Emails that are designed to sell need an attention-grabbing subject line. You must pique a customer’s curiosity. Once your email is opened, you can sell your product by directing them to your website or social media pages.

Get that cash register ringing by using these five email subject line tips specifically for retailers (though they can be tweaked for use by other industries).

1. Show a sense of urgency

Your subject lines should get customers to open your email immediately. To do so, you want to use urgent language. Motivate them to open the email now or risk missing out on something special. (Learn more about creating a sense of urgency in this recent post).

Here are a few ways to create a sense of urgency:

  • Set a deadline. For example, create a sale that only lasts for 24 hours and use a subject line like, “For the next 24 hours only, take 25 percent off your purchase.”
  • Use active language. Use phrases like “act now” or “take advantage of this great deal today.”

great example from Neiman Marcus shows both of these tips in action. The subject line for an upcoming sale reads, “Only Hours Remain! Free Beauty Event Tote + Bonus Points.” This subject lines includes an incentive as well, which we’ll talk about next.

2. Offer an incentive

Want to motivate customers to buy? Offer a can’t-resist incentive. A great deal is an incentive, but you can always sweeten the deal by offering a gift with a purchase, an addition to a loyalty program that you offer or tickets to an upcoming event.

3. Ask a question

A subject line with a question can encourage subscribers to think about the answer, or get the answer by opening your email.

Here are a few tips:

  • The question should be open-ended
  • The question should be intriguing
  • The answer should be revealed in the email
  • Keep your subject line question to 50 characters so it’s doesn’t get cut off in the inbox preview

Take a look at this subject line from ShopBop. In this subject line the retailer asks, “Who’s our latest style muse?” The question is open-ended, intriguing, short and answered in the email.

4. Solve a problem

What problem does your product solve? Share it with your subscribers in the subject line. Your email recipients will pay more attention to your email if you can solve a common problem for them. For example, a subject line that reads, “Cut your yard work in half with this new mower” is a great problem-solver.

5. Use the word “you”

When you can, refer to customers as “you” in your subject lines. It gives the email a friendly, more conversational tone. Plus, it forces you to focus on customer benefits. For example, a subject line that reads, “Are you ready for the most relaxing spa day?” is friendly and geared toward the customer. In comparison, a subject line that reads, “We’re offering spa packages” isn’t inviting or customer-centered.

Here are some other email subject lines using some of these tips to inspire you:

1. Neiman Marcus: Up to 65% off! Midday Dash
2. Anthropologie: Twirl alert! 20% off all dresses
3. Victoria’s Secret: Ends tomorrow! Free ship + returns on swim
4. Destination Maternity: Stop wasting time at the store, try this new app
5. PLNDR: Tonight Only! Take An Extra 35% Off Must-Have Tees.
6. #InstaKors: Have You Tried It Yet?
7. Nike: Two Days Only: Save an Extra 20%
8. Brooks Brothers: Open an account and save 25%
9. Rebox: Want the perfect movie to watch with your Valentine?
10. Mixbook: New themes you’ll love

For more subject line inspiration, check out this list of 50 All-Time Great Retail Subject Lines.

Kylie Jane Wakefield is a freelance writer and content creator in Los Angeles. She’s written for NewsCred,, Forbes, Tablet Magazine, and The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

© 2015, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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