Higher open rates for emails without offers in subject line

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Emails with specific offers in the subject line generate significantly lower engagement than those without.

Open rates for emails without offers in the subject line were 28% higher than those with offers. According to new data from Yes Lifecycle Marketing's Yesmail360, the click and click-to-open rates were also 67% and 34% higher without an offer in the subject line.

Although the emails with the word "deal" in the subject lines, without a specific offer, had the highest open rates, click rates and click-to-open rates, they only generated a conversion rate of 1.5%. 

The study analyzed nearly 8 billion emails across several industries. The report found that one in three marketing emails and half of retail marketing emails had a subject line containing a specific offer or incentive, such as a discount or free shipping. These subject lines, with "% off" or "free shipping," drove the highest conversion rates for retailers, at 7.9% and 7.6% respectively—but emails that did not include explicit offers generated higher engagement.

However, emails with offers related to loyalty incentives boasted a 9% higher open rate, a 20% higher click rate and a 12% higher click-to-open rate compared to campaigns with no offers. 

There were some surprising findings in the report, according to Ivy Shtereva, director of marketing, Yes Lifecycle Marketing, the first surprise being that almost half, 44%, of retail emails boast an offer in the subject line. Second, emails with specific offers generate significantly lower engagement than those without. 

"The consumer inbox is certainly a competitive space, and marketers have, in growing numbers, started to send multiple offers to pique subscriber interest and incentivize engagement. What we discovered, however, is that aggressive offers in every other email are not the best approach to make a brand stand out," Shtereva told FierceRetail. "Many brands feel the need to go over-the-top with offers, but in order for them to work, they need to be meaningful to consumers."

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According to Shtereva, the report shows that marketers praise email as a great channel for building relationships, but many brands are still missing an opportunity by treating email primarily as a sales vehicle.

"The fact that email continues to generate the highest marketing ROI is a function of its versatility; it’s used to welcome new consumers into a brand’s family, to communicate the brand vision, to introduce followers to the latest products, to thank them for their purchase or loyalty, to wish them happy birthday and everything in between. In short, what this report’s findings tell us is that there is a huge opportunity for brands to do more with email," she added.

The report also pointed out some of the biggest challenges facing email marketers today, including personalization. In fact, more than half of marketers admitted that their personalization efforts are weak. Therefore, 68% said they want to improve email personalization and hope to do so this year. 

"And with generic offer emails generating 28% lower open rates than emails without offer incentives, it's evident that even a great deal can't compete with relevant content," Shtereva said.