Emojis in Your Emails: 3 Do’s and Don’ts

emojis in emails

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 3, 2017. It’s been updated as of the current publish date to reflect the most recent insights.

Emojis in subject lines can boost open rates by 10-15 percent, according to Litmus. With those numbers, what marketer wouldn’t want to throw a few hearty-eyes in their next subject line?

Emojis are a fun way for ecommerce businesses to stand out in a crowded inbox and establish a deeper connection with their customers. In fact, emojis can make online messages easier to understand and more believable, according to research by the American Psychological Association.

But before you go too crazy with smiley faces and side-eyes, it’s important to note that they aren’t for every brand. There’s an art to using emojis in your email marketing in a way that will catch your audience’s attention—for the right reasons. 

If you’re curious about using emojis in your next email, check out the following do’s and don’ts to see if using emojis in emails is worth the hype:


Use emojis to shorten subject lines

Emojis can be a great choice when there’s a word in your subject line that can easily be replaced by an image. 

For example, try switching out the word “love” with a heart for a Valentine’s Day campaign. This helps shorten the subject line and make it more colorful. 

That said, you don’t want your meaning to be lost, so use this approach only when the emoji is a logical replacement and your message can be clearly understood without the word itself. Using a kissing face emoji in the previous example probably wouldn’t be as clear.

Use emojis to add to subject lines

Using emojis is also an easy way to enhance your subject line and show some personality. 

For example, the subject line <Summer Sale ☀️☀️☀️ > is a lot more fun than <Summer Sale> and still gets the point across. 

Here are a few examples we ❤ (see what we did there?):

The 28 most loved product launches from Feb 🚀 (Product Hunt)

🌊 Good design is more than surface deep 🌊 (Crew)

🏝️ Island Vibes 🏝️ (Converse)

Because they’re eye-catching in the inbox; sales, holidays, product launches, and company announcements are a perfect time to use emojis. Specifically, during Black Friday Cyber Monday, subscribers will be receiving an influx in emails, and emojis can help separate yours from the competition.

Test, Test, Test those subject line emojis

There are two main reasons you should test emojis in your subject lines.

First, the way emojis render varies by the email client, which means emojis in emails will look different for Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc. They will also look different on mobile for Android and Apple phones. 

One way to tackle this is to use an email testing service like Litmus to see how your emojis will render across these different clients.

Second, A/B testing emoji vs. no emoji subject lines gives you a better insight into how your customers will respond.

Even if you are marketing to millennial and gen x consumers, it never hurts to test the waters before you send a subject line with an emoji in it to an entire email list.


Use emojis if your brand has a serious tone

This point goes hand-in-hand with sending emojis to the right demographic and making sure it fits your brand. Whenever you try out a new email marketing technique, it’s important to match the overall tone you convey in your day-to-day business. 

Selling clothes or shoes to women in their 20s? Emojis will likely appeal to your customers.

But if you sell something like emergency preparedness, medical supplies, or anything else that requires a more neutral tone, it’s best to avoid using emojis in emails. Additionally, if your customers tend to be part of an older demographic, they might not appreciate emojis as much as younger consumers would.

Forget to segment

Don’t use emojis until you know which email clients the majority of your audience is using. This ties into the point about testing your subject lines to see how they appear across email clients. Some email clients — most notably Outlook 2003 — will not display emojis. 

Segment your email list by email domain to see the breakdown of your particular audience and send emoji emails accordingly.

You also could segment by age, gender, location, or other properties if you find that emojis perform better with certain groups during testing. 

Alternatively, trying sending different emojis based on customer properties. For example, if you sell pet supplies and collect information on what pet your customer has, you could use a cat or dog emoji in your welcome series depending on which animal is associated with their profile.

Segementation is not only necessary to make sure emails using emojis look how you wanted, it also can be used to make the content more relevant.

Go overboard with emojis

Don’t go overboard with emojis in your subject lines. Otherwise, you risk irritating your subscribers and coming off unprofessional. 

Too many emojis can make your subject lines indecipherable, and no one wants to feel like they’re reading hieroglyphics while skimming their inbox. Even worse, too many emojis could look like spam and affect your deliverability

Chevy tried an all-emoji press release about a new car that came across as very forced, proving that less is more when it comes to using emojis in emails. Not to mention, it’s almost impossible to decipher the message they’re trying to communicate.

Use emojis to complement your copy, not replace it completely.

Keep testing, learning and improving those email subject lines

Using emojis can liven up your emails and make them stand out in a crowded inbox, but you might not want to make them the star of every subject line you send.

Above all else, it’s critical to stay true to the tone of your business and understand your audience. Additionally, testing will ensure that emails with emojis render properly and are relevant to your customers.

Emojis may look cute, but they’re not always appropriate. Over-inserting random emojis into subject lines and blasting busy emails to your entire list regardless of audience demographic will surely miss the mark. 

But when done right, emojis can help emphasize your brand’s message and convey a playful, light-hearted message that customers wouldn’t be able to help but click.

Looking for more ways to improve your email open rates? Explore this report on Email Segmentation for Ecommerce.

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