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Is There a Best Day and Time to Send Emails?

Lynette Rambo | February 26, 2016 

I was recently asked by a client to identify the most optimal day of the week and time of day to send an email.  They want to increase the likelihood that their customers will open their emails and engage with them.

“There’s no one time during the day when everyone (or even half of everyone) drops what they’re doing and says, ‘Now is the time, and this is the place, to engage with email.’”
– John Foreman, MailChimp Chief Scientist

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a magic answer to this question? Unfortunately, email marketing is not a one-size-fits-all venture. Just as each subscriber is unique, so must be the approach in reaching them.

WHAT DO THE STUDIES SHOW?

MailChimp has done numerous studies that include millions of email subscribers. One study attempted to identify if there was an optimal day and time to send emails. The study did reveal that email opens peaked around 10:00 a.m. in the recipient’s own time zone during the work week. However, this represented only 7% of the audience.  The other 93% were scattered throughout the day. 7% was just the highest grouping.  So, what does this tell us? It’s not about content, but about audience.

UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE

As MailChimp’s Chief Scientist, John Foreman, said, “There’s no one time during the day when everyone (or even half of everyone) drops what they’re doing and says, ‘Now is the time, and this is the place, to engage with email.’”

So, if “type” of content is not the main driver of when an email is opened and read, what is?  According to Foreman … life.  What’s going on in each of your subscriber’s lives that influence them at various times of the day and week? Understanding your audience has to be the first priority.

Here are some initial questions you might ask:

  • Who are my subscribers?
  • In what stage of life are they, and what are their ages?
  • What are their occupations?
  • Where do they live?
  • What is their cultural background?
  • What are their interests?
  • How have they engaged with our product in the past?

Once you have some initial answers, it’s time to put that data to use and start testing!

A/B TESTING IS NOT OPTIONAL

The only way to truly know your audience is to ask them about themselves and get data through testing.

A/B Testing (also known as split testing) is basically comparing two versions of an email to see which one performs better. By creating an “A” version and a “B” version, you can validate how design changes, variations in messaging, different subject lines, etc. impact email opens, click-throughs, and purchases.

A/B testing allows you to send two different versions of your campaign to part of your list, and then select the version that gets the most opens or clicks to send to the rest of your list. In one study, A/B testing send times resulted in a 22% increase in clicks.

WHERE DO I START?

Begin with a hypothesis based on what you already know about your audience. Then, once you get test results, adjust your hypothesis based on what you find … then, test some more.

For example, let’s take “occupation” and build some hypotheses upon it.  If your target audience primarily consists of subscribers who work factory jobs, what shifts do they work? You can, then, send your emails when you know they are not working and are most likely to check emails … before a shift begins, during break, the lunch hour, or when they get home. Experiment with different days and times for each shift to find the optimum.

Next, start testing subject lines, preheaders, newsletter format and content. Just keep in mind that you should test only one item at a time. In the case of content, you might choose a different photo for email A and B, but the location of that photo would remain the same for both, as would all other content, subject line and preheader.

There’s no limit to A/B testing.  Test until you feel confident that you have the necessary data upon which to base your decisions.

GETTING INTO THE NITTY GRITTY … SEGMENTATION

Now, it’s time to start testing your newsletter format using audience segmentation.  By finding what works best for each segment of your audience, you can provide a more customized experience based on gender, age, stage of life, and even education level.  For example, if you find that those of your subscriber base with some higher education are the ones engaging most with your emails, perhaps your message isn’t relatable to your entire subscriber base.  Start testing writing styles and vocabulary to see what garners the best responses.

Is your content inadvertently leaning towards one gender over the other?  Men and women often have very different needs and responsibilities in life. Start testing messaging and approach and see if speaking to the unique needs of each gender helps increase engagement.

Stage of life and age present a unique opportunity to increase your relationship with your customers. The way a 20-year-old engages with your product may be very different than the way someone in their 50’s will engage.  Each age group may represent a different optimal send time.

A WORD ABOUT CULTURAL BACKGROUND

Cultural background can also play a role in optimally timing your email sends.  For instance, if you’re a global business with customers all over the world, sending an email at 10:00 a.m. EST today in the U.S. would be 2:00 a.m. tomorrow in Sydney, Australia. That’s important to know!  Or, in countries where the mid-day “Siesta” is still practiced, sending emails while a good part of the country is enjoying a big lunch with family and, then, taking a snooze probably wouldn’t be the best timing.

Even in the United States, studies have shown some wide differences in how different cultures engage with information.  According to The American Press Institute, while all Millennials rely heavily on Facebook (fully 81%) as a news source, Hispanic and African American Millennials are more likely to use YouTube and Instagram for news (38% and 33% respectively). Similarly, 45% of African Americans said they used Instagram to get news daily (compared to 30% of Hispanics and 19% of white millennials).

Reports done by Experian Marketing Services, comScore, and PWC found that:

  • Most Hispanics prefer to surf the Internet in English.
  • 21% of all Hispanics and 40% of Hispanic millennials exclusively use mobile for Internet access.
  • The need for trust is central to their cultural acceptance.
  • Hispanics are very family oriented with one in four households representing multiple generations.

In the United States, Research published by Nielsen Mobile Insights projects that Hispanics “will account for more than half of the population growth in the U.S. by 2020 and nearly 85% of growth by 2060.” This is definitely a group of the population that has a lot of influence on brands.

By delving into these statistics, we see that cultural background definitely plays a role in email engagement. Knowing this will help us provide better experiences to these segments of our subscriber base.

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Lynette Rambo

Lynette Rambo | Marketing Consultant

Lynette Rambo is a Certified Email Marketing Specialist and a Marketing Consultant for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. She has over 20 years of marketing, communications, design, and public relations experience for both small businesses and larger corporations. As a Marketing Consultant for ListEngage, Lynette consults clients on email marketing best practices, strategic planning, content creation, campaign management, and provides training and demos on the Marketing Cloud. She also works with the Salesforce CRM and connecting Sales and Marketing initiatives. You can contact Lynette at lrambo@listengage.com.