Should some emails be designed to have low open rates?

You want your users to open some transactional email you send. But, sometimes users shouldn’t have to open your emails. Certain emails should have all the info customers need in the subject line. If you can say something in 20 words instead of 200, do that because simplicity is often the best choice.

For an example of this, here’s a receipt from Lyft where I could have gotten all the info I needed from its subject. Instead I had to open the email to check what I paid. It would be fine if this email included its relevant info in the subject line because it doesn’t require any action from me. All I need to see is how much I paid, and then I can archive it for the future.

A screenshot of an email with the subject "Thanks for riding with Gurban"

What types of transactional emails should your users not have to open and read? Where can you save users time by having a descriptive subject line? Let’s look at the types of transactional email your users shouldn’t need to open.

1. Invoice and receipt emails #

Whenever your product sends customers receipts, allow them to get all the information they need from just the subject.

What matters to customers in receipts? Well, that depends on what they buy. The relevant info in the receipt for a service or digital product is its name and price. Whereas, the relevant info in the receipt for an order of physical products is price, store, and how much stuff you bought.

A template for a subject line for a receipt for a service or digital product might be:

Thanks for purchasing [name of product]. You just paid [$price of product] for it

If I got a receipt for a digital product that looked like that, I’d be ecstatic. I wouldn’t have to spend time reading through it, and could just move it to my receipts folder. Let’s look at what a good subject line for an order of physical products might look like.

Here’s a template for the from name and subject line for physical order receipts:

From name: [store_name] e.g. Amazon

Subject: You just completed a [$order_total] purchase

2. Shipping notification emails #

People order physical goods from Amazon or other stores all of the time. You usually get an email telling you when a product ships. This is another type of email you and your customers shouldn’t have to open.

What should you include in this email’s subject? Customers definitely want to know what store the order is from. Put this information in the from name. Customers also want an estimate of when their order will arrive. Lastly, they want a brief reminder of what’s in the order. These two things are what you need to put in your shipment notification emails’ subject lines. Here’s a template for the subject line of those emails:

Your order of [item1] has shipped! Expect delivery on or around [date].

3. Refund notification emails #

When someone asks for a refund, they generally want confirmation of it. This lets them know you actually gave them their money back. Generally, most companies notify customers of refunds via a transactional email.

They want to know the name of the company who issued the refund, the amount you’ve refunded them for, and that’s it. They don’t need to know which items you’ve given them a refund for. The price will tell them that information.

Here’s a template for telling customers what they need to know about a refund in an email’s subject line:

We’ve refunded your order from [name of store] for [$amount of money]

We’re not saying you should always use wordy subjects for your transactional email. Instead, there are some emails your users receive in response to transactions that require no action. Most users archive these emails as a reference for later and don’t open them upon receiving them. The details for these emails should still exist in the body, but there’s no need to require those people who receive a million shipment emails to open them.

Did we forget types of email that businesses should condense into a subject line? If so, please comment with your thoughts or questions below.

Jack Kaufman