emoticonsAs I’ve mentioned before, your subject lines can be the key to the success of email marketing campaigns. They can help improve email engagement and increase response rates, provided you get your subject line right.

There are a number of schools of thought when it comes best practice with subject lines but, ultimately, it all boils down to one thing: they should capture the attention of your readership. A dull, bland subject line will only lead to an unread, or even deleted, email. It is probably for this reason that you might have noticed an increase in businesses using emoticons (symbols) in their subject lines. Here are just a few that I’ve received this week:

Jet2 Subject

Musicroom Subject

Zooplus Subject

All of these subject lines use emoticons in a very simple, understated way, yet they do succeed in catching the eye. But, do emoticons in subject lines really have an effect on the customer? And are they the right choice for your business?

Why Emoticons Work

Your email’s subject line is your chance to quickly grab the attention of your subscribers when they are skimming their inbox. Although they’re getting more popular, emoticons are still not universally used in subject lines, so including one could be enough to make your email stand out.

Although an emoticon may be effective in capturing your readers’ attention, the actual wording of the subject line is still important. Make sure it succinctly describes the content of the email and is relevant to the emoticon you used. A subscriber will only go on to open and read an email if they are interested in the call to action in the subject line. A study by Convince and Convert found that 33% of email recipients open messages based on the subject line alone, so it’s worth grabbing your readers as soon as you can.

Certain emoticons have actually been shown to increase the open rates of emails. According to research by Alchemy Worx, a friendly snowman emoticon Friendly Snowmancan boost open rates to a massive 65.72%. However, this doesn’t mean you should fill your subject lines with friendly snowmen. Is its use actually appropriate? Which leads me to my next point:

Are Emoticons Right for Your Business?

Certain businesses lend themselves to emoticons. Jet2 using aeroplane emoticons in the example above is extremely appropriate. However, they can be seen as cute and a novelty. You need to decide whether this is the right image for your business, or for the tone of the email you are sending. For example, if a lawyer or financial advisor uses emoticons in their subject lines, it may be seen as frivolous and unprofessional.

Use With Caution

Although the majority of email clients, including Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo!, support emoticons, there are some that do not. They do not appear consistently on Outlook 2003 and Outlook.com. It’s also worth remembering that they are often rendered differently on smartphones and tablets. For example, on iOS devices, emoticons are replaced by an emoji (small graphic):

Email Client

Expedia Email

Expedia iPhone

Think about what email clients your subscribers are using before widely adopting emoticons.

It’s difficult to say whether emoticons will be the right fit for your business. The only way to find out is by testing, testing and testing again!

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net