Email Subject lines: Top 3 Tips for 2020

Subject lines, pre-headers, email content and even footers – they all have their roles to play in marketing emails. Today, we want to take a look at the top 3 tips for email subject lines for 2020.

#1: Subject Line Length Can Impact Your Open Rate

There are lots of devices that your email could land to. Let’s take Android as an example – there are so many different devices that are Android-powered. Check out this lengthy Wikipedia’s list to help you imagine! Now add all the Android versions, Apple devices, a variety of apps people use to access their inboxes, and… it’s not an easy job to make your email work well across all of them.

And that’s not going to change with all the different mobile phones and tablets being released each year. Therefore, the first subject line tip that stays current these past few years is to count those subject line characters. Make your subject lines more mobile-friendly.

There have been several studies released showing that shorter subject lines get more opens. And that’s a global trend – whether you’re in the USA, Germany or Estonia – people tend to notice shorter subject lines.

Let’s take Italy as an example. According to Statista, in 2018, the most opened subject lines had:

  1. 10-20 characters (35.5% open rate)
  2. 20-30 characters (33.4% open rate)
  3. 30-40 characters (30.2% open rate).

The open rates gradually decrease as the subject line lengths increase.

Not sure if short subject lines can look good? Yes, they can – here are some examples:

Subject lines example

One other thing to add – there are always exceptions to the rules. You might operate in a very specific industry segment, especially B2B, where YOUR contacts have particular requirements for your subject lines. They might want you to include specific words, phrases or keywords – to help your subscribers create filters or apply other rules to your emails more easily. Always try to listen to your clients’ feedback.

#2: Subject Line Personalisation – Beyond the First Name

By now, many companies have started to embrace personalisation – but, at this point, it usually represents the title/first/last name in the subject line.

However, on the positive side, more and more marketers are starting to feel somewhat confident with personalisation techniques, thus in 2020, we should start seeing more personalised subject lines, hopefully going beyond the *first-name* merge field.

Data use biggest hurdle for hyper-personalisation

Statista: Data use biggest hurdle for hyper-personalisation.


According to Statista, back in 2018, companies saw data usage as the biggest obstacle for hyper-personalisation, but as increasingly more businesses understand the value that their databases and clean data hold, more will discover the possibilities of personalisation:

Not sure how else to personalise the subject lines? Here are some quick suggestions:

  • location
  • purchase history
  • e-shop browsing data
  • abandoned cart information
  • devices used to open your emails.

#3: Subject Line Creativity – Fight for Attention

2019 brought lots of creativity in the subject lines. While some marketers fight for attention by adding emojis into their subject lines, others look for catchy sayings, words or phrases. Here are some examples:

Creative subject line examples

In 2020, we’ll most likely see more and more marketers put their creative hats on when thinking about subject lines. We all want our emails to be noticed in the usual inbox clutter.

But that said, always remember that while you’re trying to get attention with super-creative subject lines, you need to prioritise clarity first. You don’t want to use an out-of-the-box subject line that has nothing to do with your email content. That would most certainly cause disappointment – and could lead to unsubscribes or even abuse complaints. Be creative, but also to the point!

What to keep in Mind:

  • People tend to notice shorter subject lines
  • You can personalise the subject line in various ways

Next: Pre-headers in Marketing Emails

Next time, we’ll learn about pre-headers in emails – another important email part that is getting increasingly more attention (well-deserved!). Make sure you check our blog regularly and don’t forget to subscribe to our emails. Or you may want to follow up our last blog post how to Attract Attention in Email Marketing – 9 Commandments for Newsletter Creators – if you’ve missed it out.