I have to disappoint you. There is no silver bullet answer to this problem: perfect time and day for sending promotional emails vary drastically depending on your demographics, geography, email list sources etc.
That said, not all is lost – there are ways and stats available to help us get closer to the perfect sending time. Let’s dig into them.
4 Important Points to Take Into Consideration when Picking Your Email Sending Time and Day
Picking the right day and time is critical to success of your email campaigns. Some days are particularly busy (Monday for example) and some times are really just inconvenient for most of your potential customers (daily rush hour time for example).
A few things you need to take into consideration when thinking about your perfect email sending time:
- Who are your customers and when do they normally read emails: you probably already know your customers best. Potentially try running a survey or observe your historical email data.
- What do your customers normally do in the time-frame of two hours after your email sending time: vast majority of all emails are read in the first 4 hours after delivery. Consider this whole time frame instead of focusing on a particular time of day.
- When do your target customers make most of their online purchases: don’t simply focus on the open rates; try to optimize for the revenue. Check your best times and days based on revenue from your normal web analytics and see if you can combine this data with other signals to nail the perfect email timing.
- When do other e-commerce managers send their email campaigns: look at the benchmark stats below, try to avoid the email sending volume peaks and always experiment with different sending times.
Let’s look into some of the stats and tips that should help you get closer to your optimal sending time.
Sending day: Wednesday, Thursday… maybe even weekends
Even though, historically, marketers have been thought and advised that the best days to send out emails are Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, you shouldn’t take that for granted. When I looked at the statistics from various email service providers, they seem to vary quite a lot.
For example, independent researches by GetResponse and MailChimp both point to similar conclusions: best performing day of the week is Thursday and you should send your emails between 2-4PM on that day.
Be careful when making quick assumptions from the charts below: MailChimp’s data seems not to be adjusted by volume of emails sent out at particular time (they also acknowledge that the volume of emails is biggest on during the weekdays). Naturally, Thursdays then consequently see the highest number of opens.
On the other hand, Experian’s research (below) suggests that a lot of consumers actually open and respond to emails during weekends (which quite strongly opposes the above studies by GetResponse and MailChimp). Experian’s study also reveals that most profitable sending period might be between 8-12PM.
While these stats might feel weird (who on Earth is sending promotional emails on Sunday?!) they might be worth testing. Why? With proliferation of email marketing, the volume of marketing emails has gone up considerably and everyone, just like you right now, is trying to figure out the best email mailing time. They end up looking up the stats similar to the ones I posted above and schedule emails on Thursday at 3PM. Result? Consumers are swamped with promotional emails at those peak times.
So why not try to be different? It doesn’t cost you much – make a small A/B test and see how it works out for you. Moreover people are spending more and more time on their always connected devices, so it’s becoming completely normal to check emails during the weekend. Especially those that are not job related.
Peek into your web analytics to learn about your customers’ purchasing behaviour
As I’ve mentioned in the beginning, it’s really crucial to understand your customers and their shopping patterns. So when you’re looking for ideas on when to send out email campaigns, you should be able to learn a lot from your customers’ purchasing habits within your web analytics software (Google Analytics for example).
E-commerce businesses have their email lists mostly comprised of returning customers. That means that your web analytics tool should give you a very good insight into the peak purchasing times of exactly the type of people you are emailing. Mind that you should focus primarily on when your customers are actually shopping, instead of the periods when there are just a lot of visits. Maybe you’ll find out that there are times when a lot of people simply browse around. And then there are other periods when they’re actually purchasing stuff. Because email campaigns are most often designed to trigger instant purchases, you should aim to hit the time frame when people are already in their natural “shopping mood”.
If you don’t have access to your analytics software, ask your colleagues, to help you out. I’m sure they will be more than willing to share some of their insights with you. People love it when they can contribute some of their knowledge and experience into something that can drive immediate revenue improvements.
Almost quarter of all emails are opened within an hour
Different email service providers are pretty aligned on this metric: first few hours after you send out the mail are crucial for the success of your email campaign. GetResponse reports that quarter of all email opens occur within the first hour and almost half within the first four hours.
Let’s take a look at this nice infographics below:
It’s understandable, isn’t it. The minute you send out your email, it gets on top of your customers’ inbox. And then it slowly (or quickly, depends on time) gets pushed down the list by new emails. That’s why it makes so much sense to really consider the broader period of the day: what are people actually doing around the time you send email campaigns? Are they on their couches, is it the dinner tim or are they busy with their work-related emails?
Study your competitors’ sending times
This one is reasonably easy. You probably don’t want to send emails around at the same time as your competitors. Or maybe you do for some reason… In any case, it’s always a good practice to keep a close eye on your competition: start with a list of 5-10 closest competitors and subscribe to their email lists.
From now on, not only will you be able to study their sending times, you can even observe their other email marketing tactics: how personalized are their email campaigns, how often are they sending emails and what kind of promotional offers are they running. This will give you an opportunity to not repeat their mistakes and learn from their good tactics.
What about time zones?
Running a store that sells worldwide? Then you’ve probably found yourself questioning how to handle different time zone differences.
If you are using one of the more advanced ESPs, MailChimp for example, this really is a non-issue. MailChimp has a feature called TimeWarp, which enables you to simply schedule the campaign at your desired sending time and they handle the sending process at appropriate time for each time zone.
That’s great, but it doesn’t help you figure out when to actually schedule your campaigns. For that purpose, you can run A/B tests even with TimeWarp functionality enabled. This will enable you to find out the best sending time across all the time zones.
What about if you want to find the best sending time for each specific time zone? You’ll have to be a bit exploratory, since I haven’t been able to find a really good automated way of testing it. From what I can think of, the best way would be to manually segment your email list by time zones and then run separate A/B tests for each one of these newly created segments. If you know a better and simpler way of testing this, please let us know in the comment section below.
Always Be testing
I’ve mentioned A/B testing several times now in this post. We believe it’s the crucial tactic in determining optimal email sending time for your business. That’s why I’ll dedicate a separate blog post to it next week with a concrete example of how to start testing and establish a process for continuous optimization.
We are always eager to hear your feedback, so feel free to leave a comment and share your email sending optimization experience.