How Email Subject Lines Render on Mobile Devices

Dutch HollisWe have been, and will be paying a lot of attention to rendering of email on mobile devices as we continue to see increases in the use of mobile devices to engage email. As we look at the whole experience, though, we don’t want to neglect anything, including the subject line. We know subject lines aren’t the only decision point for opening an email, but they are important in getting the open. So with that in mind, what do we need to know about subject lines on mobile?

The right length is important – and variable

Most subject lines will be truncated on a mobile device in the list view (when users are deciding whether to open, ignore or delete). For iPhone (pre-iOS 6 and iPhone 5), truncation will occur at around 31 characters in portrait orientation and around 54 in landscape orientation.

Android will vary much more by manufacturer and by Android OS version. It can be as low as 24 on the portrait orientation and as high as 62 in landscape orientation, but tends to average on the low 30’s, like iPhone. Let’s assume that most of the folks, most of the time, use portrait orientation to engage with their email.

So what if your subject line gets cut short? Well there are a couple issues. First is whether or not your meaning has been changed by the truncation. This is a rare case to watch out for, but it can happen. Take for example “Never write us a check again with automatic bill pay” could be rendered as “Never write us a check again…” or “Never write us a check…” depending on device. There are also possibilities for mildly embarrassing terms or profanity to end up on your subject line in this manner.

The second, and more likely issue with truncation, is whether your subject line is less impactful because the “lead” is buried. While we do recommend that recurring emails have a recognizable, recurring element at the beginning of each subject line, it’s also important to get the value proposition of your email as early as possible so that it precedes the truncation point. Remember, the subject line isn’t the message or the conversion; its job is simply to get the open. Consider the following samples:

  • All yours! A discounted Angie’s List membership
  • You Know What’s at Stake-Register to Vote
  • Make Weight Loss A Family Affair – Double the Success and Savings!
  • Labor Day Sale Starts Now – Save 15% off bags, shoes and accessories

And the same subject lines truncated at 31 characters:

  • All yours! A discounted Angie’…
  • You Know What’s at Stake-Regis…
  • Make Weight Loss A Family Affa…
  • Labor Day Sale Starts Now – Sa…

They may not truncate exactly there, but the point remains – the value proposition is buried and may not be seen, thereby affecting your open rates.

Check back again on Friday to learn how the preheader can get you a second chance to net that open if your value proposition is truncated and more.

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