Emojis have come a long way in the past decade, and by now most of your email contacts have become accustomed to seeing them in marketing communications. And while this means the risk of seeming unprofessional is much lower than it used to be, it also means that some of their attention-grabbing potential is diminished — you can’t just stick a ? and ? in your subject lines and call it a day.

Below, we’ll cover some helpful tips to help you use emojis to engage your subscribers and get them opening your emails without overdoing it. But first, let’s revisit some of the best reasons to use them.

They can help you stand out in the inbox

The primary strategy behind using symbols is to allow the eye to pause when scanning through hundreds of subject lines in the inbox. And that pause can encourage highly coveted engagement.

Emojis in email subject lines have been proven to work about 60% of the time, boosting open rates by about 25%

They reduce subject line character counts

Additionally, emojis allow marketers to convey a particular mood or piece of information in a single character, which can help save valuable space in the subject line. Only the first 30-40 characters of a subject line will display for most mobile users, so space is at a premium.

Practical tips for using emojis in email subject lines

You can see the value that emojis bring to your email marketing. But as with all strategies, be mindful of the best way to use them and consider the following best practices.

Know your audience

Brands are constantly working to make an emotional connection with their customers. Of course, with some industries, the use of emojis may be deemed inappropriate — and when emojis don’t work, they can actually hurt open rates by 60%, which is potentially as much as they help them

For example, some financial institutions may not feel comfortable using such a playful or casual tone with their customers. But for most retailers, it’s very appropriate to experiment with relevant symbols.

Avoid overkill

The frequent use of emojis may very well annoy your subscribers and could encourage them to delete your message without evening opening it, particularly if the symbols aren’t relevant to your campaign. Simply adding a bunch of smiley faces or hearts to your subject line with no purpose probably won’t give you the results you were hoping for.

If the emoji has nothing to do with the promotion or email copy, leave them out. Use emojis sparingly in subject lines, and choose emojis that are relevant to your brand or message.

Try a split test before you use emojis in all of your emails

Before you send your message, duplicate it and use the same subject line without the emoji to test its effectiveness. Try at least three subject line split tests before drawing a real conclusion.

As you could be running a variety of campaigns with different offers, you’ll want to be able to determine whether the emoji, rather than the offer, influenced your open rate. Test your engaged subscribers separately from your unengaged to see how the emojis affect each group.

Test how your emojis render

There’s no point using emojis if they’re not supported and don’t display correctly, so testing is a must. Create a test list that includes email accounts from all of the major ISPs so you can see how your symbols appear across email clients and mobile devices. Even if they're supported, the symbol may look quite different depending on the email provider or device.

Also, be sure to use the symbol within the first 20 characters of your subject line to ensure recipients see it, whether viewing their email on a mobile device or desktop. If you don’t, it will render as a blank square (☐) instead.

Build a library

Develop a database of symbols and emojis for offers and holidays that make sense for your brand. Test them and keep them handy for easy grab-and-go email campaigns. Remember to think outside the box. Everyone adds a little heart to their subject lines over Valentine’s Day, so be creative and come up with something a little different.

But of course, you don’t need to wait for a holiday to try a symbol in your subject line. You could also split test emojis with your lifecycle campaigns, such as a welcome, birthday, post-purchase or abandoned cart series. The same principles apply for any campaign.

If you want to stand out in the inbox, give emojis a try. Something as simple as a football for a Super Bowl promotion or an hourglass as your annual inventory sale winds down might be just enough to significantly increase your open rates and bring in a slew of sales.

Wrapping up (?+⬆️)

We’ve already made it clear that emojis are valuable ? tools: They boost engagement, give your brand warmth, and extend your communication beyond words — just make sure that you use them wisely and, as always, test.