How much mail do you have sitting around, unopened? Even if you’re a stickler for opening every envelope, I bet there are certain ones that you open first. Ones that create some sort of intrigue, that look as though they might contain something exciting, or are gifting you with something useful.

Emails are the same – as their name suggests, they are letters delivered electronically. Getting someone to eagerly open your email is no different from the mail that comes through your door – it must grab their attention. One of the only ways to do that in eCommerce emails is with the subject line.

That’s because there are only two reasons that someone will click open when your email lands in their inbox:

  • The subject line has got them interested
  • They’re already a big fan of your brand and your emails.

Of course, it’s very unlikely that a customer will become a huge fan without reading a few emails first…and for that to happen, you need brilliant email subject lines to hook them in. There it is, again! Mastering your email subject lines can also breathe new life into customers who had gone cold and left your emails in their mile-deep “to be opened” pile.

But before you go any further, I want to make one thing clear. Just writing a killer subject line is never going to be enough. It’s only the first step – the foot in the door. The content of your email will need to awaken their desires too. The subject line gets them paying attention and your email content builds the relationship with customers and creates sales. With that out the way, let’s take a look at three techniques you can use to create subject lines that get your email opened.

3 Techniques That Will Help You Master Your eCommerce Email Subject Lines


1. The Curiosity Gap

Human beings might seem complex but some of our psychology is pretty basic.  For example, if a question is raised, we want the answer. It’s why people get hooked on TV soaps – the cliff hanger at the end of each episode leaves the audience with a question. To find out the answer, you must tune in to the next episode. In other words, curiosity opens a gap and we are wired to try our best to close it.

That same principle can be used in your email subject lines. Use them to create curiosity and drive your customers to open the email for the answer. Here are a few examples for a food eCommerce:

She didn’t expect these results from just eating fresh

(What were the results she didn’t expect?)

How one piece of garlic saved Lisa’s life

(How on earth can a bit of garlic have saved someone’s life?)

On survival, husbands and a meal that mattered

(What about them? How can these three things be related?)

If you’re going to master just one technique for your eCommerce email subject lines, then make it this one. As you’ll see shortly, it’s often combined with another technique making it an absolute doozy.


2. FOMO (Fear of missing out)

We like to think that we’re rational beings who think logically about all our decisions. But that’s just not true. Instead, we are at the mercy of the same evolutionary factors that controlled our cavemen and women ancestors. We must compete in order to survive and be successful. Plus, we do that better when we’re part of a group.

The side effect of this is FOMO.  When you see someone else getting involved in something, your unconscious starts worrying. Will it give them a competitive edge? Will you still be part of the group if you don’t get involved or will they live you behind? That fear of missing out can make us impulsive. That includes the impulse to open the email and consume its contents.

Let’s take drink eCommerce as our example (psst, look out for that curiosity gap again):

This year’s biggest celebration is about to kick off

(Hey, wait for me! I wanna have fun too)

Only 6 hours left to get this limited edition gin

(Limited edition? Wait, that could run out. I need it now…)

The #1 drink in the world’s most exclusive clubs

(I’m a good and deserving person too. I want some of that drink…what is it?)


3. Numbers

A-ha, here’s one I’ve used in this blog post. Don’t tell anyone, but there’s not a lot of difference between email subject lines, blog titles and subheadings. Humans love a good list and using numbers in your subject line tells people you’re going to give them a helpful list.

It also gives an indicator as to how much help you’re going to give them. But don’t be mistaken, big does not always mean beautiful. Imagine for a moment that I had instead used the subheading “29 Techniques That Will Help You Master Your eCommerce Email Subject Lines”. Now, someone who wants to be a copywriter may love that.

But you? A busy eCommerce business owner with a million and one things to do in your business? Giving you 29 techniques to grasp is probably overwhelming. Whereas three is much more manageable. And hey, when you’re ready for emails with all the bells and whistles, you’ll hire an expert in writing email marketing for eCommerce to do that for you, right?

But seriously, using numbers is effective. Just remember to think about who your ideal customer is and whether they’ll want to go small or large. Sticking with our food and drink theme:

The 3 Unusual Ingredients You Should Always Have in The Fridge

(ooh, what are they? Am I such a cool foodie that I already have these? Or will I need to go and buy them?)

The Top 9 New Red Wines to Try in 2020

(What are they? Have I tried any of these? Maybe I should work my way through them…)

5 Spicy Recipes to Make Your Organic Lamb Zing

(Yes! I’m bored with my usual recipes, let’s spice things up. Which shall I try first?)

Did you also spot how they create curiosity too? Clever, huh?

What to Do Next To Master Your eCommerce Email Subject Lines

Give these a go and let me know how you get on. Keep an eye on your open rates and see if you can increase it with these techniques.

If writing is just not your thing, or you’ve got way too much other stuff going on, then discover how I can help.  Simply get in touch using the contact page or click the big handy button below to book yourself in for a 15 minute chat (don’t forget to bring a cup of coffee with you!).


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