MAKE IT POP!: The Preheader Express

With the ubiquity of image disabling, the escalation of mobile email viewing and the expectation that recipients will not scroll, email senders have been hot to hop on the preheader train. For those of you who haven’t yet left the station, the preheader is the usually small and subdued text blurb at the top of an email that includes some combination of the below:

(1) View with images prompt
(2) Add to address book prompt
(3) Content teaser snippet(s)

Preheaders are meant to inform a recipient of:
(1) Who an email is from
(2) What the email is about and what to do about it
(3) How to view it with images

Below, check out four preheaders pulled from the tops of emails I received last week from Aveda, Blue Nile, Pottery Barn Kids and Stride Rite. The examples are displayed in order of increasing complexity: Aveda’s preheader takes the most basic (and common) form, while Blue Nile, Pottery Barn Kids and Stride Rite get fancy, adding additional details and click-through opportunities. Stride Rite gets brownie points for linking to a landing page with “add to address book” instructions for major email providers, but in my opinion rides the preheader express one stop too far. Theirs is epic, pushing the email itself down 122 pixels.

I am absolutely a best practices advocate, but let’s test to determine whether we are on the right track or off the rails. How much preheader is enough?! If any of y’all have performance stats to share, I’m sure the eec community would be grateful.

I’d like to get on a train to Cabo San Lucas right about now.

As ever,
Lisa Harmon
of Smith-Harmon

–>Read other Make it Pop! posts.

From: Aveda Online
Subject Line: Top tips for straight hair, plus Free styling brush
Date: Monday, Jan. 21, 2008

From: Blue Nile
Subject Line: Special Promotion for Blue Nile Customers
Date: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008

From: Pottery Barn Kids
Subject Line: Shop NEW nursery seating – over 50 designer fabrics!
Date: Saturday, Jan. 19, 2008

From: stride rite
Subject Line: New Arrivals, Baby and Cookie Magazine. Find out more…
Date: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2008

3 thoughts on “MAKE IT POP!: The Preheader Express

  1. Lisa –

    Great stuff! First of all…I love the term "preheader." I hope you’re working on trademarking that…

    I agree with Ian’s comments above. I’ve worked with several clients to put "calls to action" (CTAs) in the preheader and their click-through / conversion rates have shot through the roof. It shocks me that nobody is really using this tactic. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

    dj at bronto

  2. Ian, great input. I agree on the mobile piece doubly; I see 2 lines of preheader in my iPhone Mail Inbox, directly under the subject line.

  3. Preheaders are meant to inform a recipient of:
    (1) Who an email is from
    (2) What the email is about and what to do about it
    (3) How to view it with images
    Of these three items I think that 2 of them are redundant and a waste of valuable preview pane real estate — 1 and 3. For 1 this was already conveyed in the From field and if you are writing subject lines properly should also be repeated there. Branded subject lines generally boost open rates. For 3 the email client does this for us. In all of the clients I use, each one inserts a line of text or grey bar or link that tells me images have been blocked and to "click here" to view blocked images.

    2 is the truly valuable message to put in a preheader. I have seen a significant boost in click through and conversions with my clients that have used this tactic. This also helps with the mobile audience since it is the first text we will see on our tiny screens (I am a mobile audience member). The links in the preheader are less useful for this audience though since BlackBerries do not render hyperlinks, but this text is still much more readable than HTML on a BlackBerry.

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