When Should You Send Email?

Email is still one of the most effective — and cost-effective — targeted marketing tools available.  But knowing when to send is nearly as important as what you send.  Luckily, a review of several different studies conducted by companies as diverse as HubSpot and MailChimp revealed a few patterns.

Three metrics matter most to email marketers.  First is the open rate.  How many people read your message?  Open rate is significant because it represents action.  Somebody made a decision to read what you sent them, so they think there’s value in what you send, whether it’s an offer or information.

Second is the click-through rate.  How many people clicked on a link in your email to visit your website?  These are people who are either curious or potentially have an interest in doing business with you.  If you sell a product on your website, you’ll also want to know how many of these clicks turn to purchases.

Third is the bounce rate.  How many of your emails are actually reaching their destination?  A hard bounce is permanent — the address no longer exists, etc.  A soft bounce is temporary — their server is down, their mailbox is full, the email is too large, and so on.  If emails continue to bounce from an address, you should verify that address or drop it from your list.

The goal is to find the day of the week and time of the day that results in the highest open and click-through rates, because those can lead to new business.  Be aware that different kinds of companies get different results, so you’ll want to experiment.

First, consider the days of the week.  Virtually every study shows that open rates and click-through rates are highest in middle of the week.  Tuesday seems to come out on top most often, with Thursday running a close second, and Wednesday a not-too-distant third.  This is especially true if your customers are other businesses or professionals.  If you’re selling retail consumer products online, you may find that weekends provide higher open and click-through rates.)

Next, think about the right time of day.  These make sense when you think about them.  The top time for opens and clicks is 10 a.m.  People have gotten to work, cleared out their inbox, said their hellos, put out their fires and are settling back in, so now they’re more likely to be seeing emails as they arrive.  For much the same reason, 2 p.m. is an effective time to send.

The two surprises are earlier and later.  It turns out that 6 a.m. gets a good share of clicks and opens, probably because a lot of people check email first thing in the morning.  Its counterpart is 8 p.m., when people are winding down for the evening and taking one last look at email.  Proceed with caution here, though.  If you want to send email at a time when someone could contact you as a result of reading what you sent, sending during the workday makes more sense.

What works for you?  Try it and see.  Since the costs to distribute email are so low, you can afford to experiment, and see which day and time earn you the highest number of opens and clicks.  And remember the basics.  Your message matters.  Don’t be boring.  Write compelling subject lines.  Be sure your email is mobile – that it’s easy to read on a phone.  Know the average open and click-through rates for your industry, and try to beat them.

(If you’re looking for ways to grow your email program, from list-building to content generation and tracking, Idealogy is here to help.  Just reply to this email and let us know what’s on your mind.)