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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Budai

Do Subject Lines With Questions Perform Better?

Updated: Jul 3, 2022

Your email subject line is the first thing your readers see, and this one line determines whether your reader will open your email or not. But, what makes a clickable subject line? Ideally, anything that generates curiosity or baits the reader into opening your email. In that case, using questions in your subject line should be a no-brainer, right?

You might be surprised, but it turns out that subject lines that use statements perform much better than questions.

We ran this test over 20 times for three different eCommerce clients in the furniture, fashion, and adult intimate wear section. We even included different kinds of emails; trust, promotional, and content based, to make sure that we had a wide sample size.

Despite being three completely different products with very different audiences, most of the results leaned towards subject lines with statements coming out as the clear winner!

Below are the results from three different email campaigns from three of our very different clients.

Fig 1: Statement A had a 4.72% higher open rate as compared to the question based subject line, and it won with a 100% confidence rate. Confidence score is a metric that helps track how statistically significant the results are. A confidence rate of 95% and above is considered significantly accurate.

Fig 2: In this test, Variation A had an open rate of 63.9% which is 4.84% higher than Variation B. It also had a win confidence of 99.6% which is statistically significant.

Fig 3: In this test, Variation A had an open rate of 24.6% which is1.47% higher than Variation B. It also had a win confidence of 98.6% which is statistically significant.

Here’s Why

Questions can generate curiosity in readers, but they also put an onus on the reader to decide whether the email is relevant to them or not. This cuts the chances of them opening your email by half.

Let’s look at this with some examples:

Trouble getting work done?

Wondering what to gift dad?

Yes or no questions are an easy way to generate curiosity for readers that directly relate to the problem you’re addressing. If the reader doesn’t resonate strongly with your question, they’re more likely to simply skip your email. Often your reader might have the problem you’re describing, but they might not recognize or acknowledge it enough to click on your email.

However, rephrasing the same question as a benefit statement makes your subject line seem more relatable to a wider audience. Let’s rephrase the same questions and see:

Trouble getting work done?

5 ways to get work done faster.

Wondering what to gift dad?

Gift ideas for dads that have everything.

Your readers are more likely to open and read your emails since you’re offering a value benefit and posing your subject line to be more solution oriented.

Then there’s also the risk of getting repetitive.

Questions might work for you in certain situations, but they’re not a great strategy for regular email campaigns. Your regular readers will soon catch on, or simply get bored of receiving questions on a weekly basis. Whereas statements give you a lot of room to play around with. Here are some ideas to spice up your subject lines without relying too much on questions:

Use Emojis: Emojis are a great way to add an eye catching element to your subject line, but remember to find emojis that are useful and relevant to your topic, and avoid overusing them. Ideally don’t use more than one emoji in your subject line.

Keep it short: Short subject lines stand out more easily in a crowded inbox. They’re also mobile friendly, which is where most readers end up accessing their emails. Try to optimize your subject line to be as short as possible. Ideally less than 40 characters.

Say something unexpected: You don’t need a question to spark curiosity, you just need creativity! Surprise your audience with something unexpected to grab their attention. You can use numbers, or even a teaser that prompts them to open your email to read the rest.

Use humor: Most people open their email for work, if your subject line manages to bring a smile to your readers face, you’ve won their attention! Using puns, riddles, and wordplay can help you achieve this.

Personalize your subject lines: Exclusivity is a great way to get your readers attention. You can do this by including your reader's name in the subject line, and using phrases like, “for you.”

Lists: This is a straightforward way to demonstrate the information your email contains. It also adds a natural flow to your entire email.

This doesn’t mean that you should never use questions! It’s important to mix it up, and there are times when using questions can help you make that sale. In fact questions vs statements is just one of the many AB tests that you can run to optimize your subject lines. Each of the pointers we listed above could be a separate AB test in itself.

If you’re looking for a simple way to optimize your ecommerce email campaigns to increase your revenue, simply reach out to us and let us handle the work of running all your tests, while you lay back and enjoy all the benefits of retention marketing.


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