Stand Out In The Inbox – What To Test

The inbox is a crowded place. As email marketers, it is increasingly tricky to stand out in our customers’ inbox. More email is being sent and there are more tools allowing users to ‘take back control of their inbox’.

Therefore how can we stand out in a crowed inbox?

The following aspects should be tested to see what works for your customer base and your email marketing strategy. However what works for one, may not work for the other. There are different types of tests available and I recommend the A/B test for the below:

1. Symbols in subject line

This is where you add a catchy symbol to the subject line. Symbols can grab your customer’s attention and encourage them to open your email. I recommended running an A/B subject line test (link) to see if works.

Symbols will work in nearly all inboxes apart from Outlook 2003 and Lotus Notes. Mobile support is also very different so make sure you test it out to see what works.

Here are some examples from my inbox:

symbol2

symbol3

symbol4

Here is a selection of symbols that work in the majority of inboxes:

✪ ✫ ✬ ✭ ✮ ✯ ✰ ✱ ✲ ✳ ✴ ✵ ✶ ✷ ✸ ✹ ✺ ✻ ✼ ✽ ✾ ✿ ❀ ❁ ❂ ❃ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❇ ❈ ❉ ❊ ❋ ❍ ❏ ❐ ❑ ❒ ❖ ❘ ❙ ❚ ❛ ❜ ❝ ❞ ❡ ❢ ❣ ❤ ❥ ❦ ❧ ❶ ❷ ❸ ❹ ❺ ❻ ❼ ❽ ❾ ❿ ➀ ➁ ➂ ➃ ➄ ➅ ➆ ➇ ➈ ➉ ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ ➘ ➙ ➚ ➛ ➜ ➝ ➞ ➟ ➠ ➡ ➢ ➣ ➤ ➥ ➦ ➧ ➨ ➩ ➪ ➫ ➬ ➭ ➮ ➯ ➲ ➳ ➴ ➵ ➶ ➷ ➸ ➹ ➺ ➻ ➼ ➽ ➾ ☀ ☁ ☂ ☃ ☄ ★ ☆ ☇ ☈ ☉ ☊ ☋ ☌ ☍ ☎ ☏ ☐ ☑ ☒ ☓ ☖ ☗ ☚ ☛ ☜ ☝ ☞ ☟ ☠ ☡ ☢ ☣ ☤ ☥ ☦ ☧ ☨ ☩ ☪ ☫ ☬ ☭ ☮ ☯ ☰ ☱ ☲ ☳ ☴ ☵ ☶ ☷ ☸ ☹ ☺ ☻ ☼ ☽ ☾ ☿ ♀ ♁ ♂ ♃ ♄ ♅ ♆ ♇ ♈ ♉ ♊ ♋ ♌ ♍ ♎ ♏ ♐ ♑ ♒ ♓ ♔ ♕ ♖ ♗ ♘ ♙ ♚ ♛ ♜ ♝ ♞ ♟ ♠ ♡ ♢ ♣ ♤ ♥ ♦ ♧ ♨ ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬ ♭ ♮ ♯ ♰ ♱

* http://www.emailmarketingtipps.de/

Therefore why not try the following:

  • The airplane for travel offers
  • The pencil for dates to write down
  • The phone for announcing a service call
  • The scissors for visualising coupon cut lines

2. Better pre-header

Optimising the pre-headers is a quick way to improve inbox visibility. A pre-header is the first bit of HTML in your email marketing message and is also visible in the inbox list in Gmail and other major email clients.

Your pre-header should get the main message of your email across with catchy language that encourages customers to open. It is also known as the extension of your subject line, and can be seen in grey in the following examples.

Here is a good pre-header example:

preheadergoof

Here are two not so good examples:

preheaderbad

preheaderbad1

preheadergoof

3. Timing

Making sure your email is timely is an important factor in email engagement. You should test when is the best time to send email. Marketers have found different times of the day/week produce different results. Some will tell you that Friday afternoon is the best time whilst others will say Tuesday morning. It needs testing.

I would consider the following factors:

  • End timing of sale?
  • Customers’ browsing behaviour on your site
  • When are they most likely to make a purchase
  • How people use their inbox. Some people delete all email when they open their inbox in the morning for example
  • Pay days (especially for UK who get paid once a month)
  • Changes in weather

4. Email & Social

You can stand out in the inbox by alerting customers on social media channels that your email is in their inbox. This keeps you top of mind with your customers and therefore they are more likely to see your email and engage.

Twitter is probably the best way to do this. Tweet that your email is about to be sent, or that it has been sent, to your brand’s followers. This will mean they are likely to remember the tweet, you stand out and they open.

If you send email-only offers, then you can promote email in the following way:

“Email only offers arriving in your inbox in the next 5 mins. Get it before it runs out! Not subscribed yet? Try here: newsletter signup landing page”

5. Excellent HTML Text

In the major inboxes, by default, images are not displayed. Therefore it is more than likely that a customer will not immediately see your beautiful imagery until they have downloaded images – this is an ‘open’.

By optimising the HTML copy you can make sure the main message of your email gets across – before images are downloaded. You can do this in two main ways:

  1. Main message in text
    This involves ensuring that the main message of the email is also in HTML – not an image. Here is a great example from litmus. You can see the main message of the email before images are downloaded.
  2. “Which browser dominate webmail usage” is HTML not an image.

    Litmus ALT tags

  3. ALT tags
    ALT tags are what is seen in the inbox instead of the image, before the image is downloaded. Customizing your ALT tags is a great way to stand out in the inbox.

Here is good example from Sweaty Betty. “MEET US AT THE BARRE” is an ALT tag.

SweatyBetty

What else have you done to stand out in the inbox?