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Do emojis in email subject lines help to boost read rates? Study

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Emojis are reputedly the fastest-growing language in the world – but does including them in an email subject line make it more likely that email will be opened?

Email deliverability specialist Return Path has taken a closer look in a research report. Emoji use in email subject lines looks at the use of emojis in email campaigns, and compared them to text-based subject lines, over the course of a year to see what worked – and what didn’t.

It found that subject lines containing emojis saw a higher read rate than comparable text-only subject lines in some cases. But emoji use generally had limited impact on inbox placement rate, either positive or negative. Around Valentine’s Day, for example, email subject lines including the “lips” emoji drove a read rate of 24% and an inbox placement rate of 89%. By comparison, Valentine’s Day promotions with text-only subject lines had a read rate of 20% and inbox placement of 83%. Father’s Day emails with the “wrench” emoji in the subject line had a read rate of 22% and inbox placement of 96%, compared to read rate and inbox placement rate of 21% and 88% respectively for comparable text-only promotions.

Meanwhile, the e “clinking champagne glasses” emoji in New Year’s promotions had a 9% read rate and 38% inbox placement rate, far below the average for traditional text-only New Year’s emails.

“Emojis definitely stand out in a crowded inbox, and grabbing the reader’s attention is an important element of email engagement,” said Tom Sather, Return Path’s senior director of research. “There aren’t a lot of email marketers using them today, so there’s a novelty factor involved.”

While that novelty factor is difficult to quantify in an aggregated research report, Return Path says its anecdotal evidence points to a sharp drop-off in engagement metrics after repeated emoji use.

“What works one time may not work every time,” said Sather. “My advice to an email marketer who wants to try using emojis is to use our findings as a starting point for testing their own campaigns. Every brand needs to find its own voice and understand its unique audience. There’s no magic formula to using emojis, or any other aspect of an email campaign.”

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