Email Marketing Trends for May 2012

Jim Davidson

The number of brands I monitor increases each month. To provide more consistent data month-over-month, “Email Volume” will now be presented as the percentage of brands sending that particular day rather than quantity of emails received.

Email Volume by Day

Unlike April, no dramatic spike was seen during May.  Monday, 5/22 was the most mailed day though no common promotional trend, such as early Memorial Day sales, was seen. Strangely, the Saturday before Memorial Day tied for the least mailed day of the month. One would expect retailers to promote Memorial Day Weekend sales more heavily on Saturday.

Email Trends May 2012 - Email Volume Index - Small

(click to enlarge)

Email Volume by Day of Week

Email volume was more evenly distributed in May with Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nearly tying. Saturdays continue to be the least mailed day of the week.

Email Trends May 2012 - Day of Week

Emails Sent per Brand

The most frequent mailer sent 84 messages slightly up from April.  Brands sent an average of 12 messages in May.  11% only sent 1 message during the month.

Email Trends May 2012 - Sent Per Brand

Subject Line Trends

May’s longest subject line tickled the 200 character mark with 199 characters.  Average subject line length stiill hovers around 50 characters.

Email Trends May 2012 - Subject Line Length

Longest: (3-way tie)

Rue La La:From the Reserve: Rolex, Charles David, Tolani, Rizzy Home, Original Penguin, A Hit of Sunny Yellow, Trump Chicago, Dansk, Linea Pelle, Ben Sherman, Camping Essentials, & The Animal-Loving Kid’s Room

Rue La La:FENDI, Anne Klein, Diamonds: Select Cuts,, daniblack, Blush, Bills Khakis, Beaver Creek Lodge – CO, Moms of Style: Inspired by Members, Ike Behar Boys’, Karastan Rugs, Case Mate, & Little Me

Rue La La:Chan Luu, Heys USA, Kay Unger NEW YORK, Dylan George, Canyon Ranch SpaClub: Las Vegas, The Venetian and The Palazzo, Dansk, ELEVEN ELEVEN, Sondra Roberts, Jon Gilmore, Design History Girls’, & Jacadi



The Tiny Dozen” features subject lines that are 12 characters or less to give you ideas to keep it short and sweet!


The Tiny Dozen
Brand Subject Line Count
Hartstrings $0.00 5
jcpenney Wow Mom 7
NASTY GAL 100% New 8
jcpenney Watch It 8
American Apparel Neon Now! 9
Yankee Candle Company Save $10! 9
Newport News Ka-Ching! 9
jcpenney Too Bright 10
Spiegel Soft Touch 10
Newport News Black Jack 10 NYC Getaway 11
The Limited Hello, Sun! 11
NASTY GAL Get Dressed 11
J.Crew Hit refresh 11
JC Whitney Private Sale 12
J.Crew Shop for Pop 12 What’s News? 12 48-HOUR SALE 12
ShopNBC Handbag Sale 12
Sephora Sample Spree 12
Brooks Brothers Kids’ Madras 12


May 2012 Subject Line Word Cloud:

Email Trends May 2012 - Subject Line Word Cloud

(click to enlarge)


The balance of promotions remained consistent month-over-month.

Email Trends May 2012 - Promotions

Please let me know if there are other trends that you would like to see in the monthly Email Marketing Trend reports.

Email Marketing Trends – March 2012

Email Marketing Trends – April 2012

Jim Davidson
Manager of Marketing Research

  • Anonymous

    I love the “Tiny Dozen” feature, but curious if you have any stats as to whether shorter subject lines perform better. For example, I know JC Penney is reporting consistent losses after their rebranding – did these short subject lines help or hurt, or make a difference at all?

    • Jim Davidson

      Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all solution for subject line length, content, or tone. A short subject line can help your email visually stand out in the inbox or encourage non-openers to convert to openers by breaking your typical subject line pattern. Try an A/B test to measure the effectiveness of a shorter subject line or target non-openers who may need to be messaged differently than your active audience. Hopefully the “Tiny Dozen” can give you some inspiration for a shorter subject line.

  • We sent our Memorial Day weekend sale emails on Friday and resent on Monday. The thinking here was that typical subscriber would be out and about, spending time with family and would plan their shopping based on the Friday email. Sending on Saturday might have disrupted their shopping plans and increase the possibility of a negative reaction.

    • Jim Davidson

      I like your thinking but there is a lot of opportunity between the Friday and Monday of a holiday weekend. Strategically remailing your subscribers based on engagement with Friday’s email could help drive additional sales for those who did not open Friday’s email (potentially battling holiday traffic) or could use a reminder during the weekend about a fabulous sale (on their mobile device while shopping). I recommend reviewing your open, click and conversion data for Saturday and Sunday to see how active subscribers were over the weekend. This could help you map out potential remailings in the future.

  • I had a request today to move the “If you are having trouble reading this email, you may view the online version” from the top of the email to the bottom to encourage mobile users to open. The thought is that mobile users see the subject line and the first 1-2 lines of copy in their email app on their mobile. So if you put the online version copy at the top of the email then that is what they will see first and decrease open rates.

    I feel wrong doing this because I am certain it is not a best practice. Maybe I missed something in current trends?

    What are your thoughts/suggestions?


    • Jim Davidson

      Hi Katrina! Lots to address here… The pre-header section of an email is extremely valuable real estate. Not only is there the advantage of the copy being seen in the inbox, but it also adds value to further market your promotion or provide a better customer experience if there are rendering issues. It’s good that you and the team are having this discussion and my overall recommendation is to test, test, test!

      Now, speaking more specifically…

      The copy that you have for your online version is too long. You can shorten this copy to “View Online” or “Not seeing images? View Online” and the point is still made. This decreases the amount of copy at the top of the email without sacrificing the customer experience.

      Moving the browser-based version link to the bottom of the email is not common. I have not tested this specifically but the point of having the link at the top of the email is to provide a virtual escape hatch from a jumbled email without asking the subscriber to hunt for the link. Having this link as the first copy of the email may not necessarily decrease opens but a strong pre-header could help increase opens and clicks as well.

      Mobile users are not the only ones to benefit from viewing pre-header copy in their inboxes. Many email clients now display this copy before an email is opened. Factor how large your mobile audience is before making changes that could impact a larger, more active group.

      You don’t have to reveal everything in your pre-header copy. I like to call this section a “Super Subject Line.” It’s an excellent way to augment the subject line. Check out this post for a few examples of balancing the subject line and pre-header copy:

      I took a quick sample of the last 100 emails I have received (representing a <24 hour span) and of those 71% used the pre-header copy for marketing purposes, 28% for service related info (add to address book, view online, etc...), and 1% did not have any pre-header text.

      Here are a couple examples of effective pre-header text working in tandem with the subject line that I saw in this sample:

      1) Brand
      2) Subject Line
      3) Pre-header

      1) Sears
      2) 25% off all Kenmore refrigeration: A deal so cool you may move into the kitchen!
      3) Plus, online only: save up to $35 with promo code

      1) Vistaprint
      2) 16 jaw-dropping deals inside
      3) Amazing deals – save 50% and more!

      1) Banana Republic Factory Stores
      2) Trend alert: Looks we ♥ in stores now!
      3) Save 60% off original prices!

      I'd love to hear the results of the change or any testing that you do! Good luck!