When speaking with people about email marketing this is one of the most common questions I am asked. Unfortunately, there is no “one-size fits all formula”. Audiences are different and messaging is different.
What about you? Are you getting the kind of response to your email campaigns and newsletters that you had hoped? If not, have you considered looking at the numerous variables that affect your open and response rates?
- Have you carefully crafted the subject line of your email to capture attention and pique the interest of the recipient?
- Have you provided value in your email content and the opportunity to click-through to further engagement?
If, in spite of your best efforts, your open rate and response rate are far below your desired goals, perhaps the problem isn’t with the message, but the timing of the actual delivery.
The Short “Shelf-life” of Emails
The main reason why timing of email delivery is so critical can be found in the results of a survey by a popular email-marketing platform, GetResponse. The survey showed that the chances of an email being opened rapidly decreased the longer it sits in a person’s inbox. The highest open rate, 23%, came during the first hour after an email landed in the recipient’s inbox. Two to four hours after delivery, the open rate was already down to only 8%, and after 24 hours had passed, the rate of opens drops down to under 1%.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who uses email themselves. With dozens and even hundreds of emails flooding into our inboxes every day, it is easy for unopened emails to get pushed further and further down the list, lost from sight and losing their urgency.
The solution is to determine the best time for your email to enter their inbox. When are they mostly likely to have the time and inclination to open emails that come from you?
Hopefully, the following information will help shed some light on this tricky subject and increase the effectiveness of every email you send out.
Which Day Is The Right Day?
If you choose generally accepted best practices, you’ll be sending emails out to the members on your list mid-week, likely on Wednesday; and that is a good starting point. Monday mornings and Friday afternoons are found to have some of the lowest open rates. As with any marketing you must try it out. See how the most popular email sending day does for you; but don’t be afraid to step out and do some additional testing and research. Maybe the people on your list don’t fall into the ‘general’ category. They might be those who prefer to use the weekend for reading of email subscriptions and to make their online purchases and decisions. Try a few different days and take note of the difference in open rates. Just about all of the popular email marketing platforms will provide you with this information.
What Time of Day Works Best?
To fine tune your email delivery schedule even further, you’ll want to narrow it down to the best time of day. That being, of course, the time of day that your recipients are most likely to actually open their incoming emails. Again, there are some time slots that are suggested as the best for higher open rates. Unfortunately, the various ‘experts’ on the subject seem to have differing opinions. MailChimp suggests 2PM as the optimum for open rates, while the book The Science of Marketing suggest 6AM as the magic hour. The question remains, as with the day of the week, to whether your particular target audience falls into either of these time slots or has their own dynamics.
One great feature included with MailChimp’s paid service actually monitors the time of day when your emails are opened. As a result, it can then provide the option to schedule future delivery based on the optimal open rate based on real-data from your own list.
How Are They Accessing Email?
Another dynamic that plays into choosing your email send time is the device your recipients are using to open their emails. An infographic put out by Harland Clark Digital slated mid to late afternoon as the optimal time if your users open email on a desktop or smartphone, while 8-9 PM showed the higher rate for tablet users.
A 2013 study by Brafton indicated that the majority of users accessed their email via desktop rather than a mobile device. However, I am quite sure that this statistic is no longer valid two years later, since the use of smartphones and tablets has seen dramatic growth.
Who Is Reading Your Emails?
The demographics of the recipients on your email list will also factor into choosing an optimal send time. The younger your target audience, the more likely they are to be accessing via mobile devices. And, since their mobile device seldom leaves their hand they will be opening email much more frequently than a typical desktop user.
If your list is primarily an older demographic, you are more likely to find them using a desktop computer to access their email. However, this too is changing as checking email on your mobile device is becoming the norm for just about everyone.
Test, Measure and Analyze
I think you get the picture. There isn’t one magical day and time that will work for everyone sending out emails to a list. The best way to determine the best time to catch the attention of your list members is to do some comparative testing. Start with sending to half of your list on one day and half on another day. Then run some tests on time of day variables. Run the tests several times to make sure your results aren’t skewed by one trial period or email subject that doesn’t receive the typical response.
Wednesdays typically see the highest email traffic during the week and Saturdays see the least. Sometimes going against the flow can help you stand out from the rest, but not always. It is up to you to determine what email strategy will reap the most rewards for you and your business.
What days of the week and time of day do you find most effective?
What process did you use to determine the best send time?
Do you have any speculations on why your time choice works best for your target audience?
As always your comments are welcome and appreciated.
Until next time. Keep testing and your results will improve.
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