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115 Best E-Commerce Subject Lines We Couldn’t Help But Click [2018]

  • Email Marketing

Want to learn how to write subject lines that get more clicks? Then this article is for YOU.

Today, I’ll show you how top e-commerce brands like Casper and Beardbrand get their emails opened using “persuasion triggers.” Plus, I’ll show how you can leverage them to write eye-catching subject lines for your campaigns.

(Meaning higher open rates and more sales for your online store.)

Let’s get started.

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

  • 115 E-Commerce Email Subject Lines We Couldn’t Help But Click
  • The 41 Best E-Commerce Emails We’ve Ever Seen (2018 Update)
  • Casper’s $750 Million Marketing Toolkit

Plus 21 other resources (and counting).

Use These 11 Persuasion Triggers to Get More Opens

Authority. Scarcity. Liking.

What do they all have in common?

They’re all examples of persuasion triggers—researched-backed ways to motivate and influence buyers to open your emails.

Below are 11 of my favorite. Click a link to jump to one of interest (#9 is my favorite.):

1. Personalization

In 1936, Dale Carnegie wrote one of the most influential books of all time, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

In it, Carnegie shared one of his simplest, yet most important findings after years of researching human behavior:

“A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

It’s no surprise, then, that many e-tailers include the recipient’s name when writing subject lines.

In fact, emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. Further, many marketers have found a 73% increase in revenue per email:

Known for their playful humor, Chubbies often use the recipient’s name in their subject lines. A recent one I got from them read, “Future Sam’s Favorite Trunks.”

Here’s an excerpt.

It’s playful, it got me to think of their product, and most importantly, it made me click the email to learn more. What more could you want?

Personalization Subject Lines

  • Chubbies: “Future Sam’s Favorite Trunks.”
  • Chubbies: “we made new free gifts for you, Sam”
  • Curioos: “John, is this the product you’ve been waiting for?”
  • Estée Lauder: “Rikke! Receive a Free Full-Size Advanced Night Repair Eye, with your purchase.”
  • kikki.K: “It’s time to get too personal John”
  • Saucey: “Dear John…”
  • ThinkGeek: “You deserve a little something extra, John!”

2. Scarcity

We all like to believe that we’re rational beings and make the right decisions for ourselves.

But you and I know that’s not always the case.

In truth, many of our purchasing decisions are influenced by our fear of missing out.

To paraphrase author Robert Cialdini, we’re more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.

In other words, it’s not that we’re driven by our desire to gain a new purchase (like one would expect). Rather, we’re driven by our fear of missing out (FOMO).

If a product is scarce, and there’s a chance it might run—we want it (if, of course, we care about it, to begin with).

Scarcity is often an overused and misunderstood persuasion trigger. So here’s a brief refresher on the different types of scarcity including examples of when and how to use it.

 

i. Scarcity of availability  

Marketers are hyper-aware of our fear of missing out.

It’s why they remind consumers to “Hurry! Buy while stocks last!” and why they warn, “Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”

Violet Grey mention limited availability of certain items of stock in their emails for this very reason.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent email I got with the subject line, “Get Them Before They’re Gone”:

If you have limited availability for a particular item—tell your customers. The fear of missing out on a bargain moves people in a big way.

ii. Scarcity of cost

Let’s face it:

We LOVE coupons.

And if you’re like 93% of retail consumers, you redeemed one recently to buy a product you wanted or always use.

While discounting goods can be an effective way for retailers to increase revenue (when done right), it’s more effective when it’s paired with scarcity.

After all, we all want to avoid pain and gain pleasure. And if we know we’ll experience pain from NOT taking action, we’re more likely to buy.

Crocs use scarcity of time AND money to boost revenue in their subject line, “You have one more day: 50% OFF select clogs, flips and sandals”:

Scarcity is a powerful principle of persuasion. No doubt about that. But be careful:

You need to use it ethically.

When we experience false scarcity—among other overused marketing tactics—we’re far less likely to buy.

As one study found, “When consumers interpreted scarcity claims as a sales tactic, the positive effect of scarcity claims on product evaluation [became] diluted.”

Use it wisely.

Scarcity Subject Lines

  • ASICS Tiger: “Get it before it’s gone…”
  • Bombas: “These Bombas Are Almost 100% Gone Forever”
  • Brooklinen: “Say Goodbye”
  • Death Wish Coffee Co: “Limited Edition: All New Death Wish New Era”
  • Estée Lauder: “Choose or Lose! Free Gift Worth up to $210, with your purchase.”
  • HomeAway: “Your dream vacation rental could be gone tomorrow”
  • ThinkGeek: “Missing out on this sale would be highly illogical.”
  • Crate & Barrel: “ENDS TODAY: 4 Pre-Thanksgiving sales (gobble them up).”
  • J. Crew Factory: “One more chance to get 35% off!”

3. Authority

There’s a reason we pull over when we see a flashing beacon in our rearview mirror. Or, why we’re inclined to take medical advice from a person with letters after their name:

We have a natural tendency to obey authority.

But what’s interesting is, when it comes to marketing, we’re not always driven by authority, alone. Rather, we’re driven by their perception of authority.

Put another way, we’re influenced by who we believe has authority.

One way to show authority is to “borrow” it from other authorities. Here’s a good example from a recent email from Huckberry, titled, “De Niro’s Jacket”:

If you’re a film buff, you recognize De Niro’s name immediately. And when you click through to read more, it’s easy to link De Niro, an authority in the movie industry, to Huckberry, given that they’re selling a jacket made famous by the actor.

Another way to show authority is by telling the reader to take a specific action.

A good example of a brand doing this is Away. When I abandoned my cart, they sent me an email with the subject line, “Don’t leave without this”:

Be aware: if you don’t have existing credibility with your audience, telling readers what to do CAN backfire. (After all, no one likes being told what to do).

Authority Subject Lines

  • ban.do: “warehouse sale. next weekend. be there.”
  • Huckberry: “The Rundown w/ Modern Family’s Ty Burrell”
  • Estée Lauder Online: “Give The Glow ✨ Shop New Limited Edition Skincare Gifts”

4. Curiosity

How often were you warned as a child, “Do NOT push that button”?

Now:

How often did you actually obey your parent’s wishes?

Rarely, right?

And who can blame you—curiosity is a powerful motivator.

Our need to bridge the gap between what we know and what we need to know is what we refer to as “the curiosity gap.”

In e-commerce email marketing, we can’t help but please our curiosity when we’re given a compelling reason to click-through (or NOT to click-through).

REBEL8 creates intrigue in their readers by telling them what NOT to do with their subject line, “*Don’t Open This Email*”:

They know having an email inviting you NOT to open is too good to ignore. And as you can tell from the above image, I couldn’t help myself.

To build curiosity into your subject lines, ask readers an intriguing question like Curioos:

Or, make a promise that offers an immediate payoff upon opening, as Fab does with their subject line, “You’re gonna wanna see this”:

Bottom line:

Always deliver on what you’re teasing. No one enjoys an unfulfilling cliffhanger.

Curiosity Subject Lines

  • Brooklinen: “Hmm… what’s this?”
  • Mack Weldon: “Looking for this?”
  • AYR: “You win”
  • Bonobos: “Too busy to read this email?”
  • Chubbies: “STOP BUYING US”
  • Estée Lauder: “Did you know?”
  • Kate Spade: “you have to see what’s in this bag”
  • Moo: “✨Wanna see something special? ✨”
  • ban.do: “good news inside”
  • NOWH3R3: “Sick Sad World 😷😢🌎”
  • Shinesty: “we just killed pajamas”

5. Utility

In 2011, Jonah Berger, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, carried out a research study analyzing why certain articles go viral.

Among his discoveries, Berger found useful content is shared more often.

In his book, Contagious, he writes,

People like to help others, so if we can show them how our products or ideas will save time, improve health, or save money, they’ll spread the word.

Jonah Berger

While the above is applicable to writing headlines, the same principle can be applied to writing subject lines.

The goal, with your campaigns, remember, isn’t to increase brand awareness or boost revenue—it’s to add value to your audience.

And there’s no better way to do that than creating useful content and notifying readers of such with appropriate subject lines.

Everlane always email their subscribers actionable content that they can apply immediately after reading.

I recently got an email with the subject line, “The Denim Jacket: 3 Ways To Wear”:

Providing value isn’t only applicable to marketers, though. In fact, it’s especially important in industries like e-commerce, where most campaigns are promotional.

Beardbrand varies their emails by offering content that solves common challenges for their audience.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent email with the subject line, “[New Video!] Dealing with Beard Patches”:

Rather than ONLY send promotional campaigns, vary the content of your emails with helpful resources, videos and other content. Your audience will thank you for it, and when varied with promotional emails, it will make a noticeable difference to your bottom line.

Utility Subject Lines

  • ArtSnacks: “Here’s what you’ll learn in the next WatercolorSnacks Box!🎨”
  • Chairish: “Break These 5 Design Rules”
  • HomeAway: “4 festivals to inspire your next trip”
  • J.Crew FACTORY: “Need some style inspo? Check this out…”
  • Muuto: “Gift Inspiration for the Holidays”
  • Roccamore: “A shoelover’s ultimate shoe care guide 👠”
  • VIOLET GREY: “How To Prep Your Skin For Fall”

6. Numbers

You already know the effectiveness of adding numbers to your headlines.

One study by Conductor found headlines with numbers tend to generate 73% more social shares and engagement.

Whatsmore, in a meta-analysis of more than 300 articles about online learning, Abreena Tompkins found “grouping information in parcels of three or five can help people absorb information better.”

And it’s true: headlines with odd numbers tend to perform better than even numbers.

The best part is using numbers doesn’t just apply to headlines; it applies to subject lines, too.

Check out this recent email I got from ban.do:

Their subject line?

“There are 27 strawberries in this email.”

Their email not only creates curiosity (“Why are there 27 strawberries in the email”?), but it also uses an ultra-specific number to capture the reader’s attention.

Win. Win.

Number-Based Subject Lines

  • Birchbox: “FREE Limited Edition Box (a $129 Value!) to Start the Fun”
  • Chairish: “Just Added: 100+ Parisian Finds”
  • Chubbies: “Free 222-day shipping”
  • Kate Spade: “just $99 for this crossbody…”
  • Old Navy: “Thousands (yes! thousands!) of styles from $5”
  • Hotels.com: “📣 3 days only! Up to 50% off in our Flash Sale”
  • Birchbox Man: “This Week: 20% Off Exclusive Sets”

7. Social Proof

Commonly associated with customer testimonials, social proof is one of the oldest triggers in a marketer’s arsenal (not to mention one of the most effective).

Simply put, social proof describes our tendency to look to and accept the actions of others as a way to behave.  

As Cialdini writes in his book, Influence, “The greater the number of people who find [an] idea is correct, the more the idea will be correct.”

So, if you have a product you want to sell more of, why not tell your audience how popular it is?

In fact, that’s exactly what Casper do.

While researching for my post on Casper’s marketing strategy, I got the following email with the subject line, “Thinking of Casper? Here’s What Others Are Saying”:

Social proof subject lines are only as powerful as the testimonials that go with them. So, remember to back up everything you claim in the subject line—and in the body of your email.

Social Proof Subject Lines

  • Brooklinen: “‘really great!’ – our moms”
  • Vinomofo: “Halliday said: ‘Your eyes will likely open agog – this is special stuff.’”
  • AYR: “The jean that everybody wants”
  • Birchbox: “Customers Can’t Get Enough of Our “One for All” Box”
  • Brooklinen: “‘Totally Impressed.’”
  • Crocs: “Meet some of the Crocs staff’s favorites, now 30% OFF!”
  • Firebox: “Don’t just take our word for it 💬”
  • Glossier: “‘My favorite Glossier product of all time…’”
  • Poo~Pourri: “‘Absolute must have!’”
  • Snakehive: “Our 5* Reviews”
  • VIOLET GREY: “‘My complexion feels like velvet!’”
  • Warby Parker: “Look who’s Wearing Warby”

8. Urgency

So far, we’ve learned that scarcity of availability and scarcity of cost drive buyers to act. But for them to act NOW, they need to feel a sense of urgency.

Where scarcity taps into people’s fears of missing out (“Get ’em before they’re gone!”), urgency increases people’s chances of acting without hesitating (“Act now!”).

It’s why brands like Homeaway use subject lines like, “Act fast! Holiday stays are in demand”:

And, why others, like Levi’s, invites users to, “Hurry!” because “This sale ends soon.”

Remember, importance proceeds urgency.

Like scarcity, buyers have to CARE about what you’re selling before they can feel a sense of loss and a desire to act. So remember to focus on the benefits of what you’re selling and why buyers need to act NOW.

Urgency Subject Lines

  • Vinomofo: “300 minutes of free shipping – starts now! ⚡”
  • AYR: “Ending in 10…9…8…”
  • Bonobos: “Don’t wait, extra 50% off sale items is almost kaput.”
  • Brooklinen: “Party’s Almost Over”
  • Crate and Barrel: “Don’t snooze. Bedroom furniture sale ends tomorrow.”
  • Crocs: “Dun-dun-dun… Buy one, get one 60% OFF ends today!”
  • Firebox: “We don’t want to stress you out, but…”
  • Happy Socks: “Blink and you’ll miss it”
  • Herman Miller: “The design is timeless, but the sale isn’t.”
  • Levi’s: “You almost missed out…”
  • Old Navy: “WARNING: may experience FOMO if you *don’t* click this deal”

9. Reciprocity

Reciprocity is a powerful principle of persuasion because it works with the foot in the door technique: the tactic of starting with a little request to gain eventual compliance with related larger requests.

In other words, if a prospect complies with a request (like opting in for a lead magnet), they’re more likely to follow larger request down the line (such as buying a high-ticket item).

Like many subscription box services, Dollar Shave Club offers new members their first box free for this very reason.

In one email, they remind new subscribers to sign up with the subject line, “Don’t miss your FREE month of Dollar Shave Club.”

Dollar Shave Club is able to offer so much value up front because they know their customers will reciprocate down the line and become lifelong customers.

Further, they imply urgency by writing “Don’t miss your FREE month.” That’s the power of combining good e-commerce copywriting and words that sell.

Reciprocity Subject Lines

  • J.Crew Factory: “It’s about time we treated YOU. Open for more…”
  • kikki.K: “Gifts for everyone on your list 🎁”
  • Birchbox Man: “Score a FREE Winter Essentials Bundle When You Join”
  • Doggyloot: “Free Bag of Treats!”
  • Old Navy: “Code inside! You made the cut for 30% OFF EVERYTHING —>”
  • Wool and the Gang: “Free Worldwide Shipping Starts NOW”
  • Design Within Reach: “Weekend’s almost over. So is free shipping.”

10. Salience

Take a look at the following email subject lines.

Which ones (if any) capture your attention?

The one with the emoji, right?

Why?

Because emojis in subject lines create salience.

In fact, according to a report by Experian, 56% of brands using emojis in their email subject lines have higher open rates.

AYR recently sent an email that was nothing but emojis:

A little excessive? Maybe. But it got me to click.

Using emojis isn’t the only way to get noticed. You can also CAPITALIZE certain catchy words like Johnny Cupcakes do in their email titled, “LAST CHANCE for Bakeball Pre-Order!!”. (Notice the inclusion of scarcity, too.)

My favorite way of triggering salience?

Vary the length of your email subject lines.

One King’s Lane often writes long subject lines. But occasionally, like in the recent email I got, they focus on one word. In the below email, the subject line was simply, “Ornaments!”

Sure, it’s non-specific, but it stands out in an inbox full of long subject lines.

Salient Subject Lines

  • Chairish: “Fulk Yeah!”
  • Chubbies: “ReVeRsIBLe jAcKeTs”
  • Old Navy: “💫 AAAAAALLLL JEANS, DRESSES & TEES ARE ON SALE! 💫”
  • Poo~Pourri: “How do astronauts 💩 in space?”
  • Design within Reach: “Guest room = best room”
  • Happy Socks: “There’s still time to save!⏰”
  • Chubbies: “iiiiiiiiiiittttttsssssss haaaaaappppeeeeennnniiiiinnnggggg”

11. Liking

We prefer to say yes to a request of people we like, know and trust over those we don’t. Nothing new there.

As Cialdini’s writes,

We like people who are similar to us. This fact seems to hold true whether the similarity is in the area of opinions, personality traits, background, or lifestyle.

Robert Cialdini

But what might surprise you is you can use this principle in your subject lines to trigger liking and build commonality—fast.

One example of a brand doing this is Kate Spade. They write words like “totes” to speak the language of their buyer persona and create more familiarity with their audience.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent email I got with the subject line: “totes under $200? yes please!”

A final word on jargon: like many principles of persuasion, don’t overuse it.

If you’re selling electrical items, for instance, outline the features in clear, easy-to-understand language, but always sell the benefits in a way that resonates with your audience.

Liking Subject Lines

  • Chubbies: “missed bitcoin? don’t miss this…”
  • AYR: “Softwear Update”
  • Chairish: “Scalamandre all day”
  • Estée Lauder: “All About That Base: It’s Glow Time”
  • Fab: “Generation Yaaaaaaas.”
  • Huckberry: “007’s Sunglasses”
  • Misfit: “It’s Strapapalooza!”
  • One Kings Lane: “Luxe living, Aspen style”
  • SSENSE: “Fêteing with Palomo Spain”
  • The Kewl Shop: “** LBD **”
  • ThinkGeek: “You are one with the Star Wars Sale, and the Star Wars Sale is with you.”
  • Red Rooster Coffee: “Treat yo self! Sale ends tonight.  🎃”
  • One King Lane: “F.J. Kashanian rugs (including new and oversize styles)”

Free Downloadable Bonus

Want More E-Commerce Subject Lines?

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

  • 115 E-Commerce Email Subject Lines We Couldn’t Help But Click
  • The 41 Best E-Commerce Emails We’ve Ever Seen (2018 Update)
  • Casper’s $750 Million Marketing Toolkit

Plus 21 other resources (and counting).

The Best Email Subject Lines Come from You

If you want to get noticed in readers’ inboxes, you need to write eye-catching subject lines.

Using the above persuasion triggers will help. But ultimately, you need to develop your own style.

Yes, it takes time. And it’s hard, especially if you’re not a good copywriter. But if you work at it, you will get better. And having to think of “good” email subject lines will be the least of your concerns.

Which persuasion trigger will you use in your next marketing campaign? Leave a comment below.

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