eCommerce Email Marketing: Subject Line – Weekly Spotlight

Eradium ecommerce email marketing-blog-7-subject ine

eCommerce Email Marketing: Subject Line – Weekly Spotlight

Would you buy or not? A subject line is your weakest link

This article is a continuation of our weekly series about eCommerce Email Marketing Best Practices.
In this eCommerce Email Marketing weekly spotlight, we review examples of email campaigns from Canadian Tire, Lululemon, and Pampers.
A subject line is your most important asset in any email campaign.
35% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone.

The study about how email marketer spends his time is very fascinating. Based on the statistics email marketers spend only 8% of their time on testing; which covers the quality assurance (we covered last week, A/B testing of creative and subject line. According to this the reminding 92% of their time is completely wasted if the subject line fails. Why we do we keep wasting our time?

Eradium ecommerce email marketing-blog-7-subject ine a day in the life

Let’s stop ignoring the fact that subject lines are the “key” that drives the open rates, which drives the click through rate, which drives the conversion rate, which drives your sales, etc.
Test the length, the actual words, funny tone, sad tone; whatever it takes to get your audience to open the email.
Always remember if you got your audience to open the email you won half the battle if they delete the email due to poor subject line the battle is lost forever.


All emails will be rated from 1* to 5*, where 1 means poor, and 5 is great.
We review on a weekly basis:
1. Colors – colors have good contrast, consistent
2. Typography – fonts have readable size, clear titles
3. Images – clear, visible, easy to understand
4. Formatting – blocks follow each other in an easy to navigate pattern
5. Mobile optimized – all elements are visible and formatted correctly on the mobile phone
1. Subject line – signals urgency and clear main offer that will be found inside the email
2. Clear offer – one main offer with clear call to action
3. Urgency to purchase – time, stock, shipping that motivates the buyer to purchase
4. Product highlights – clear description of the products to evoke the interest of the reader


Canadian Tire

Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited is a Canadian retail company which sells a wide range of automotive, sports and leisure, and home products. Some stores also sell food products. Retail operations include Canadian Tire, the core retail and automotive service operation, which operates a large car repair garage in each store; Canadian Tire Petroleum; men’s, women’s, and work apparel retailer Mark’s; sporting goods and sportswear retail conglomerate Forzani Group Limited (see separate article stub); and PartSource, retailing auto parts and accessories. Its head office is in Toronto, Ontario. The retailer is known for its Canadian Tire money, a loyalty program first introduced in 1958.

Email 1: Canadian Tire

Subject Line: Don’t miss our 3-Day Long Weekend Sale!‏

Eradium ecommerce email marketing-blog-7-subject ine Canadian-Tire
Eradium ecommerce email marketing-blog-7-subject ine Canadian-Tire -2


  1. Colors: 3*– The main brand color – red- is used extensively through the email. It is overpowering and takes away from the main message.
  2. Fonts: 3* – The white font over the images is small and hard to read. The black font under the products has a good size and contrast with the background. The secondary gray font gets lost as it blends in with the white background.
  3. Images: 3*– The images do not stand out. The product shots are pretty boring. The email needs more images of how the products could be used with the long weekend.
  4. Formatting: 3* – the product blocks have too much spacing and take too much unnecessary space. If the space were reduced, more blocks could be included
  5. Mobile Optimized: 3 * – the different blocks show inconsistent look:
    • the top banners appear squished;.
    • the first 3 product appear extremely large;.
    • the remaining products look much smaller;.
    • there are multiple menus that appear at the bottom of the email: site navigation and other links that are distracting and overwhelming.


  1. Subject line: 5* – extremely relevant and timely. The offer is broad enough to appeal to a wide range of shoppers to open the email.
  2. Clear offer: 4* – The promotion is centered around the long weekend. The 3 main products with the bonus offer are not related the main offer and should not have the prime real estate in the email.
  3. The urgency to purchase: 3* – There is a clear sale window on the main banner, but the featured products do not have any specific dates. Is that assumed that the dates are the same as the main banner? There should be much clearer messaging around the promotion and how it is applicable for the featured products.
  4. Product highlights: 4* -The product information is very specific and links directly to the product page. The products even include reviews where available.

Overall rating: 3.4*

Conclusion – BUYING FACTOR: Maybe
The email visual design is not very appealing but the subject line is very relevant and that is the key to the success of this email. There are enough different offers inside the email that will interest the shopper once the email is opened. The main banner of the long weekend sale is directly connected with the subject line. It is very nonspecific and will generate high click throughs once opened. It is a good tactic to engage a wide audience without having a big budget for proper targeting.

Lulu Lemon

Founded in 1998, lululemon’s first real store opened in the beach area of Vancouver BC called Kitsilano, in November of 2000. The idea was to have the store be a community hub where people could learn and discuss the physical aspects of healthy living from yoga and diet to running and cycling as well as the mental aspects of living a powerful life of possibilities. Unfortunately for this concept, the store became so busy that it was impossible to help the customer in this way in addition to selling the product.

So the focus of training shifted solely to the lululemon educator or staff person. Our goal was to train our people so well that they could in fact positively influence their families, communities and the people walking into our stores.

Although the initial goal was to only have one store, it was soon obvious that to provide a fulfilling life of growth, family, salary and mortgage for our amazing staff, we would have to provide more opportunities. It was really a matter of grow or die because active minds need a challenge.

The training program was such a success that the lululemon people have created a life for themselves that most people could only dream of. lululemon is a company where dreams come to fruition.

Email 2: Lulu Lemon

Subject Line: sink or swim‏

Eradium ecommerce email marketing-blog-7-subject ine lululemon 1
Eradium ecommerce email marketing-blog-7-subject ine lululemon 2

Clicking on one of the products in the email lands you on this page:

Eradium ecommerce email marketing-blog-7-subject ine lululemon ugh


  1. Colors: 3* – the products blend in the background shots and hard to differentiate. The product and the background image must have enough color contrast in to draw the attention of the reader.
  2. Fonts: 3*– the fonts under the pictures appear small and hard to read. They get lost in the images above.
  3. Images: 3*– The images lack brightness and clarity. The product images do not have consistency. Some appear with models, some appear as partial view, some look like the website pictures and some do not. There is no common pattern.
  4. Formatting: 4* – The image and text all aligned and follow a series of block groups based on product groupings.
  5. Mobile Optimized: 4*–The layout displays well on the phone. The color contrast and image sizing is perfectly aligned with one column. The only issue is the font used but that is an overall issue described under “font” section above.


  1. Subject line: 2*It is very vague and not specific; it is assumed that the email will contain products related to swimming but majority of the products are not related to water activities.
  2. Clear offer: 3* – There is no specific call to action in this email, just a showcase of different new products
  3. The urgency to purchase: 1* – there is no urgency to purchase indicated in the email, however clicking on the products lands you on a page (see screen shot) that the product is no longer available. If there was a limited quantity available this information should be brought to the shopper attention to avoid disappointment. This creates a negative experience.
  4. Product highlights: 3* –There is a picture and the name but there is no description, price or any other details. Some products link to pages with the same product image, some link to pages with life shots; when you click on the product link you are not sure if you landed on the correct page.

Overall rating: 2.8*


Lulu Lemon is famous for having nontraditional subject lines and their audiences have come accustom to seeing them in their inbox. The name lululemon is enough to get their audience attention. Once opened, the email is not very appealing; it has washed out images, small font and unclear call to action. For a brand that sells a high end and active lifestyles this email is pretty boring. The campaign needs to reflect the brand essence as well as to be logically correct. Having a collection of images is not enough. Connection between brand, offer and subject line is a sure way to improve click-throughs.


In 1956, P&G researcher Victor Mills disliked changing the cloth diapers of his newborn grandchild. So he assigned fellow researchers in P&G’s Exploratory Division in Miami Valley, Ohio to look into making a better disposable diaper. Pampers were introduced in 1961. They were created by researchers at P&G including Vic Mills and Norma Lueders Baker. The name “Pampers” was coined by Alfred Goldman, Creative Director at Benton & Bowles, the first ad agency for the account.

Email 3: Pampers

Subject Line:  ‏ How do you get it all done?‏

Eradium ecommerce email marketing-blog-7-subject ine Pampers


  1. Colors:  4*- There is just enough use of brand color together with product shots that also offer additional shades of color. This email is not washed out like most emails that are found in the mailbox today with plain white and gray colors.
  2. Fonts: 3* – There is a nice technique use of different colors fonts through the information blocks. That draws attention and also helps the reader glance through the material quickly, rather than getting lost in the monogamy of similar blocks.
  3. Images: 4* – There is a great use of product shots along with life shot images that are designed to evoke an emotional reaction to the product that is being showcased.
  4. Formatting: 5* – This email follows a more traditional format of 2 columns which is easy to read.
  5. Mobile Optimized: 4* -All blocks realign into 1 column on the phone. The fonts are nicely readable, and there is enough clickable area and the colors are well on a mobile screen.


  1. Subject line: 3* – The subject line is pretty vague but is designed to appeal to the emotions of moms. It is meant to make them feel good about the roles as mother and pick their curiosity.
  2. Clear offer: 4* – The different products groups have been offered to the audience. There are enough different product types to generate a click trough from a large audience group.
  3. The urgency to purchase: 2*– This is not a direct sale email, so this does not apply. Having this is a “limited time offer” would have made a lift in the click troughs as it evokes urgency.
  4. Product highlights: 3* – There is no direct product information on the various product images. There is no direct link to the product page or a description. Having more product information would have been more effective.

Overall rating: 3.6


This email is not a direct purchase email. It does not have direct offers for purchase, but it is more of up sale offer. It is targeted to sell more P & G products for mothers who already purchase Pampers (another P & G product). It is designed to evoke curiosity and ignite the need for a purchase with discounts. It is an example of a more advanced email campaign using segmentation and offer positioning. Using current available date for upselling related products is an amazing example of real marketing. What Moms does not want to look good while cleaning the house?

Just for Fun

This email from Cineplex Movie Theater features the advertising of another brand – Shell. An inclusion of another brand in a marketing email is a pretty innovative idea but pretty risky. I have never agreed to receive communication from Shell. I do not remember seeing this as being allowed in the Canada’s new anti-spam law.



There are hundreds of blogs that tell what words to use for writing irresistible subject lines and tactics to increase conversion of email campaigns. They are all good suggestions, but each brand has its unique audience and what works for the company A will not work for a company B. It is important to establish what works for you and only you.

Three basic things to do to find your magic formula for your audience:

  1. Test language: do they prefer more or less informationDo they like symbols in the subject line?
  2. Do they like symbols in the subject line?Do they prefer action, questions or other types of keywords
  3. Do they prefer action, questions or other types of keywords

Three basic things not to put in your magic formula:

  1. Do not send emails on the day that everyone else sends, now that everyone knows it is Monday the mailbox is full
  2. Do not use the generic formula of lunch time emails-again everyone else knows it too
  3. Do not put the following keywords: sale, $, free, etc. in the subject line unless you tested, and they did work for you

No one knows your audience but you!

Anna Battrick

Anna Battrick is Eradium’s Director of Ecommerce Services, has an extensive background in retail marketing and project management. With over 10 years of managing complex projects from inception to completion while always maintaining “it can be done” spirit. The world of retail is not only a professional interest but also a personal hobby which lets Anna see the other side of retail, from a shopper perspective. This helps create engaging marketing programs that speak personally to the shoppers interests and engage them in a conversation.

To start a dialog about your next eCommerce initiative