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Questioning Best Email Send Times

December 5, 2013

Everyone seems to have a different opinion of when is the best time of day to send an email. And that opinion seems to change quite frequently. Sure, there are certain common sense practices, like avoiding the Inbox Abyss between midnight and 7AM. But, applying a uniform send-time to all of your email marketing communications will only lead to mediocre engagement.

  • Understand Your Industry: Understanding how your audience perceives your brand and overall industry will lead to insights into when they are most willing to engage. For example, a recipient may be more likely to open an email from a clothing retailer on their smart phone while they are counting down the minutes before lunch (10AM-12PM). A more content-rich newsletter from a charity organization is more likely to be opened when the recipient traditionally has more time to digest it (4PM – 6PM). By complementing your recipients’ schedules, rather than interrupting them, your email has a better chance of being opened. Pure360 recently looked at emails from 40,000 different campaigns over the last year from 150 of their clients and compiled the strongest send times by industry. These time segments should not be the rule but the starting point for testing best send times with your audience. 

  • Understand Your Audience: Similar to understanding your industry, email success depends on knowing your audience. The best way to get to know your audience’s patterns is to test, test and test some more. If your email marketing is directed to only a segment of your overall list, it is unrealistic to assume that the same best practices would apply to this subset. You may discover that your segmented list that expressed interest in a certain event is really only engaging after 9PM. If you email marketing is largely informational and content driven, you might even go so far as to send a basic survey to outline when they’d be most interested in receiving email communications from you. That’s not to say that the preferred time would be set in stone moving forward. However, it may provide invaluable insight into when your audience would be willing to open your email.
  • Understand Your Message: Marketing Sherpa posted an article a while ago that contained a great message: “It does not matter what’s in your email or how it looks if it’s sent to the wrong audience. If the message means nothing to readers, then all the personalization in the world won’t save you.” Although this quote does not speak directly to send-time optimization, the message is still relevant. Success relies on having a realistic understanding of what you are sending your audience and how they might perceive that message. Directly tied into that is knowing when your audience is going to be most open to receiving that message.

Overall, there is no right or wrong send time. Although it may be convenient, simplifying email send time best practices will do nothing to help the success of your email marketing campaign. The right send time is the send time that is right for your audience and your message. Use best practices as a starting point, but take the time to understand your industry, your audience and your message.