How Email Emojis Affect Open Rates

How Email Emojis Affect Open Rates

I used to often wonder how email emojis affect open rates when you add them.

Does adding emojis in your email subject line affect your open and deliverability rates?

Particular how would emoji use in email subject lines directly make an impact on how many emails were opened?


Would such inclusion create greater attention for the unsuspecting casual email viewer, to a point where they were more likely to read my emails? 

how email emojis affect open rates is a great question

These are all great questions, and a company by the name of Return Path did a case study on this subject in recent years.

They selected the most popular holiday of every month during a calendar year (total 12 holidays were selected), and chose 3 popular emojis for each holiday.

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how email emojis affect open rates, first let's define the problem

How Email Emojis Affect Open Rates: Let’s Define the Problem

Return Path sought to find out how emojis in email subject lines were resonating with their subscribers.

Since emojis had become a very popular addition in digital communication, they were most highly used in personal communication like texts and social posts.

Increasingly used in email marketing campaigns, these emojis were starting to be used in email subject lines for email marketing campaigns.

Return Path explored the effectiveness of emojis in email subject lines, by identifying a significant holiday for each month and then tracking the use of emojis for that theme.

For a selected holiday of each month, Return Path gathered the following data for the most common emojis:

  • Inbox Placement Rate
  • Deleted Before Reading Rate
  • Complaint Rate
  • “This is not SPAM" Rate

To demonstrate how emojis in subject lines compared to traditional text-only subject lines, Return Path showed these same metrics for all promotional emails sent during the promotional period. In addition, they compared emails with themes in the subject lines compared to holiday-related keywords.

Highlight 3 important emojis

To finalize their experiment, they highlighted the three most important emojis every month to show a starting point for testing your own email campaigns.

A Surprising Result

A Surprising Result

From the data I have examined, the results uncovered a surprising yet consistent trend that overall open rates increased when emojis were used in the email subject line.

This trend was consistent for every major holiday.

Inbox Placement Rate

The Inbox Placement Rate (%) when adding emojis in the email subject line either increased or remained the same for the most important Holidays (Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas).

Mother's Day stats

However, in terms of popularity for the less important holidays (New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, St.Patrick’s Day) the Inbox Placement rate decreased when adding emojis in the email subject.

Valentine Day's open rates

Also note that for every holiday, the READ Rates increased and the DELETED Before READING Rate decreased.

No doubt, one of the "Emoji Stars" is the Poop Emoji, he gets "opened" most of the time (here in September) - you can even see his READ rate and Inbox Placement Rate is higher than the others - but if you MUST use him just make sure "Mr. Poop" is used sparingly and with relevancy!

Miscellaneous Open Rates

These trends certainly support using emojis in your email subject line.

how email emojis affect open rates will require testing

Tips for Testing How Email Emojis Affect Open Rates

Here below are a few considerations and tactics that you should keep in mind as you start to incorporate emojis into your email program:

Don’t start sending emojis to your entire list straight from the start. Test the impact for a Small Sample of your list.

Test the impact of your emojis on a small sample of your Compare it to the control sample using the subject line

Don’t Over Do-It!  Emojis as they can wane over time. Avoid using the same emojis every time. Stand out from other inbox emojis by using widely used terms.

Make sure your emails make sense

Make Sure Your Emojis make sense in context of your industry. Be cognizant of your companies brand identity and be careful how you use each emoji.

Avoid using Broken Emojis: Make sure your emojis are rendering properly. A subject line with a broken emoji is more likely to get deleted or cause a complaint if you accidentally include a broken emoji. Be sure the emojis that you are using a supported by the mailboxes and providers your subscribers use.

Know where your Emojis are landing: Higher open rates correlate with higher inbox placement rates. Before concluding whether your emoji strategy was a success or a failure, make sure you are checking where your emojis are landing.

Check your competitors to see how they are using Emojis: Keep an eye on what others are doing, and take note of the many options in which they are using emojis. Also check to see how those emojis are performing for them.

Remember that while using emojis have ignite a new spark and additional engagement with your subscribers, there’s also a chance that these same emojis could turn off users to your content completely.

The most important thing when you are trying out emojis in your email subject lines is to take it slow and be strategic about it.

how email emojis affect open rates, here are my final tips

Conclusion:  Here are My Final Tips for Testing Emojis

  • Don't start sending emojis to your entire list off the bat. Test the impact of adding emojis from sample of your list, and compare it a sample without an emoji.
  • Avoid using the same emoji every time.
  • Make sure your emojis make sense in context to your industry.
  • Know where your emails are landing. Higher open rates correlate with higher inbox placement rates.
  • See how your competitors are using emojis
Run your email campaign to see how email emojis affect open rates

So next time you plan on running an email marketing campaign through your email marketing service, try adding emojis to your email subject lines to see how email emojis affect open rates.

Please leave a comment below so we can continue this discussion

About the Author

KAJU is the band leader and founding member of OFF THE HOOK, one of the premiere dance party bands in the New York Tri-State Area. After contracting a mysterious hand disorder, Kaju now writes to help other musicians and artists deal with disabilities. Currently he is a Full-time Affiliate Marketer and 1-on-1 mentor at Wealthy Affiliate, a community that can help anyone start an online business without prior experience. This is where he teaches others how to make a great passive income. Read more about his story here!