30 Jan 2019
How to write email subject lines for Alexa
Just in case you haven’t heard – smart speakers, voice technology, and virtual assistants are about to change the world.
To hear the futurists and technologists tell it, a day when we’ll all roll out of bed shouting “Alexa, make me bacon and eggs!”, “Hey Google, iron my shirt!”, and “Alexa, start the car!” could be just around the corner.
That day sounds pretty awesome if you think about it. Strange, but awesome nonetheless.
This fledgling technology looks poised to upend the current human-internet interface to a degree not seen since the advent of the smartphone, although it just isn’t quite there yet.
Sure, nearly half of all US homes will most likely contain a smart speaker before 2019 is over, and the tech facilitating our interactions with these devices has made some stunning strides in recent months, but for the time being the scope of what they are capable of remains quite limited. For the time being at least, smart speaker fans will have to be content with watching Alexa, Google Home, Portal, and HomePod creep slowly into our lives, one practical application at a time.
The latest smart speaker application making waves across the tech blogosphere? Smart speakers reading your emails to you aloud.
Yes, Amazon’s Alexa – she of the largest market share in the smart speaker business thus far – can now read through your inbox one email at a time, beginning with the email subject line.
Here at Phrasee, where awesome email subject lines are kind of our thing, this particular voice-activated advancement made us sit up and take notice. What, we wondered, did this development mean for the mighty email marketing industry and the email subject lines that make it run? What will writing email subject lines for Alexa actually look like?
So we looked a little deeper to find out which email subject line elements will really matter in a smart speaker-driven world. Here’s what we found…
Brand voice matters
When it comes to any form of advertising or marketing copy, maintaining a consistent and effective brand voice should be a top priority. This fact is just as true when it comes to email subject lines as it is elsewhere in any branding strategy.
Boring, pushy, or spammy subject line copy is bad for business and bad for your brand. With voice and smart speaker technology added into the mix, the importance of brand voice in email subject line copy will be even more crucial. A lame, off-brand subject line in an email inbox can be scanned and moved on from in a matter of microseconds, not so once it comes blaring out of a speaker on a subscriber’s kitchen counter at 9 in the morning.
In a voice-driven world, keeping your email subject line copy on-brand and aurally appealing will be more important than ever.
Including an emoji (or 3) into an email subject line has had the power to make a good subject line better (or a bad subject line worse) for the better part of a decade now. Emojis operate like descriptive, visual punctuation marks, demonstrate a degree of digital linguistic savvy and can make an email subject line stand out in the inbox – at least if all its inbox neighbors aren’t trying the same exact trick.
When Alexa encounters an emoji within your brand’s subject line copy, however, the only things she can do is name that emoji aloud, which is far less appealing.
Seeing “😲🔥👉Our latest deal, 50% off today only! 👈🔥😲” in your inbox makes sense, since the emoji is a purely visual linguistic element. Hearing Alexa or Google Home say “Gasp emoji fire emoji pointing finger emoji our latest deal, 50% off today only pointing finger emoji fire emoji gasp emoji” just sounds dumb.
Unless smart speakers and the digital assistants that drive them drastically change the way they interpret and communicate emojis, optimizing email subject lines for voice may mean leaving these adorable linguistic nuggets out altogether, which is a shame ***sad face emoji***.
Split testing your brand’s email subject lines has always been an essential part of any effective email marketing strategy.
With voice mediating some of the interactions between your marketing emails and your subscribers, however, you’ve just found one more thing that you will need to regularly split test for.
The voice-email interface can be expected to evolve rapidly in the coming months and years, so it behooves every brand and email marketer to test out their email subject lines and make strategic adjustments to optimize email subject lines for Alexa early and often.
The many, many email subject line split tests Phrasee has run over the years has made one thing crystal clear: email subject line length has no appreciable impact on email subject line performance (measured in opens, clicks-through, and ROI) over time.
With a smart speaker at the helm of the human-email interaction, however, this immutable email marketing truth may well cease to be as immutable as we once thought.
Delivering your brand’s message with punchier, more attention-grabbing, and shorter subject lines may indeed make them more pleasing to the ear, and thus more appropriate for voice.
Although the viewable character limit of each subject line (and its sub-header) will cease to be a factor – since Alexa will read all the SL and SH text sent with every email – we think that long, boring copy containing too much information will almost certainly be viewed as a nuisance if Alexa is reading it aloud in a subscriber’s house.
No brand wants to be a nuisance (we hope).
Email subject lines for Alexa: Coming soon to an email marketing strategy near you…
While the use of digital assistants and smart speakers for checking emails isn’t widespread at all yet, that doesn’t mean that it never will be. If the digital transformation has taught us anything, it’s that while the arc of technological adoption may be long, it always bends toward convenience in the end.
If using voice tech to check and read emails proves to be even marginally easier/more convenient than checking them on our PCs, phones, and tablets, it’s only a matter of time until optimizing email subject lines for Alexa becomes a crucial imperative for every email marketer.