Before we get engrossed in this discussion, I think it would be right to start by debunking a universal myth of email marketing.
The classic myth is that Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon are the best times to send. But obviously if those were the best and it was common knowledge then everyone would send then and that would be the time the inbox is busiest. Which would then quickly make it the worst time…
The idea of a window that is perfect for every campaign is simply a non-starter. This is because every campaign is different and will target a different demographic with varying lifestyle patterns, priorities etc.
What we will be looking at here is how to identify the ideal time to send email marketing materials according to the campaign, target audience and all other relevant factors.
We have worked with a cosmetics company – best time is Sunday or Monday morning, after the weekend. We establish that typically the response was that the user had had a really bad weekend, split up with their boyfriend and wanted to make sure all their beauty products arrived before the next Friday night.
With a ‘laddish’ client, the best time was Friday afternoon – in that if you were caught reading it then you’ll probably be looked on more leniently after a pint on a Friday.
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Who do you want to email?
It is important to consider the demographics of your target audience – who they are, what they do, when they do it, how they do it etc. Some factors, like occupation, can have a huge effect on opening habits and expectations. Are they likely to work nine to five or not?
Safe to say the best time to reach a working mother would not be the best time to reach a student.
Who’s the most responsive?
It is also important to make a note of when your recipients respond to your email marketing and consider what worked and what didn’t. Use your website analytics to track when they interact with you and the journey through your site.
When are they buying, how does activity drop off etc.? These can be very useful patterns to build your campaign timings around.
Who reads what when?
Segmentation is vital. It is always worth experimenting with segmenting your audience in line with their engagement levels and testing different timed sends for different segments.
If you have been in email marketing for a while, you should have access to a reservoir of historical information and reporting. The more advanced email service providers (like us) can give you some eye-opening insight into when your recipients are most responsive and to what degree the sending time influences their behaviour.
You can also access industry figures and averages that can serve as a pointer but, as much as these figures can be very useful, the advice is to take them with a pinch of salt and not as a 100% foolproof guide to market behaviour.
Different people read different things at different times. Sometimes when you communicate with people this way, they may nod off. But they haven’t necessarily disconnected. Why not send the message again with a different subject line – as it may hit the user at a time when they are interested.
Stay abreast of email trends
The moral of the story here is to be patient, stay on guard and not get complacent. And as new trends may emerge every day, the sooner these are incorporated into your strategy, the quicker you can reap the dividends before the spammers jump on the bandwagon and squeeze every last bit of life out of it.