Custom Preheaders Give Your Emails More Inbox Juice

The subject line gets all the attention when we talk about how to increase opens and conversions, but it’s not the only inbox element that can influence subscriber actions. The sender name lends authenticity, but the preheader could be the field that seals the deal.

Three developments in recent years mean that the preheader’s time has come:

1.) More than half of email opens happen on mobile devices.

2.) Most of those opens happen on devices whose operating systems show preheaders by default, like iOS and Android. So, there’s a pretty good chance that your subscribers are seeing preheaders now.

3.) You’re using preheaders already. So are your competitors.

Most email clients automatically pull in the first line of copy in your email messages into the inbox. For many email marketers, that means your boilerplate add-to-addressbook and view-in-browser lines.

While there’s nothing technically wrong with those, they probably won’t spur your subscribers to open and act on your emails the way a customized preheader could. It also means that if you’re not using a preheader or using a general preheader that your email will lose impact compared with emails that deliver more punch in the inbox.

Customizing the preheader means adding a fresh line of copy to the top of your email message that relates to the copy in the message. Here’s a customized preheader from the FreshAddress Email Creative Archive

Customized Preheader - Paper Source

This preheader version combines both unique copy (“Unleash your crafting goddess with these deals”) with boilerplate (“View this mailing as a webpage”).

Here’s how that preheader looks in an iOS email app:

Customized Preheader IOS

3 preheader examples

These are three of the most common formats:

  • Augment the subject line. Add more information about your content, such as a discount or expiration date on your offer or enhancement copy like the kind used in the Paper Source example.
  • Add secondary information. Mention content farther down in your newsletter, such as a secondary offer or a news story that appears below the midpoint of your message (also called “below the fold.”)
  • Use a brand-focused standard preheader. Instead of the add-to-addressbook/view-in-browser preheader, use your brand’s tagline or copy that would be appropriate for the message category, such as an abandoned-cart reminder or a shipping notification.

How a preheader strategy can pay off

As an email marketer, you want to explore every avenue that can encourage your subscribers to open and act on your emails. Besides the obvious revenue benefits, regular activity keeps your list fresh and vital, which is essential for a successful email program.

A unique preheader helps your subscribers and customers, because you’re giving them extra reasons to open your message. This can appeal to busy subscribers as they zoom through their inboxes.

Customizing preheaders also helps you reuse content without sending the same-old, same-old, especially if you are resending broadcast campaigns without segmenting or suppressing subscribers who clicked on earlier mailings.

Look what Paper Source did with its Easter promotion:

Customized Preheader - 2

Did you notice the difference? The preheader for the first email – “Unleash Your Inner Crafting Goddess” – is now the headline for the follow-up email, and the follow-up preheader is a condensed version of the headline in the first email.

Here’s the best reason for using a custom preheader: It can help you make more money. A case study by digital marketing consultant Jeanne Jennings outlines how an online retailer saw revenue per email nearly double on emails that used customized preheaders.

Getting started with customized preheaders

This is a tactic that you can try easily without redesigning, reformatting, or pestering your IT people. Many email templates already give you an open field for a custom preheader, so just fill it in. Or, replace your boilerplate top line.

But, as with any change, take some time first to think through what you want to do and what you hope to achieve. This steps can help you plan:

1. Look in the Email Creative Archive to see what other marketers in your industry are doing. Here are some we saw in just a few minutes of browsing:

  • Pottery Barn: “+ Save 50-75% on 1000s of New Arrivals – Get Directions.”
  • Nordstrom: “Transport your style to far-off locales (even if you’re staying home). Shop sandals.”
  • Helzberg Diamonds: “Free FedEx® Standard Shipping on all orders over $149.
  • Club Monaco: “Our signature linen gives a relaxed update to the classically refined suit. Shop now >
  • Jomashop: “Email Exclusive Limited-Time ONLY Coupon Offers – While Quantities Last”

2. Read Jeanne’s case study. In it she outlines all the thinking that went into her client’s preheader testing program and offers some helpful tips. Use her methodology to work out your own potential preheaders.

3. Decide on your objectives. Do you just want more opens? Give more prominence to your below-the-fold copy or offers? Use your objectives to shape your preheader copy.

4. Test your new preheaders. Try a basic A/B split test with a control (no preheader or a boilerplate version) and the test version with your custom preheader and measure the effect on your goals.

Ready to start? Let us know how it works for you!

ECA Header for blog post

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