Emoji for Email: Should You Use Emojis in Subject Lines?

If you’re not using emojis in subject lines, it’s not too late to test. Find out how other niche publishers are using emoji for email.

Have you been seeing emojis in subject lines lately? They’re not just the earrings of the inbox, they actually serve a purpose— increasing open rates! And since several of our clients have been testing them and seeing success, we figured it was time to talk more about sending smiles 😀, poops 💩, and prayers 🙏🏻 in subject lines.

The main concern about using emoji for email, is if users will be turned off by them. Will they see them as silly, or will they be intrigued to click and read? Can they be over-used, or should they only be used once in awhile?

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The answer is that you will only find out if you try. You’ll know when you test out emojis in subject lines, and your audience may respond completely different than another.

Here’s a fun example from our client, Countryside:

Another client, Yankee, is using them regularly, and perfectly contextual as you can see below:

Earlier this year, one of our clients was the first to do some formal emoji subject line tests. In all but one test, the emoji subject line was either the winner, or had a modest (but statistically insignificant) lift. The lift ranged from 1.3% to 10.6%. According to a report by Experian, 56% of brands who have tried using emojis in subject lines increased their open rates.

You’ll notice in the emoji subject line examples above, only one emoji is used, and at the beginning. These aren’t hard and fast rules, however using them at the beginning ensures they don’t get lopped off by the email reader, and by limiting it to one emoji, you’re less likely to cut your subject line short, too.

You can perform emoji tests on your own by setting up an A/B subject line test (or several) and using the same subject line with one variation: an emoji.

Some advice from ReturnPath tells us that if you’re looking to test emojis you should:

  • Only test a segment of your list and see if it improves open rates.
  • Use emojis that are contextual, rather than trying to get a laugh with a poop emoji on an article about car maintenance.
  • Try not to overuse emojis, or you’ll notice their effectiveness will reduce over time.
  • Test your emails to make sure the emojis you’re using don’t break in different email browsers.

This is based on a year’s worth of testing subject lines with emojis in their Emoji Use in Email Subject Lines report. It’s a great report to download if you’re thinking about using emojis in subject lines because it also shows which emojis perform better. In some cases, the emails with the best open rates also had the highest complaint rates, while others had huge open rates and no complaints. It goes to show that the emoji you choose could be just as important as the subject line itself!

If you want to learn more about improving your audience development efforts, download our free report, How to Increase Your Audience and Decrease Your Marketing Budget today. If you’re looking for support in your digital marketing efforts and are transitioning your legacy publishing business to the digital world, schedule a call with us to chat more about your journey and how we can help.


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