Should you use emojis in cold email? (What the data says!)

July 7, 2023

Unsure whether using emojis in cold emails will spark interest and get replies, or get your campaigns sent to the trash instead?

We analyzed millions of cold emails to find the answer for you.

In this article, you’ll get the data on emojis in cold emails, based on an in-depth analysis of millions of lemlist cold outreach campaigns. We’ll get into how they affect reply rates, open rates, and booking rates, as well as what it all means for you.

Here’s your answer to whether you should use emojis in your cold emails:

Is it OK to use emojis in business emails?

It is fine to use emojis in business and cold emails - as long as they’re tailored to your subject and target audience. When used right, emojis boost engagement with your message. When used wrong, you come off as overly familiar or unprofessional.

Let’s jump into whether using emojis is the right outreach technique for you.

Here’s what the data says: out of the millions of lemlist cold email campaigns we analyzed, emails with emojis get 13% fewer replies than emails without them.

But that doesn’t mean that you should give up on emojis altogether!

A bar graph showing the reply rates of emails with emojis, emails without emojis, and all emails. The graph shows that emails with emojis get 13% fewer replies than other emails.

The “with emoji” column in the data above includes emails sent with any number of emojis: from 1 to 30+.

You can imagine that an email with more than 10 emojis is going to have a different success rate than an email with only one or two.

If you take a closer look at the breakdown of booking rates per number of emojis, you’ll get a clearer idea of where the problem is:

A line graph showing booking rates versus the number of emojis in an email. From 1-2 emoijis, the booking rate remains similar. With more emojis, the booking rate goes down.

Emails with 1 or 2 emojis have a small dip in booking rates compared to emails without them, but not a significant amount.

On average, booking rates with 1 or 2 emojis per email are comparable with emails that don't have any. Depending on the circumstances, you won’t necessarily ruin your chances of a reply with an emoji or two.

The rates really start to dip when you add more 3 or more emojis to the body of your emails. This is where you increase the risk of prospects thinking it’s spammy or inappropriate.

As a rule of thumb: when adding emojis to cold emails, the fewer the better.

Should you use emojis in your cold email subject lines?

Similar to using emojis in the body of your emails, adding emojis to your cold email subject lines can go both ways. Either they will draw prospects’ eyes, add personality, and drive clicks, or they will turn people away. It’s all about how you use them.

Here’s what the data says about it:

Adding emojis to your subject line can result in 6% lower open rates: 👇

A bar graph that shows open rates of email subject lines without emojis, email subject lines with emojis, and all emails. The email subject lines with emojis get a 6% lower open rate than other emails.

But once again, there’s more nuance to the data than a simple yes or no.

In our analysis, we gathered nearly 2 million emails with no emojis in the subject line, and only about 20,000 with emojis. With numbers like that, the overall average is always going to lean in the direction of emails with no emojis.

So what does that mean for you?

It means you’ll have to decide, based on your own target audience and goals, if emojis will boost your open and reply rates, or drive them down.

But you don’t have to figure that out on your own.

Here is everything you need to consider when deciding if you want to use emojis in your cold outreach:

How can you use emojis in cold emails?

Should you be using emojis to connect with prospects? Let’s find out.

The risks of using emojis in cold emails

As seen in the data above, adding emojis to your cold emails can cause 13% lower reply rates if used in the body text and 6% lower open rates in the subject.

Plus, a study by the Nielsen-Norman Group showed that emojis in emails made people feel 26% less likely to trust or engage with the message. In the study’s terms, emojis “increased negative sentiment.”

Clearly, the risk of using emojis in your cold outreach is coming off as spammy or unprofessional, and getting fewer opens and replies.

However, the Nielsen-Norman study only took into account ecommerce marketing emails, which already come off as spammy to most prospects 👇

A screenshot of an email inbox showing emails from big companies like Bed Bath & Beyond, Sears, Kohl's, etc. Some subject lines have emojis and others don't.
Source: Nielsen-Norman Group

And even this study mentioned that emojis could be worthwhile “where they truly add value.”

So here’s how you can add value (and get more replies) with emojis in emails:

Emojis in cold email: best practices

When Experian tested emojis in the subject lines of their newsletters, picking the right one could increase their open rates by 56%.

In particular, they found success with the sun ☀️ emoji, and the umbrella ☂️ emoji. The sun increased open rates by 15%, and the umbrella by 50%.

Another study tested out themed emojis (champagne 🍾 on New Year's Eve, or a kiss 😘 for Valentine’s Day). They found that thematically-appropriate emojis could increase open rates by 5-30%.

So if you want to test out emojis in your emails, make sure they’re:

  • Appropriate for your target audience
  • Aligned with your personal or company brand
  • Thematically appropriate
  • Not too many - keep it to 1 or 2, max

Here’s an example of one of our users who added emojis to his cold email campaign, with a 82% open rate and a 53% reply rate.

A cold email to get participation on a social media campaign. The text says "Hi {{firstName}},  How are you? 
We run an agency and are helping @LondonWineBar and @AbbeyRoadDrinks collab with some London content creators. 
London Wine is a beautiful little wine bar located in Shepards Market, Mayfair, and Abbey Road Drinks is just around the corner from Abbey Road itself. 
They said they really loved your content, so we wondered if you wanted to collaborate with them one day soon? 
It would be a gifting campaign that includes a bottle of wine, cheese selections, and nibbles for you and a friend or two 🍷🧀 
Let me know what you think, and I can book you a reservation at one or both! 

In this case, the emojis worked, because:

→ The target audience is content creators and influencers, who are used to seeing and using emojis in their work

→ The tone of the email is casual and friendly

→ The emojis have a thematic fit with the message: wine and cheese

If you’re curious about whether using emojis is going to boost your reply and booking rates, find out by A/B testing your campaigns.

An easy way to do this is with lemlist (if you don’t have an account, sign up here for free).

Once you’ve added your leads and your campaign settings, you can choose to A/B test your content in the “sequences” tab. 👇

A screenshot of a lemlist cold email sequence, with A/B testing options shown.

Once that’s done, set up one sequence with emojis, and one without them. Don’t change anything else about your sequence, to ensure you're only testing the emojis.

lemlist will automatically split your audience into 2 groups and send emails accordingly. Make sure you have at least 100 prospects in your list to see if the results are definitive.

As the campaign runs, you’ll see comparisons of the two sequences in your analytics. It’ll look like this: 👇

A screenshot of lemlist A/B testing results. The data shows how many prospects were contacted, hooked, attracted, and interested in the mesasges sent.

From here, you can use the data to find out if emojis are the best outreach tool for you and your target audience.

The key takeaways

Here’s what to keep in mind about using emojis in cold email:

→ Emojis can be a great way to boost engagement - if they’re tailored to your subject and target audience.

→ Use fewer emojis in the body of your emails to avoid a dip in booking rates. No more than 2 emojis per email.

→ Adding emojis to your cold email subject lines can draw attention and add personality, but it may result in lower open rates.

→ A/B test your campaigns with and without emojis to know which version works best for your target audience.

For an all-in-one tool to reach all your prospects in a single dashboard, A/B test your campaigns (with or without emojis!), and book meetings with 17% of your leads, give lemlist a try, for free.

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