Email Marketing Trends for October 2013

Jim Davidson

And so it begins!  October saw some of the busiest mailing days in months.  Not only were there five days when 50% or more retailers mailed, but the slowest days of the month were still quite busy. October is the crossroads of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Fall Promotions and Holiday Kickoffs.  This is also the month when subscribers start to feel the pain of an inbox that is getting busier and busier.

Email Volume by Day

The busiest day of the month was Monday, October 14th which was Columbus Day.  The day saw a mix of sales ending, sales extended (that were supposed to end on Sunday), one-day sales and completely unrelated promotions.  This reinforces the need for your holiday programs to clearly set expectations about when sales begin and end.  Your customers are hearing a lot of sales buzz and one brand’s idea of a holiday’s duration may not be the same as yours.

Email Volume Aug Sept Oct 2013 Small

Only 28% of retailers mailed on the slowest day of the month, Saturday October 5th.  While this ties September’s slowest day, it’s worth noting the next slowest days were busier compared to previous months.

Email Volume Oct 2013 Small

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

Email Volume by Day of Week

Thursdays were the busiest day of the week to mail in October.  The boost came from the launches of Columbus Day weekend sales and by Halloween falling on a Thursday. The bump in the earlier days of the week are related to Columbus Day sale extensions and a last minute push before Halloween.

Email Volume Day of Week Aug Sept Oct 2013

Following the trend seen this year, Mondays saw a Columbus Day lift and Wednesdays came in second place thanks to Halloween falling on a Wednesday.

Email Volume Day of Week Aug Sept Oct 2013 vs Oct 2012 v2

Emails Sent per Brand

Not only was email traffic busier in October, the average number of messages sent per retailer increased by 1%.  The busiest sender jumped from 75 emails to 84.

Emails Sent per Brand Aug Sep Oct 2013

Subject Line Trends


If the “list subject lines” are included, the longest subject line was by Gilt City NYC and clocked in at 242 characters. Excluding the “list subject lines,” the longest subject line was 53 characters shorter at 189.

Papa John’s threw in a slice of pizza and a cookie for you to snack on while making your way through their long subject line but clearly Naartjie Kids wanted to squeeze everything in this month.

(Click to view larger image)

Oct Long Subject Lines2

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

Retailers really wanted folks to “Shop” this month.  Three different retailers sent the blunt, four-character subject line in October.  I typically point out a few of the shorties that I found fun but there were two this month that I really did not like.  Hammacher Schlemmer, who has a very creative email program, used the bland short subject line, “New Catalog,” JC Whitney took the screaming all-caps approach with “PRIVATE SALE.”  Definitely not a treat!

The Tiny Dozen
From Length Subject Line
Yankee Candle Alerts 4 Shop
Gander Mountain Product Alerts 4 Shop
Journeys Alerts 4 Shop
Hammacher Schlemmer 4 Toys
eBags 4 Boo!
Design Within Reach 4 Boo!
Spencer’s Alert 7 For You
Hammacher Schlemmer 7 iGadget 9 Wild Out!
UncommonGoods 9 Got Beer?
carter’s 9 Pins we ♥
carter’s 9 BOGO Pjs!
Ann Taylor 10 Go WILD…
carter’s 10 Be Bright! 10 Boho Icons
OshKosh B’gosh 10 Last Day!!
carter’s 10 We ♥ shoes
dELiA*s 10 It’s Time!
L’OCCITANE en Provence 10 Tote-ally.
The Museum of Modern Art 11 Our Mission
Hammacher Schlemmer 11 New Catalog
Origins Online 11 Fast & Free 11 party girl!
JACK SPADE 11 Wear it Out
Johnnie Boden 11 Shiny & new 12 Art On Tees!
JACK SPADE 12 New Arrivals
Bergdorf Goodman 12 Fall Dresses 12 We ♥ Truffle 12 This is why.
LOFT 12 Live in Pink
dELiA*s 12 FREE Friday!

Free shipping continues to dominate subject lines, but if you look closely near the center, you will see that “holiday” is starting to gain momentum.  “Free Shipping” will continue to be plastered in the inbox so, if you have free shipping throughout the season, it’s important to create awareness early so your subject line real estate can be used in other ways to stand out in the inbox.


(click to enlarge)

Special Characters

I was wrong!  Last month I predicted that we would see an increase in special characters as we approached the holidays but they actually went down in October.   I may be setting myself up again, but I do think we will see more of them in November.

Email Subject Line Special Characters Monthly Trends List Small


Most Frequently Used Characters

Pumpkins, ghosts, pizza slices, cookies and the Japanese character for “Tsu” were all newbies this month.  There were several other first-timers that you can view in the full list. In case you are wondering, “Tsu” kind of looks like a smiley face.

(Click to view the full list of special characters.)

Email Subject Lines Aug Sept Oct short list

(Click to view the full list of special characters)

Not only was overall usage of special characters down in October, there was only one subject line that used three.  Each month I feature any subject line that includes three or more special characters, but this is it for October.  Perhaps the novelty finally wore off for some of those brands who used multiple characters in their subject lines month after month.

From Special Characters Subject Line
Wet Seal 3 ♥ 100s of NEW Styles at 60% Off ♥ $24.50 Boots are BACK ♥

Please let me know if there are other trends that you would like to see in the monthly Email Marketing Trend reports. And as always, I welcome your comments… any trends you’re seeing? What do you make of the trends for October?

Jim Davidson
Manager of Marketing Research

Previous Email Marketing Trends Reports:

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013
May 2013
March 2013
January 2013
October 2012

September 2012
August 2012

July 2012

June 2012

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

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