Why an Order Confirmation E-Mail Must Have an Explicit Subject Line

by | Nov 12, 2010 | Writing Matters Blog | 1 comment

Holiday season is upon us. Many of us will be spending big bucks ordering from online retailers. So all you companies out there that use e-mail to confirm purchases, I’m begging you – use an explicit subject line. (I don’t mean X-rated …)

Please do not send me a confirmation e-mail like the one I received yesterday from the Weinberg Center for the Arts, after I’d spent $207.50 on concert tickets. Here’s the subject line:

Thank You for your order. ( WEIN – 0000000000012345 / 987654 )

For several reasons, this subject line is less than helpful:

  • It doesn’t identify what I ordered. 
  • It doesn’t identify who I ordered from.
  • It includes an impractically long confirmation number. Just imagine if I had to call the Weinberg Center and read them that number. “Wait, I’m counting the zeros …”

These subject lines are much better:

  • Your Lindt USA Order [Number 1234567] Confirmation  [#98765]
  • Order shipped – SheetMusicPlus Order #12192
  • Frontier Reservation #ABCDE – May 01
  • Your Amazon.com order has shipped (#002-1234567-9876543)

So, if you send me a confirmation e-mail, use the subject line to help me identify:

  • Who I bought from. Of course, the sender’s name helps me identify this, but the subject line should include this information too.
  • What I bought.
  • What has just happened or will happen with my order: confirmed, shipped, delayed, etc.
  • How to refer to my order. And please don’t make me try to handle 15-digit order ID numbers loaded with leading or trailing zeros. If the order number must be long, use hyphens to break it into groups, as Amazon did.  

If you send me a good subject line, I can be a good customer. I will be more likely to likely to:

  • Wait patiently for my purchase to arrive.
  • Resist the urge to call or e-mail again just to check on my order.
  • Use the order ID number properly if I do have to contact you for help or returns.

What do you think? Please comment to share the subject lines you’ve received in confirmation e-mails, and let me know whether you think they were effective.

— Leslie O’Flahavan

Tags: Subject line

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for a quick reference. I was actually using “Thank your for your order # 123 at oursite”. Now made it more creative after reading your post.

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