Conventional wisdom says that personalizing email subject lines in email marketing and other commercial email, such as putting someone’s first name in the subject line by using tags or other automations, increases the open rate for that email marketing. In fact, if you do a web search, such as in Google, for “email personalization open rates”, you will find over 16million results, most of which tell you that personalizing email subject lines in your email marketing will boost your open rate. That may have been true some years ago, but not necessarily so much now.
In fact, anecdotally we have known for a few years that personalization in a commercial email’s subject line can suppress your open rates! Why would this be the case, when for years email service providers and email marketers have been telling you that using peoples’ first names in your subject lines will increase open rates?
Back when the technology was novel, your email would stand out if you used a recipient’s name in the subject line of your email. The recipient would see their name and be a tiny bit thrilled to be getting “personalized” email. However, over time, the email-receiving public – i.e. your email marketing’s market – has come to recognize this one true thing: if their first name is in the subject line, and it’s not from a friend or acquaintance, then it’s someone trying to sell them something. And that turns them off. It’s like putting a big “I WANT YOUR MONEY” in the subject line.
Results of the Personalizing Email Survey
We created a survey, hosted through a non-email related site, asking this question:
“Does your name in the subject line of an email marketing message or email from a business make you MORE or LESS likely to open the email?”
The choice of answers from which to choose were:
- More likely
- Less likely
- I don’t care because I almost never open marketing email regardless
- I don’t care because I almost always open marketing email regardless
43.59% said that their name in the subject line made them less likely to open an email.
Another 43.59% said that it didn’t matter because they almost never open marketing email anyways. (This means that you need to really find a way to make your email stand out, but personalizing the subject line is not necessarily the way to do it.)
Only 6.41% of respondents said that their name in the subject line made them more likely to open the email.
Granted this was a small sample (~80 random people), however this is also what we hear anecdotally whenever we are part of an industry group and we ask the question.
Now, of course, each industry, each market within an industry, and each business serving that market, is different. So what is true for someone else may not be true for you. But then again, it may be.
For more information about this, see our article 3 Reasons that Email Personalization in Subject Lines is Hurting Your Email Deliverability.