Is there really a ‘best time’ to send an email campaign?

“Thursdays at 3:00 pm”

“Tuesdays 10:30 am”

“We’ve found midweek is always a great time to send campaigns”

If the results of our un-scientific pop quiz are anything to go by, there are more answers to the question, ‘When is the best time to send?’ than there are hours in the day.

When we last posted on this topic, we cited two studies that showed email sent on Monday is more likely to get opened, and anytime between 6am and 10am is the best time of the day to send. When it’s put into simple terms like that, emailers can be forgiven for pinning the success of their campaigns on being sent on a specific time or day.

However, Emailvision has published new research suggesting that campaign send time isn’t as important as many of us think. In their words:

“Whilst email open and click activity varies by 10% during the day, it doesn’t automatically follow that campaign performance will be sensitive to exact time of send.”

Emailvision argues that an email’s position in the inbox is relatively unimportant - a campaign can have an equally good chance of being open and read, regardless of whether it’s top of the pile, or in 10 deep. They believe there are much stronger factors at work when it comes to determining an email’s success, such as:

  • Subject line and from name
  • Content relevance
  • Previous experience of your emails
  • Brand loyalty and engagement

…and we tend to agree. The oft-cited folks at Email Marketing Reports back up the idea that send time is negligible in their post, ‘Insights on the worst day to send’. In a study that compared metrics from email that went out at the ‘very worst’ time (1 January, ie. new year’s day) with results from previous campaigns, they found an open rate variance of merely “2.7 percentage points, or 6.6%”. Hardly a disaster and far less damaging than say, sending an email with a not-so-obvious call to action (which of course, happens to the best of us).

So, I’d like to turn this topic over to you. Does sending campaigns at a certain time/day considerably affect response? Let us know in the comments.

Posted by Ros Hodgekiss

16 Comments

  • James Lamb
    11th August

    We had done studies on this along the lines we generally segment our file and found that each portfolio had its own “sweet spot.”  We made our research available to the teams we supported who took it and ran with it.  Unfortunately, several things happened: (1) We got too busy to update our study.  (2) We got too busy to guarantee a specific time or date to our constituents wanting to send email. 

    At the same time, it seemed like more an more people were opening our emails on the weekends, which suggested that we weren’t necessarily sending emails that our readers were excited to read and wanted to read right away - they were saving and batching them.

    And then mobile really took off.  And we started seeing a lot more immediate response to our emails.  It seems that more than ever, the time you send *does* matter. 

    But what’s right for me won’t be right for you.  You need to test your file.  Your highly engaged regular customers might open well no matter the time of day, but your casual customers might only open at lunchtime.  Your prospects might only open in the evenings after they’ve gotten the kids to bed.

    You’ve gotta hypothesize, and then test.  Analyze the learnings, build a new hypothesis to further refine, and test again.  And keep testing.  It’s hard to do, but people and behavior do change.

  • Jarrod Purchase
    11th August

    I’ve done some research myself and for a particular brand, found a sweet spot based on the data we had.

    I encountered the same problems as James though. You find a good time/day but sticking to that means that everything has to be ready to go by then - which isn’t always the case.

  • Julian Wellings
    12th August

    This is music to my ears because I’ve long believed there is no such thing as a best time to send as there are so many other variables.
    What I do tend to do though is log bad times to send based on experience. For example I recently sent a campaign for a retail client at 10am on a Saturday morning. We’d normally send later Friday afternoon but the content wasn’t ready on this occasion. We found our open rate was lower than usual and I believe this wasn’t just down to time of day but also the weather. It was a hot day meaning people were less likely to check emails!

  • Bob Cooney
    12th August

    I produce a weekly staff e-newsletter and generally try to ship it around lunchtime every Monday.  I’ve also sent it as early as 7 a.m. and as late as 3 p.m. some weeks, and the open rate and clickthrough numbers don’t seem to vary at all, other than being lower in summer when people are on vacation. I know this because I’ve back-checked my stats as part o a regular reporting process.  I also have an internal audience, and have trained them to look for the e-mail, so my experience might differ from that of a an organization with a large, broad distribution

  • Rishi
    12th August

    This is a really great post. Spend more time on “What to send” rather than “What to send”.

  • Marlon - Bolsos de Cuero
    13th August

    Excellent summary, usually i make my email marketing campaigns at any time of day. Now i´m going to prove with specify schedules,  for test the effectivity

  • Alan Henson
    26th August

    And there is the issues of customers across the world. Our main customer groups are in the UK & Australia, with others dotted across the globe. We are amazed at the geographical spread of clicks when you first send. So what’s wrong for one may be spot on for another!

  • Brandon
    26th August

    We put some serious thought into sending emails when people “read” our emails.  The thought process was to take the general time from the past 3-5 email “reads” and then when we send future campaigns to these people, set the send time for that specific time.

    Unfortunately i was not able to convince the decision makers to implement this functionality but I feel that deep down it would be extremely successful to target sends on opens. 

    Maybe one of you will give it a try and let me know how it works out for you.

  • Ryan Laughlin
    26th August

    I send out emails for two different companies. From my analysis, open rates DEPENDS ON THE EMAIL NEWSLETTER.

    For example, one of my newsletters includes news headlines from each day. We found that people want to read that particular newsletter at night (around 8PM) on the weekdays but not weekends.

    So, it depends on the email newsletter. What is your audience? Where do they work? Do they even work at all? If so or if not, where are they?

  • Ben Stein
    26th August

    Totally agree with understanding your audiences needs.  But i do like the idea of 6am send monday morning.

  • Ros Hodgekiss
    26th August

    @Alan - Too right, we have the same issue with our monthly newsletter. You have to let go of stressing about send times when you have customers in the UK, Europe, US, Oceania and elsewhere!

    @Brandon - Very interesting, I’ll make a note about this for our devs. We could potentially look at when people read their email on average, then allow our customers to make send time decisions based on that. Of course, the obvious problem is that ‘read time’ may be directly related to ‘send time’, ie. many subscribers may always read their email within 15mins of receipt, instead of at say, 10am. Solid food for thought for us, though!

    @Ryan - Too right. Like many email metrics, it’s not wise to prescribe benchmarks or targets for everyone. Thanks for your insight here!

  • Marcus Bointon
    26th August

    We calculate an open:click ratio for each hour of the day for every mailshot. We find it’s almost uniformly flat across all senders, i.e. while open and click rates vary, the amount of interest does not - people that open at 11am are almost exactly as interested as those that open at 4am. Similarly, those that open immediately are about as interested as those that leave it for a day. So while open rates are very peaky (and we too notice a big peak immediately after sending, no matter what time that is), it doesn’t make much difference to clickthrough count. Something I’ve not tried yet is plotting the distribution of the gap between send and open times: whether that matters is down to how time-sensitive your content is, but I’d expect it to vary quite a lot with send time.

  • Luke Hinchliffe
    27th August

    I think - as already pointed out - it depends on target audience and geography. For us, most of our clients are UK based and are in the Financial sector - so 6-7am as the City starts works well for us!

  • Emiliano
    1st September

    Hi,

    I believe it depends on what are you sending and who is on your data base.
    I am working with newsletter for a pilates company and I can share the best time and dates:

    1.- Days:
    Tuesday and Wednesday

    2.- Hours:
    7:30 am to 11 am
    5 pm to 8 pm

    This information it is since 1 year of emails sent.

    Emails on Monday have the worse statistics in open emails (and then do a question or inquiry).

    I remember… I believe this depends on the market you are promotion!!!

  • Jay
    3rd September

    I have the best open rates between noon and 4 pm eastern standard time Monday thru Friday and pretty much the same on the weekends.

  • Patrik Jensen
    28th September

    I join the choir of people who are speaking about the content of the newsletter, rather than the time of dispatch. Never the less i’m always encountered whit the question of dispatch times and days in business meeting. And I think that this is more a keypoint for some of the heavier guys in the market. Me myself is more into a more agile approach to dispatch times.

    I think that more companies should think in things as flowcontrol and userbased content instead of thinking that the 15th of the month is the best just because we did so the last 15 years.

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