Length of email Length of email

What’s the ideal length of an eCommerce email?

What’s the right length for an email to your eCommerce customers? How much are your customers willing to read?

If you write too much, you could bore your subscribers — they don’t need much incentive to delete your email and move on to the next.

If you write too little, you might miss opportunities to entice your subscribers to make a purchase. Or, you might fail to get your message across entirely.

Is there a target word count? An ideal number of images?

These are problems every email marketer deals with. They worry they haven’t found the right balance of copy and images in their emails to keep their audience engaged and drive the most sales. So how long should your emails be?

Consult these guidelines before you make your next eCommerce newsletter to design the perfect email.

The length of your subject line

Your subject line is arguably the most important part of your email. Other than your “from” name, the subject line is the only piece of information your subscribers use to decide whether they’ll open your email or send it to their trash can.

While the content of your subject line matters, the length isn’t that important. Click To Tweet

When MailChimp studied more than 12 billion emails, they learned that there’s little correlation between subject line length and open rate.

Length of email

This means that it’s smarter to focus on what you say, not how long it takes you to say it. Focus on the type of subject lines your audience want to read, regardless of their length.

That said, don’t disrupt the user experience by sending a subject line so long that they can’t read it.

Most emails are opened on mobile devices, so keep your subjects short enough to be read clearly and scanned quickly on a small screen. On most devices, that’s about 50 characters.

For more information writing subject lines, read our full guide: How to write an eCommerce email subject line subscribers can’t help but click.

The length of your body copy

Boomerang – an email productivity tool – analyzed more than 40 million emails in a study to determine which kinds of emails work best. They discovered a clear connection between word count and response rate.

Essentially, people respond more often to shorter emails.

Length of email

The sweet spot is 50 to 125 words. If you write less than 50, you’ll jeopardize your response rate, but you can write up to 200 words without much of a drop-off. (For context, this paragraph – including the parentheses – is 49 words, so you don’t have to write much.)

That said, don’t force your readers to read any more words than they need to understand your point. If your email’s purpose is simple and only requires a few words, keep it short. No one is insulted by brevity.

Remember, people respond more often to shorter emails.

People respond more often to shorter emails Click To Tweet

However, Boomerang’s data applies primarily to responses. They measured people who replied to the email.

The most important email marketing metric is probably click-through rate; how does email length affect CTR?

MarketingExperiments found that 95 words of copy produces the highest click-through rate. Their study found that adding just 75 more words above 95 drops the click-through rate by 5 percent.

You’ll notice that’s similar to what Boomerang discovered.

Email marketing firm Constant Contact approached this problem a little differently. Their study found that the ideal length of a newsletter is about 20 lines of text. In a standard 600-pixel wide email, that’s about 150-200 words.

All this tells us is that less text is better. Adding more copy won’t make your subscribers engage with your emails more.

Of course, you don’t have to stick to a strict copy rule for every email. Some messages require a little more information, some need less.

Some customer types are willing to read more text than others. Some want stark, almost brutalist emails. Consult your buyer personas to determine what kind of email is right for your customer.

If you’re pitching a high-dollar product to a highly engaged, segmented portion of your list, you can probably get away with more supportive copy. But if you’re announcing a sale or blasting a coupon to your entire list, you’ll want to keep things brief.

The trick to effective email marketing is giving your subscribers what they need to make a decision and take whatever action you’re driving them to take. Click To Tweet

Purchase receipts, for example, are one type of email that don’t need much text. They’re naturally shorter, but still get a 71 percent open rate. That’s significantly higher than any other type of email because of their unique purpose.

So if you find yourself rambling in your emails, or if your email’s purpose requires a lot of information, it’s smart to find ways to shorten it.

Images in your emails

Images are a critical part of your email marketing. Most industries use images in their emails because they work, and that’s especially true for eCommerce. After all, 93 percent of consumers say visuals are key deciding factors in their purchasing decisions.

93 percent of consumers say visuals are key deciding factors in their purchasing decisions. Click To Tweet

Plus, you can pack a lot of information into a visual, which means you can go lighter on the copy.

How many images you use is up to you, but most eCommerce stores limit their image use to less than six in a single campaign. You might be tempted to cram more product photos into your emails, but if you include too many, your customers may decide not to take the time to click through to the product listing.

Limit your images to about 30 percent of the email’s available space. Any more and you’ll create clutter and crowding.

Furthermore, keep in mind that some people don’t see images. They turn them off manually or their email client prohibits them.

This means that your emails have to be functional even if the images aren’t present. Therefore…

  • Don’t compose your emails entirely of images. (This affects email deliverability.)
  • Don’t put critical details (like your “Buy Now” button) on the image.
  • Put accurate ALT text on your images to give people an idea of what’s supposed to be there. (This is also important for accessibility.)

The main pieces of an eCommerce email

eCommerce emails boil down to three main parts:

  1. Branding, so the reader knows who you are.
  2. Your offer, so the reader knows why you’re emailing them.
  3. The action you want the reader to take, so your readers know what to do next.

Check out this email from Harry’s:

Length of email

At a quick glance, you can tell who sent it, what they offer, and how to take action. They even add some supporting copy that explains how it works. They smartly include the call-to-action twice so you can find it if you read to bottom.

They manage to do all that with less than a hundred words. They don’t try to cram lot of extra copy into their emails because (as the data shows), it’s just not necessary.

You can compel people to read more of your email by putting your lede front-and-center. Your lede is the hook – the major benefit – that captures the essence of your email.

For instance, if the purpose of your email is to notify your subscribers about a summer sale, make a phrase like “20 percent off summer styles” more prominent than anything else in the email. If the first words your subscribers read are a long introduction about the joy of summer, you’ll probably lose them before they get to the part that benefits them.

Avoid all unnecessary words in your emails. Look for ways to convey the same meaning with fewer words. Remove any phrasing or concepts that don’t relate to the email’s purpose. If there isn’t a clear connection between the email’s purpose and a line of copy within the email, remove the line.

Avoid all unnecessary words in your emails. Look for ways to convey the same meaning with fewer words. Click To Tweet
Free download: Guidelines for perfect eCommerce newsletters

The bottom line

The right email length impacts your response rate and click-through rate, which impacts the overall ROI of your email marketing campaigns. If your emails are too short, your subscribers won’t have the information they need to make a decision. If your emails are too long, your subscribers won’t bother to invest their time.

Like all things, the best piece of advice we can give is to test your results. Examine how your subscribers respond to long vs. short emails, emails with lots of pictures vs. text-only emails, etc.

Once you find the perfect length for subject lines and emails, you’ll enjoy high open and click-through rates.