Consumers are inundated with emails from a variety of brands promoting a variety of products and services, creating a highly competitive environment in the inbox. According to an analysis of nearly 8 billion emails sent in Q4 2016, Yes Lifecycle Marketing studied the performance of different incentives in email subject lines.
The study finds that, in order to capture consumers’ attention and stand out, brands have prominently adopted the use of offer incentives in email content. Offers like free shipping, specific percent or dollar-off purchase, and more, have been increasingly implemented in many brand communications to incentivize purchase, says the report.
In determining which offers perform best, the key findings include:
The six most popular types of offer incentives included in the analysis:
Performance of Offer Type (Across All Industries)
Average for all offers
Buy one, get
Source: Yes Lifecycle Marketing, March 2017
Subject lines promoting a major offer like ‘50% off everything, ’30 off your $100 purchase’ and ‘Free shipping’ have become a staple for many brands across all industries, says the report. In Q4 2016, 30% of subject lines advertised at least one such incentive. In retail they are becoming even more ubiquitous, says the report. 44% of retail subject lines contained an offer in Q4 2016. This suggests that the retail industry is that much more competitive when it comes to incentivizing consumers to purchase.
Across all industries, emails with specific offers in their subject lines underperformed significantly in comparison with those without. With one exception, open rates for emails without explicit offers in the subject line were 28% higher than those with offers. Similarly, for messages without explicit incentives, click and CTO rates were 67% and 34% higher, respectively.
When looking at individual offer types, open, click and CTO rates were also considerably lower for emails with offers in the subject line than for those without, says the report. The only exception was loyalty incentives, which boasted a 9% higher open rate, 20% higher click rate and 12% higher CTO rate compared to messages with no offers in the subject line.
Across all industries, as well as specifically for retail, subject lines containing the word ‘deal’ and without a specific offer performed best in terms of open, click, and CTO rates because they effectively tugged at consumers’ curiosity and got them to open, suggests the report.
Even in campaigns where the offer was specific enough to discourage a click from those who were not interested, the word ‘deal’ seemed to have enough promise to drive clicks due to its implicit meaning of value and savings.
When it comes to conversion, says the report, the retail industry shows us that emails with ‘deal’ in the subject line do not convert at nearly the same rates that messages with offers do. The word ‘deal’ carries a lot of promise and drives many potential customers to a brand’s website, but the promise ends at the point of conversion when high expectations are not necessarily met.
Emails advertising specific offers in the subject line, notes the report, generated almost 5X the conversion rates of those containing ‘deal’ and no offers. One possible explanation is that specific offers tend to weed out shoppers earlier in the funnel.
Email Performance: ‘Deal’ vs. Offer for Retail
Deal, no offer
Average all offers
Source: Yes Lifecycle Marketing, March 2017
Offer incentives have become the new norm for marketers competing for the ever-dwindling consumer attention. While loyalty offers proved the most engaging overall, percent discounts and free shipping drove the highest conversion rates.
Concluding, the report says that, on average, emails that did not highlight a specific offer generated higher engagement than the ones that did, indicating that, regardless of their appeal and generosity, offers must be meaningful to consumers in order to be effective. An enticing email subject line sets high expectations, but if they are not met when consumers open the message, it compromises the chance for conversion. When used as part of the right communication strategy, offer incentives can drive major revenue for brands and keep customers coming back.
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