Thursday 5 August 2010

Can I get you to read this?

Where in traditional Direct Mail the envelope design took on the role of trying to entice the recipient to be interested enough to open and spend proper time considering the contents, in the online world the email subject line has the same job put is hampered by being purely text.

Unless it’s from someone you know well or a business you have a regular relationship with, that particular email is fighting for attention with all the others that flood in along relating to work, social life and all the emails saying their various non-existent online bank accounts have been suspended (I hope it isn’t just me getting those).

A good example of an email subject that does its job is from Tier1 Online (a computer/electronics supplier) who I get an email from most workdays, an example of a recent subject line being ‘Netbook clearance Archos 10 Windows XP netbook only £169’, from this I don’t need to read the email, if I’m interested I’ll open, if not, I’ll leave it.

A not so good example are the emails I get from Staples, with examples such as ‘FREE Flying Lanterns – offer ends tomorrow!’ and ‘FREE Cocktail Set!’ which are just wrong on a number of levels:

1. What on earth do these products have to do with a stationery/office supplies company?
2. Everybody wishes they worked for a cool, fun brand but exclamation marks have their place and it isn’t here
3. In the body of the flying lanterns email (I only looked for research purposes) is a banner at the bottom saying ‘10% off Ink and Toner’ which actually is relevant to me (if not the most exciting thing in the world)

For me the main things to consider are:

1. Avoid generic terms such as ‘August Newsletter’ or ‘Great Gift Ideas’, these aren’t going to tip the balance and make me bother to open the email
2. A bit of personalisation might help as it’s a quick way of sorting the real from the spam (e.g., ebay emails contain my user ID so I know they are genuine)
3. Test, Test, Test: if ‘FREE Flying Lanterns’ really is the best way to get people to buy paper clips and post-it notes then go for it but if not try out different options to improve your open rates, click through rates and ultimately sales

Dan Barnett
Director of Analytics