Improve your email open rates

Improve your email open rates

5 minute marketing strategies are brought to you by our Founder, award-winning ethical marketing strategist Sian Conway. Read and implement them on your coffee break to get better results from your marketing with these easy, proven tips!

Easy ways to get more emails opened and increase your sales


Are you emailing your list this week?

Hearing tumbleweeds?

It’s one of the biggest retail weeks of the year, which means your subscribers are getting bombarded by everyone trying to promote their Black Friday deals.

Whether you’re discounting or not, it’s a good time to get in touch, remind them you’re here and secure your space on their shopping list…

But that won’t work if they don’t open their email in the first place.

It’s time to get creative with subject lines!

How many unread emails are currently in your inbox (or trash, if you’re organised) with subject lines like:

SALE now on!
Black Friday discounts inside..

…and more? (These are all real emails sitting in mine, which I have yet to open and will probably send straight to trash )

Why isn’t this working?

Because as a shopper, I’m still at the awareness/interest stage of my journey (top of the sales funnel) – I’m scoping out gift ideas and finding brands I like, but I’m not quite ready to buy.

All of these subject lines are talking to buyers who are at the decision stage…they’re ready to buy and just want a discount.

Anybody else higher up your sales funnel isn’t even going to open the email, which means they’ll stay stuck at that stage and won’t buy from you.

Plus, these subject lines are all about what’s in it for you – the brand.

You want their money, and that’s the subtext of these subject lines (even when you are offering a discount).

In fact, anecdotally, lots of ethical brands say that discounts don’t work for their core audience.

It takes time to build consumer trust, but when an conscious consumer is ready to buy, they’ll skip the discount code and pay full price because they’re here to support you and your values.

(Of course, this won’t be true for everyone, is something to test with your audience, and will change if you’re trying to target a more mainstream consumer base).

So what should you do instead?

If you’ve already sent one (or more) of those sales-focused emails – make a note of your open rate before you put these tips into action so you can see if they improve your stats. Marketing is all about testing what works for your audience!

👉  Change the subject!

A captivating subject line is key to improve your open rates, and the first step to getting your sales messages seen by potential customers.

It’s about them, not you!

Make it something intriguing, appeal to their curiosity, and focus on something they care about (not discounts!)

I recently helped a client increase her open rate from 13.9% to 28% – which meant 68 more people opening her email, with the subject line…

“I call 🐮💩” [Image description: cow emoji, poop emoji]

Her brand is all about being outspoken and provocative. She sells ethical fashion and lifts the lid on the shady practices used by fast fashion brands, so this bold style fit perfectly with her brand and captivated her subscriber’s curiosity…

Resulting in 68 new people warming up and getting ready to buy from her…without a penny spent on advertising!

🎯 What does good look like?

Experts say that between 15 – 25% open rate indicates good email health…but obviously the higher your open rate the more potential customers you’re reaching, so aim high!

👉 Get personal!

With all these sales messages flying in, shoppers are feeling like just another number on the list to most brands. And that’s not going to build the trusting relationship you need to make a sale.

If you capture people’s name when they sign up, you can easily personalise your emails to them in most email marketing platforms.

Emails with first names in the subject line get higher open rates than those that don’t, so try making it personal!

👉  Use an emoji

56% of brands that use emojis have higher open rates, so try experimenting with them in your subject lines.

Especially at busy times when our inboxes are overwhelmed, a well placed emoji will visually draw the eye into your email and increase your chances of getting seen!

Need some more sparks of inspiration?

Of course, to do this, you need some email content that isn’t focused purely on your discount codes, limited stock or product updates.

Wondering what you can send?

Behaviour change expert Livvy Drake joined the #EthicalHour community for a masterclass in connecting with customers and increasing sales using buyer behaviour.

Here’s some tips she shared:

💸  Solve a problem your customer has (not just your beneficiary!) – your impact is part of the story, but it’s not why people buy.

They want organic cotton because it’s good for their skin, plastic free shampoo that gives them gorgeous hair and non-toxic toys because they keep their kids safe.

Show your subscribers how you can solve their problems and take their pains away!

💸. People will pay more for handmade – they value the labour of love. Show people behind the scenes in your workshop, or introduce them to one of your makers to connect them with what they’re paying for.

💸  Social proof sells – we make purchase decisions based on what’s socially acceptable. Share some case studies, reviews or testimonials to show how popular your products are.

💸  We hate effort! Make shopping easy and reduce any points of friction. Curate a selection of gifts under a certain price point, or with a certain recipient in mind to inspire people and help with their shopping.

Or highlight how your gift wrapping service can save them time. Offer to post the wrapped gift directly to the recipient with a handwritten note to save them a trip to the post office. Anything to make your customer’s life easier and friction-free.

Subject line inspiration…

Your subject line is key to getting your emails opened – the first step in turning a subscriber into a customer.

Experiment with different subject lines, length, style, emojis and personalisation to find what works for your brand.

Here’s some prompts that might get you started…

  • *First name* meet *maker’s name* 👋
  • *Gorgeous holiday hair* this way…(replace with the benefit you provide)
  • Gifts for the *dad* who has everything
  • Meaningful gifts under £20 🎁


And a final point to remember: research shows it takes 7-11 touch points with an average consumer to get them to buy (even more with conscious consumers!).

So you can’t just send one email and expect the sales to roll in.

You need to keep engaging with your list regularly, prompt them several times and get creative with your email marketing. Re-enforce it with targeted ads if you can, and think about their journey from Awareness Interest Desire Action.

Nurture them through your sales funnel to get those conversions!

Put it into action

Ready? Here’s your next steps:

  • Check the open rate on your last campaign
  • Find a more customer-focused angle for your next email
  • Experiment with personalised subject lines
  • Press send, and watch your open rate rise!


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