Smiley Face - Emojis and Email

A Practical Guide to Using Emojis in Email


Emojis are here to stay. Whether you’re using the most popular emoji in the world (😂) or showing your Valentine some love, they’re ingrained in our lives 😍.

With the rise of emoji popularity, these symbols have also worked their way into email marketing. Let’s look at a few ways you can use emojis in email.

Emojis and Subject Lines

It’s no wonder email marketers want to jump on emojis; a 2016 analysis reported a 775% annual increase in marketing messages that contain emojis, and there are no signs of it stopping.

The most common use we see for emojis is as subject line accents. Emojis can grab a subscriber’s attention and help a subject line pop.

Examples of Emojis in Subject Lines

Although this is not an extensive list, subject line emojis largely fall into a few different categories:

One emoji at the start or end of a subject line:
Emoji at start of subject line example

“Wrapping” a subject line in emojis
Subject Line Wrapped in Emojis

Using two emojis as a suffix
Using two emojis as a suffix

You can even use emojis in your preheader!
Emojis in the preheader

Do Emojis in Subject Lines Increase My Email Performance?

Ah, the million-dollar question. There are many conflicting studies out there, but we believe our good friends over at Phrasee have it figured out. In 60% of their tests, they found that emojis do help to increase email open rates.

However, it does come with a caveat: As Phrasee says, “it is important to note that what emojis really do is amplify a subject line’s message. Incorporating an emoji will make a bad subject line worse, and a good subject line better.”

So, the answer to that million-dollar question: Maybe. This is why it is important to test your emails and note what is working for your subscribers and what isn’t.

What to Consider When Using Emojis in Subject Lines

Before you start using emojis in your subject lines, ask yourself:

  1. Does the emoji make sense and will my subscribers understand the content?
  2. Are enough of my subscribers on devices or systems that support emojis? (See support table below)
  3. Am I starting with a good subject line?
  4. Am I testing the use of emojis and how they affect my email performance?
  5. Does my subject line make sense if the emojis don’t display?

If you answered yes to the above questions, it could be a good time to start testing emojis in subject lines.

Samsung Is Getting on Board

Previously, the lack of consistency across different systems has been a large drawback of emoji use. In other words, emojis looked different depending on the user’s device or operating system. Samsung devices, for example, decided to interpret certain emojis in rather comical ways (although they’ve recently announced they’ll bring their emojis in line with other vendors).

Although these changes will help create some consistency, it’s still important to test your emails to see how they look on different devices and to make sure your subscribers won’t misinterpret your message. Our tool, for example, lets you test your message on more than 70 different devices and platforms.

Different Uses for Emojis in Email

The use of emojis in email doesn’t end with the subject line. There are opportunities to use them in the email body, as well.

Emojis in Alt Text

Did you know you can add emojis as image alt text? It may have some niche uses, especially if your logo or another image in your email closely resembles an emoji.

However, in our testing, we found that screen readers will read out the system-defined name for that emoji. For example, a regular user would see a 😍 while a user with a screen reader will hear “smiling face with heart-shaped eyes.”

So, for the sake of accessibility, we recommend sticking to conventional alt text naming, using descriptive terms and phrases for non-decorative images.

Including Emojis in Your Copy

You may also be interested in trying out emojis in your general email copy. If you do, just remember to stay on brand and keep content relevant to your subscribers. You should also check out our handy support chart below to see how many of your subscribers will be able to see your emojis.

If you’re interested in adding emojis into the email body, the simplest way is to copy and paste the emojis straight into your code. You can find a full list of emojis here. Alternatively, if you find your email service provider (ESP) is not set up to handle emojis, you may need to use the emoji HTML entities. Here’s a list of emojis with their corresponding HTML entities.

Support for Emojis

Support for emojis depends on the operating system (OS) the user opens your email on, rather than the email client. As you’ll see in the table below, Windows 7 is a big culprit for not showing emojis.

Operating Systems Emoji support?
iOS 9
iOS 10
iOS 11
Android 5.1
Android 6
Android 7
Windows 7*
Windows 10
* Windows 7 machines and earlier versions will not show emojis, some emojis will be converted to Emoticons. Gmail will always show emojis regardless of operating system.

Gmail’s Different Emojis

There are a few exceptions to the OS rule, the most notable being Gmail. Gmail will render emojis regardless of OS, as it converts the Unicode into emoji automatically.

It’s also worth noting that emojis will look different in the Gmail inbox compared to the opened message. This is because the inbox relies on the Android version of the emoji compared to the opened message using Google’s emojis.

Emojis in the Gmail inbox (Android emojis)
Android Emojis in Gmail inbox

Emojis in the opened message (Google’s emojis)
Google's emojis in opened message

Don’t guess, test!

Whether you’re including emojis in the subject line, using them as alt text, or even slipping a cheeky wink into your copy, it’s important to test how your email will look across all the major devices and operating systems. Try Email on Acid free for seven days and unlock the full power of testing your emails across more than 70 of the most popular devices.

Start testing today!

Author: Alex Ilhan

Hailing all the way from England, Alex brings his email development expertise along with an endless stream of cups of tea and British cynicism. Follow him on Twitter: @omgitsonlyalex.

Author: Alex Ilhan

Hailing all the way from England, Alex brings his email development expertise along with an endless stream of cups of tea and British cynicism. Follow him on Twitter: @omgitsonlyalex.