Birthday Emails – Recognizing Your Subscribers on Their Special Day

Although I’ve grown accustomed to expecting them every year, it never fails to excite me when I receive birthday emails from my favorite brands and retailers. Opening my inbox a few weeks ago on the morning of my birthday, I was greeted with over a handful of birthday emails, ranging from retail brands like Gap, Banana Republic, and Sephora to airlines like Jet Blue. Some offered well wishes for my birthday while others also included a special birthday gift or discount.

Birthday messages and discounts can be a great way to increase conversion while also helping to build a personal connection with your subscribers, which will help strengthen your long term relationship, a key factor in driving repeat business. Plus, according to recent research from Mapp Digital, subscribers expect to receive these types of messages; with over 67 percent of people surveyed indicating they expect companies to personalize emails based on their birthday.

While I always open and engage with these messages, I was curious whether others felt the same way. Using Inbox Insight, Return Path’s competitive intelligence tool, and looking at examples from Jet Blue and Sephora from the past month, I wanted to see if their birthday emails generated above average read rates.

While Jet Blue saw a decrease in engagement for their birthday messages, Sephora saw an increase in engagement:

  • Jet Blue had a 15 percent lower read rate for their birthday messages when compared to their average read rate*
  • Sephora had a 50 percent higher read rate for their birthday messages when compared to their average read rate*

*For the past 30 days

Jet Blue Birthday Email
Subject Line: Happy Birthday from TrueBlue!

Jet Blue’s birthday email uses a simple and straightforward subject line while the message focuses on wishing the recipient a happy birthday and thanking them for being a Jet Blue customer. The email does not include any kind of birthday incentive, which may be a reason for lower engagement. To help increase response, when not including a gift or special promotion, it may help to use a more engaging subject line, one that creates a sense of urgency or intrigue or even uses personalization to help stand out in a crowded inbox.


Sephora Birthday Email
Subject Line: Happy Birthday, from us to you! ?

Sephora’s birthday email also uses a simple and straightforward subject line but includes a gift emoji to help grab the subscriber’s attention. Sephora’s eye-catching message wishes the recipient a happy birthday while also prompting them to choose their free birthday gift. Although the birthday gift is not mentioned in the subject line, it’s possible that Sephora customers know to expect a birthday gift, which may help increase opens and engagement for the message.


If email is not a data collection point included during your sign up process, considering sending a standalone email to your subscribers asking them to provide this information like the example shown here from

Whether or not you currently have a birthday email or are looking to introduce one to your program, these types of one to one messages are an important ingredient for a successful email program. While these two examples highlight the fact that birthday emails which contain a special offer or incentive will most likely drive higher results, test a variety of tactics to determine what resonates best with your subscribers.

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