Hey, You! Why Subject Line Personalization Matters

Melanie Alfano, Marketing Strategist

Melanie Alfano, Marketing Strategist

Here’s a little psychology lesson for you. Responding to our name has been instinctively ingrained in us from day one. The name we’re given at birth immediately becomes our tag, the thing someone tugs to gain our attention.

It all starts with our parents. When they want us to come over, stop what we’re doing or listen to them, they use our name. By the time we’ve grown up, our instincts tell us to turn toward the speaker when our name is called – a professor on the first day of class, the nurse in the waiting room, a neighbor calling out to say hello. According to Positive Psychology News, “There is something special, almost magical, about naming, one that can bring pleasure, engagement and meaning to both the greeter and recipient.”

Get to the Point, Mel!

So why should this matter to you, the marketer? You want happy contacts, right?  Happy contacts = increased engagement and revenue potential. So be authentic, and take the time to show your contacts they really matter.

Think of subject lines as the beacon that will shape the behavior paths of your future contacts. Here’s a screenshot of my recent inbox. Out of roughly 20 emails from a two-day period, only one marketer addressed me by my first name. To me, that matters. It says Best Buy gets me and respects me. I also like smiley faces – bonus points for the emoji!  Let me open that one!

Inbox examplesNeed Proof?

According to Accenture, 56% of consumers are more likely to shop at a retailer in-store or online that recognizes them by name. A study from Infosys shows that 59% of shoppers who have experienced personalization believe it influences their purchasing decision. And Marketo found that 63% of respondents are highly annoyed by the way brands continue to rely on the old-fashioned strategy of repeatedly blasting generic ad messages.

But what about results? A recent Experian report states that personalized promotional emails have 29% higher unique open rates and 41% more unique click-through rates. I can attest to the certainty of these metrics by working with my strategy-as-a-service clients to employ dynamic personalization. I’ve seen overall increases in opens, clicks and conversions up to 25% on average – and even as high as 60% in some cases.

To Personalize or Not to Personalize?

Be cautious when it comes to your welcome, cart recovery and browse recovery series. Contacts receiving these messages either just opted in or are still in a more transactional phase. Don’t be that creepy neighbor who crosses the boundary. Take the time to find some commonality (think segmentation and big data) before addressing these folks by their first name. Loyalty emails, a post-purchase series and birthday/anniversary campaigns are great places to start.

Here are a few examples from Stitch Fix, Ulta Beauty and again, Best Buy. But when in doubt, test! Try alluding to a teaser in your bulk cadence that requires the contact to open the email to reveal the deal, as Ulta Beauty and Burlington did below.

More Inbox ExamplesWhat About Those Empty First Name Fields?

No problem. For contacts with no first name in your system, craft something punchy that works with your brand. Tarte Cosmetics does a great job of this by addressing its female contacts as “tartelettes.”

Tarte example

Tarte Comestics exampleTake it a step further, and address your contacts with something related to the main message of your email. Adore Me does an excellent job by showcasing its sleepwear collection within the email after addressing me as a “Sleeping Beauty” in the subject line.

Adore Me exampleAdore Me emailWrap It Up, Mel!

Still not sold on the idea of addressing your contacts by their first name? Test it out and see the results for yourself. Test at least 5-6 times to draw conclusive results, and remember to test only one variable at a time so you don’t skew the results. You can even experiment with using a first name in the From Name for your email. You might use a sales representative, a specific department or a brand ambassador that your contacts trust. Not to mention, this tactic can help with deliverability and combatting the dreaded spam filter!

Whatever your strategy, take the time to get to know your subscribers and personalize your emails. Your messages will stand out and help subscribers feel connected to your brand, so the next time they’re hurriedly scanning their inbox, you’ll be sure to catch their attention.