Miss Out on This Pair! 🍪 (Sock Fancy)
  • Flick here for vegan eyeliners ⚡ (Lush)
  • so long, milk(shea)ke 👋 (Function of Beauty)
  • Sun’s out, mugs out (Death Wish Coffee)
  • ereht ih (Chubbies)
  • Rum-pum-pum-pump up the holiday jams (Shinesty)
  • 10/10 would not wormhole again (Recess)
  • Ready. Sit. GO! ✈️🚗🏖️💩 (Poo~Pourri)
  • A Sale of ❄ and 🔥 (ThinkGeek)
  • Oh hey crochet! 👋 (Wool and the Gang)
  • Level up your lederhosen! 🍺 (Happy Socks)
  • Let the Festivi-TEAs begin! (Cup & Leaf)

6. Curiosity Subject Lines

“Marley was dead, to begin with…”

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen…”

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day…”

What do the above have in common? (Apart from frequently featuring in “best opening line” listicles?)

The answer is that they all open information gaps

When we experience a gap between what we know and what we want to know, our curiosity drives our need to acquire new knowledge to bridge that gap. [1]

You only need to go into your inbox and skim the subject lines to see this playing out in everyday life. 

Here’s one of my favorite recent examples from Chairish:

Whether intentional or not, there’s something about the phrasing of “they” rather than something specific such as “our customers” that moves you along to learn more. At least, that’s how I felt when reading.

IGK, by contrast, use a GIF to tease how “everybody is talking about Antisocial” before following with a few customer testimonials:

When it comes to following copywriting best practices, the more specificity, the better, of course. But if you’re tangled in the social proof paradox, fighting to get noticed, it might just be enough to make an impression.

Social Proof Subject Lines

  • Fans are getting REAL about new Studio Fix Stick 👀 (MAC Cosmetics)
  • Don’t just take our word for it. (Framebridge)
  • We’ve Heard Some Good Things… 😊 (Birchbox)
  • Yeah, what they said (Morphe)
  • Guess what Olivia Buckland is wearing? 👀🔥 (Beauty Bay)
  • “Crown jewel of sweatshirts.” (Aerie)
  • Find Out Why This Fave Is Sold Every 10 Secs… (Origins)
  • “Want.” — everyone (Huckberry)
  • You might have some questions (Warby Parker)
  • Rumor has it.. (IGK)
  • Your absolute faves🌟 (Brandless)
  • our NEW palette has ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (tarte)
  • Transparency is kind of our thing. (Ritual)

7. Social Proof Subject Lines

Brian Dean of Backlinko recently introduced an idea he calls “the social proof paradox.”

Here’s how he explains it:

 

 

While a nice to have, product reviews and celebrity endorsements aren’t always a necessity. Sometimes, a quote or two, prefaced with an information gap, is enough to get people opening their emails and clicking through to learn more.

Care/of, for instance, a supplements subscription service, titles one email with “Word on the street” before prefacing three quote testimonials with, “They said it best: Care/of is the easiest way to figure out what vitamins to take.”

You know that the email isn’t really for your eyes only; everyone who segmented themselves like you is getting this email, too. Yet, despite that insider knowledge, you can’t help but open the email to learn what information you are privy to hear.

There’s another specific way to evoke curiosity that’s essential when writing good subject lines…

But I’ll save that for another article. 😉

In the meantime, remember the golden rule of writing curiosity-driven subject lines: always deliver in the body of the email. No one, after all, wants to feel like you duped them into opening an email they would have otherwise ignored.

Curiosity Subject Lines

  • Have You Seen Sheep Dance? (Allbirds)
  • You’re Invited (Birchbox)
  • THIS is: High-performance ✅ sustainable ✅ already our best seller ✅ (Frank and Oak)
  • When life gives you cupcakes… (Johnny Cupcakes)
  • It’s Arrived. (Huckberry)
  • Shhh… Don’t tell anyone (ESQIDO)
  • Is it your lucky day? (Death Wish Coffee)
  • You can’t come in (Glossier)
  • They did WHAT with a pair of Crocs? (Crocs)
  • Your hair care routine is missing something… (Function of Beauty)
  • they said it couldn’t be done (Recess)
  • What you’ve been waiting for 🌈 (Away)
  • You’ve never seen a suit this color… (Shinesty)

8. Follow Up Subject Lines

If you’re anything like me, you tend to think of following up as something you do after out of courtesy after a job interview or meeting with a prospective buyer.

But as we’ve learned after trawling through our inboxes, that’s not always the case.

To our surprise, online retailers are just as good, if not better, than B2B companies at following up with potential buyers that have—or are at risk of—falling through the cracks.

Take cart abandonment, for instance, a problem that plagues online retailers, daily.

With as many as seven out of every ten visitors abandoning their cart before purchasing, there’s enormous potential to follow up, overcome potential objections, and clinch an otherwise lost sale.

One of my favorite recent examples of a brand following up is Proven.

After Rachel, our marketing intern, abandoned her cart while researching a post, she got an email informing her—both, in the subject line and the body—that Proven had, “reserved her spot in the queue.”

Whether they’re aware of it or not, Proven uses reciprocity—our tendency to respond to a positive action with another positive action—to invite potential buyers to return to their cart and complete your order. 

And judging by the number of other retailers using similar methods, in email and other marketing channels, it’s something to consider (especially when coupled with a sense of urgency). 

Follow Up Subject Lines

  • Your Place in Line is Going, Going… (Proven)
  • All You Have To Do Is Get What You Want (Too Faced)
  • Let’s make a plan (Care/of)
  • You Should Sleep on Big Decisions. (Tuft & Needle)
  • Whalen felt the connection (Warby Parker)
  • Still thinking it over? Maybe this will help… (Sock Fancy)
  • should you buy expensive skin care (Y’OUR)
  • The 2nd rule of Vinomofo: never leave a wine behind. (Vinomofo)
  • More about our Sweety Flared Bandage Dress (The Kewl Shop)
  • There must have been a mistake, you left this behind (Fab)
  • Trust your instincts. (Bath & Body Works)
  • Just lookin out for you 🙂 (AYR)
  • You left your stuff at our place… (Shinesty)

Free Downloadable Bonus

Want 115 Good E-Commerce Subject Lines?

Get access to our best e-commerce email marketing resources including: 

  • 115 E-Commerce Email Subject Lines to Boost Your Open Rate
  • The 41 Best E-Commerce Emails We’ve Ever Seen (2019 Update)
  • Our 10 Best Performing Emails

Plus 27+ other resources (and counting).

Conclusion

Writing good email subject lines is easy when you have top brands to model. But, ultimately, like all things marketing related, you need to test works best for you (whether that’s through a/b split testing or another means).

There’s no magic bullet; no one-size-fits-all approach. And the sooner you realize that, the faster you will cultivate a flair for writing subject lines that drive opens, clicks, and conversions and achieve the results you know your business deserves.

What’s your favorite subject line? Leave a comment below.

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