Email marketing. We all know it is effective, we all know it is a great way to retain customers, build relationships, coerce customers to purchase and offer incentives and deals, but that doesn’t make it any more attractive.

As your email sits in your subscribers inbox looking like all the hundred other emails that are probably sitting in their inbox, it stands little chance of getting opened.

Sure, a catchy phrase, a buzz word or a promise of a brighter tomorrow might convince them to open it, but chances are it will be turfed into the trash before it is given any time of day.

It’s a harsh fate for the world of email marketing, but what if there was a new, proven way that you could increase your open rate?

What if there was a way you could turn your clever email subject headline into a magical array of characters that would increase your chances of being opened by up to 45 percent?

You may have already noticed it happening in your own inbox.

It is Emoji!

Emoji or emoticons are small digital pictures that represent a thing, feeling, concept or emotion and when added to your email subject heading, they could help your email and brand to stand out amongst the rest.

A report by Experian found that brands that used emoji’s in their email subject lines saw a 45 percent increase in their unique open rates.

However we will add that research surrounding emoji’s in emails is relatively new, and currently only around 2 percent of brands are using emoji in their email subject line headings.

This success of the emoji so far, is believed to be due to the fact that they convey an emotion, and email subscribers may feel more attached to the emotion of the email due to its presence.

One study out of Flinders University in Australia also found that people responded to emoticons or emoji in the same way that they would a human face, proving that people are more likely to feel engaged  and interested when they see one.

This huge increase in open rates could also be attributed to the emoji helping the email to stand out, as often they are brightly coloured and interesting to look at.

Emoji also help to convey a message or part of a message, which can be very helpful especially when limited to the 30 or 40 characters that some email subject lines are condensed to, particularly on mobile devices.

This means that you can get more of your message across and convey more emotion all at the same time.

In fact, one study also found that emoji are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than words are, which can help your readers to instantly understand your message and make a more informed decision on whether or not they want to read your email.

In the long run, this can also help your brand to improve their email marketing efforts and better tailor their emails to suit the real needs of their audience.

People also love emoji.

A survey found that over 70 percent of people were happy to see emoji’s in their inbox and emoji content often goes viral on social media. (Yes, emoji content is real and involves people telling a story using an assortment of emoji instead of words.)

To make things more interesting, another study conducted by Match.com and published in Time Magazine found that users who used emoji in their text messages and emails had more sex than people who didn’t. In fact, the study found a direct correlation between emoji use and the frequency of sex.

Can this be proof enough that people love emoji?

If not, there was also a recent change to the emoji skin tones after a viral campaign spread that they were not diverse enough, proving further the passion behind the humble emoji.

To break it all down, here are the known advantages of using emoji’s in emails:

  • Emoji’s help your email to stand out and add some interest
  • Emoji’s have been proven to help increase open rates
  • Emoji’s are able to convey emotions thereby increasing your audiences attachment to your message
  • Emoji’s can be used as an effective way to replace words, which is especially helpful for those on mobile devices
  • Emoji’s are popular and loved, one survey found 70 percent like to see them in their inbox
  • Only 2 percent of marketers are using Emoji in email subject headlines, which means your brand can be an early adopter and competition is weak

Recently, the email service MailChimp added an emoji feature into their email platform, making it easier for marketers to include emoji’s in their emails.

They found that brands most commonly used smiley faced and heart emoji’s as well as registered trademark symbols. When asked about the success of the emoji’s, the company stated-

“This is really just the beginning. We don’t see a consistent positive or negative impact from using the emojis at this point, but they are still growing in popularity and stabilising.”

If you are curious about using emoji in your email subject lines and are wondering if it will help boost your open rates, here is what you need to do.

Getting Started with Emoji Emails

1. Think About Your Audience

Before you start adding love hearts and smiley faces all over your email subject line, it might be worth considering who your target audience is and what message your brand wants to convey.

For Business to Business brands (B2B), it may be worth considering whether the use of emoji would look unprofessional or even amateur.

For Business to Consumer brands (B2C), it may be worth considering whether the use emoji would be appropriate or appreciated by your particular demographic.

For example, if you run a financial company your demographic may not care to see a thumbs up or a smiley face emoticon on an email about stock prices. If you run a company marketed at millennials however, they may be more receptive to a cute, friendly emoticon in their inbox.

Of course the only way to really know is to test things out, but if you are still hesitant, try testing out your emoji ideas on a small percentage of your email list first to see how they respond. We recommend starting with a sample of around 10 percent and then moving up from there.

2. Be Aware of Rendering or Spam Issues

Some emoji are not supported on certain email clients (like Outlook 2003), or some emoji may look different when opened on an Apple, Samsung or Microsoft device.

Some iPhone and iPads have also been known to replace the graphic image of the emoji with the word ’emoji’ itself.

In fact, you can see here how each emoji will look different across multiple devices from Apple to Google and across multiple email platforms from Gmail to Hotmail.

For this reason, it is really important that you understand what kind of emoji you are actually sending to all of your customers, seeing as they will most likely be accessing your emails from a multitude of different devices and across a multitude of different platforms.

Another important factor to be aware of is that some emoji can trigger certain spam filters. This means that your email may have a chance of never seeing the light of day. While most popular email clients like Google, Hotmail and Yahoo should be ok, this may be something you will need to monitor in your testing phase.

The good news is that there is a way to drastically reduce the chances of your emoji not rendering by using FSymbols, as these are natively compatible with many top platforms like Apple and Windows.

You can find a list of all the available FSymbols here for your viewing pleasure.

3. Adding Emoji to Your Email Subject Head Line

Now that you have decided you want to include emoji in your email subject headline, the next step is to work out how.

The good news is that inserting your emoji into your email headline is super, super easy and fast.

Here are the steps-

Step #1: Using the list above, select and click on any emoji that you wish to use

Step #2: Copy the chosen emoji and then paste it into the subject line heading of your email

Step #3: You are done! How easy was that?!

Alternatively, your email service like MailChimp may allow you to do it directly from their platform, making it even easier.

Before sending your email, we recommend sending a test email to yourself and opening it on a few different devices, just to double check that your emoji is appearing as it should.

4. Test, Assess, Analyse, Rinse, Repeat

Once you have officially sent out your first emoji email it is important to test your audiences reaction to it. To do this, you may want to look at-

  • Any changes to your open rate
  • Any increase or decrease in your abuse reports
  • Any changes in the number of emails sent
  • If any subscribers opted-out and if the percentage was higher or lower than usual
  • Any changes in conversion rates

Of course, it will take sending a few emails to really determine the effects of including an emoji in your email heading, but that first email sent may provide some clues as to how things are going to go in the future.

We also heavily recommend split testing in order to collect even more efficient results. For your split test, send one group of your email subscribers the email with the emoji in it, and send your other group the same email subject headline but without the emoji.

This way you can instantly see what effect the emoji is having on your audience without having to collect weeks of data. It will also help you to quickly determine whether your audience is responding to the emoji or not, especially if the results are drastically different between the two.

Some test ideas that are worth starting out with or observing also include-

  • Which style of emoji is working the best
  • Which type of subject line heading are the emoji performing well with
  • Is it more effective to include one or two emoji
  • Which single emoji are your audience responding the most to
  • Do your open rates improve if you send different emoji to different people using different devices

5. Don’t Go Crazy with Emoji 

Look, we love emoji as much as the next person, but this doesn’t mean you should include 50 emoji in every subject headline every single time.

Even if emoji do help to increase your open rates or boost conversions, they will start to lose their appeal if you continually use them every day or every week.

Use your emoji sparingly and try to limit your email subject line to just one or maybe two emoji at the most, as any more can be distracting.

To summarise the ins and outs of getting started with Emoji in your emails, here is what you need to remember-

  • Only use emoji if you feel your audience may positively respond or benefit from it. If you are unsure if this will be the case, test it out on a small percentage of your email list first.
  • Remember, some emoji may look different on different devices, computers or email programs, so make sure you test what you are sending first.
  • To avoid any issues with emoji rendering, try using FSymbols instead which are compatible on most all popular devices and email platforms, you can find a full list of these symbols here.
  • To add your emoji to your email headline, simply copy and paste it straight into the subject line of your email.
  • Send a test email to yourself to be sure that your emoji is appearing as it should. Try opening the email on different email clients, your mobile and your desktop computer just to be sure.
  • Assess the results of your email and look for any changes in open rates, conversion rates, abuse rates or subscription rates.
  • Split test by sending half your subscribers an emoji and the other half, no emoji. Compare how your audience responds and if there are any changes to open rates, abuse reports, subscription rates or conversion rates.
  • Don’t go overboard with including emoji in every email headline, eventually your subscribers will become immune to it or frustrated by it.

“When you look back at the year in language, one of the most striking things was that, in terms of written communication, the most ascendant aspect of it wasn’t a word at all, it was emoji culture.”- Caspar Granthwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries

Ways to Use Emoji in Your Emails

Emoji’s can definitely enhance the following email formats, helping you to further convey your message and increase the chances of your emails getting opened-

1. Last Minute Deal Emails 

Got a last minute deal or a sale that is expiring soon?

Emoji are a perfect fit for this type of email as they help to instantly capture the attention of your readers and help to create a sense of urgency.

Of course, there are no restrictions on what emoji you can use to help convey your message, but try to remember who your audience is and what message you are trying to get across.

2. Special Gift Emails 

Offering a special gift is also a great time to use an emoji as it can help your readers to get even more excited or even more curious about what you may be offering them.

Remember, emoji help to highlight and enhance the emotional attachment felt to the email, so this is a perfect opportunity to make this work for your brand.

3. Emails that Show off Your Brands Personality

Emoji are a great way to add unique flair to your brand and to remind your customers that you are not simply churning out marketing material but you are also having a bit of fun.

Adding emoji to your email subject headlines can also make your brand seem more approachable, personable and down to earth, which can go a long way in helping to build trust between you and your audience.

4. Emails that Need some Visual Effects

With most consumers opening their emails on their mobile, it can sometimes be difficult to justify including lots of data heavy images and colourful links.

This can be a little bit of an issue at times because close to 90 percent of the information transmitted to the brain is in fact, visual. This means that including images can naturally enhance the engagement of your content.

Emoji can therefore be the perfect choice when you are trying to add some visual flair to your emails without taking up a whole lot of space, consuming a lot of data or requiring your readers to download great big files.

5. Holiday Themed Emails 

There are plenty of emoji for every type of holiday such as birthdays, valentines day and even christmas. Adding an emoji to these sorts of emails can help them to stand out and appear more festive. They also add visual appeal to the email and show that your brand is not afraid to get into the spirit of the holiday, or celebration.

6. In Replace of Slang Words

As emoji’s become more popular, internet slag is on the decrease. This interesting correlation proves that more people are turning to visual images to express themselves rather than coining catch phrases or using slang like LOL.

If you have been trying to appeal to your demographic by using slang or trying to keep up to date with the latest “internet words on the street” using emoji instead may be a good fix.

In fact, using emoji can often look more natural and less forced than some wannabe slang word that your dream team has come up with.

Here are some final tips and tricks to note when it comes to using emoji in your emails-

Tips and Tricks

  • Make sure your emoji are relevant to your message and what you are saying otherwise they will look spammy
  • Be creative with your choice of emoji and try not to stick to the obvious every time
  • Limit yourself to a maximum of 2 emoji per subject headline, any more could be overkill
  • Include your subscribers name alongside the emoji for greater engagement benefits
  • Remember that an emoji cannot replace good copy, it merely supports it
  • Avoid using emoji to replace words and instead use them to convey emotions
  • Add the emoji to the beginning, middle or end of your phrase but not in all three
  • Experiment with including emoji in the body of your email as well or near your call to action
  • Choose your emoji like you would choose your words and be succinct with your message
  • Don’t use emoji in every email, choose which ones need emoji wisely
  • Research the top email clients of your subscribers to see what majority will see
  • Experiment with animated emoji (be careful though, not all email clients support this but Gmail does)
  • Use your emoji to help create more emotional response around your call to action
  • Test everything to see how your audience responds to emoji


Emoji are a great way to add colour, flair and life back into your emails. In fact, as it stands today, emoji may truly be the secret sauce that helps to improve your open rates and get more subscribers engaged with what your brand has to say.

It seems so far that statistics are also in support of using Emoji in your emails, however there are other factors that also need to be considered.

Firstly, emoji need to be a good fit for your target audience and as the marketer, you need to ensure that the emoji you choose is going to show up as intended for every single reader on your list.

It may take some time to get the hang of using emoji and determining how your audience feels about it, however after you have laid down the ground work, your company will surely start to see the benefits.

Are you going to test out using emoji in your emails?