Guest post by Michael Zipursky
Is your email marketing campaign not producing the results you want? Your message may be engaging, the formatting, graphics and fonts top notch, but if the recipient doesn’t open your email, you’re at a dead end. The culprit may not be the usual suspects. Instead, it may be an issue of timing.
Does sending an email on a Monday morning get a high open rate? How about lunch-time on a Wednesday? Much has been written on this topic, yet few people seem to wrap their head around all the data. To bring some clarity and to help you get better results from your email marketing, I’ve compiled and summarized some of the best research on the topic.
Day of the Week
Let’s start with the days of the week that are likely to produce the highest open rate. It’s not about when it’s convenient for you to send an email blast; it’s truly about reaching the recipients at the most convenient time for them.
According to research by GetResponse, most inbox traffic and activities occur on work days, Monday through Friday. This is likely because people are within easy reach of their email accounts and spend the weekends away from their computers.
GetResponse analyzed 21 million messages sent from U.S. accounts in the first quarter of 2012. The results show that Thursday is the peak of all metrics: percent sent, open rates and click through rate (CTR).
The figure shows that the most emails are sent on Thursday, and the least on the weekend. However, the lower percent on weekends still shows that marketers are sending emails on weekends, likely taking advantage of the lower inbox traffic on those days.
However, the open ratio and CTR data from GetResponse does show that the most activity on the recipient end is seen from Monday to Friday, with Thursday leading the way.
Mondays and Friday may show the lowest activity, and this may for a few reasons.
“Monday’s are considered the worst day to send mass emails if open rate is important to you,” relates Kevin Gao, CEO & Founder of Comm100, in Timing is Everything: What is the Best Day to Send Email to Your Customers? “The logic, again, involves the theory that most people spend most of their inbox time at work. When you come into work on a Monday, you instantly start deleting anything that seems like junk or unimportant emails so that your inbox isn’t as overwhelming to you.”
The fall-off in Friday’s numbers may show that people are gearing up for the weekend and are not as interested in what happens to be coming into their inbox.
Hour of the Day
We’ve talked about the days of the week that have shown the most promise to reach your audience, but what about time of day?
Do people check their email most first thing in the morning? What about late afternoon? Understanding when your message is likely to get viewed is going to help you decide when to send out your campaigns to get the most effect.
First, I want to step back and discuss the data on email behavior that gives good insight into how recipients treat their incoming emails … and why it is critical to hit that email sweet spot for the success of your campaigns.
GetResponse’s research showed that the majority of email will be read on the same day it was sent. In fact, emails have best results within 60 minutes of when it was sent, which is when 23.6% of them are opened. After 24 hours, the chances that your email will be opened are close to zero. So, you really want to get your email in front of your recipients at times of the day when they are most likely to open it, as the longer it sits the less chances you email has of being opened.
The data also shows that:
- Messages sent in the afternoon have a better chance of being noticed and consequently achieve better results: up to 10.61% open ratio and up to 2.38% CTR.
- Recipients top activity times are 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., with up to 6.8% average open rates and CTR.
Don’t read too much into these numbers. The percentages are averages across industries. And for many will seem extremely low. I know we see much higher open rates at both Business Consulting Buzz and FreshGigs.ca. In some cases open rates closer to 30% and higher and clicks at 15% and higher.
MailChimp’s analysis of its email campaigns found similar results, showing that email open rates peaked after 2 p.m.
The key takeaway is to send your email at a time when your recipients are not occupied with other activities. To get the best open rates, and hopefully click through rate, you should schedule your email it to hit the inbox no later than one hour before the top open times, according to GetResponse. Then, it has the best chance of getting noticed. If you email worldwide, make sure to take into account the different time zones when you are planning your email delivery schedule.
Check out GetResponse’s great infographic for more research results.
It’s not all about day and time – It’s about your AUDIENCE!
Now you have all you need to schedule the perfect campaign, right? Not exactly.
All this research is great, but in the end, knowing the daily routine of your audience and understanding their needs, wants and habits should be your top priority.
Your industry may have specific days that are more likely lead to email opening. For example, if you are marketing something entertainment related, Friday emails, when people are looking for weekend activities, might be your best bet. Sundays, when people are gearing back up for their workweek might be a good time to reach some recipients, especially for those campaigns that are targeted for mobile devices.
“It turns out that in the Smartphone era, many people do check email on Sundays, related Laura Vanderkam of CBS MoneyWatch in her article, The Best Time to Send Email so it will get Read. “Any resolve to stay out of the inbox ends with Saturday. People are done partying. Sitting in the bleachers at a soccer game, or waiting for a game to come on, or puttering around the house, they’re somewhat bored, and willing to do something that seems semi-productive. Since not too many messages come in on Sunday, yours might get read.”
The main thing is to test your audience and analyze your campaigns to find out what works best for you. A smart marketer is constantly testing his or her email campaigns … and testing again, and testing again, and testing again. The most important data is what you collect from your own email campaign results.
You can use the information in this article to sculpt your schedule; the “midweek, midday” rule seems to generally give you a good place to start. But always keep in mind your audience’s special characteristics and schedule.
And of course, timing isn’t everything. Creating a subject line and content that is worthy of opening and reading will carry you a long way to achieving the results you’re after with your email marketing.
Michael Zipursky is an author, consultant and entrepreneur. He is co-founder of Business Consulting Buzz, a website with hundreds of articles and interviews helping people to become successful consultants. Michael is also actively involved with FreshGigs.ca, a jobsite specializing in marketing, communications and design jobs in Canada. You can connect with Michael on Twitter @MichaelZipursky
Tom Treanor is the founder of the Right Mix Marketing blog. He’s the author of the Search Engine Boot Camp, the co-author of Online Business Productivity, and regularly speaks at industry and corporate events. His writing has been featured on the Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger and other leading industry blogs.