The Best Time of Day to Send Your E-mails Is…

What is the best time of day to send your e-mails? This question has been around since the dawn of commercial e-mail. I thought about this some more, not to give an easy answer (10:37 a.m.) but because a lot of e-mails I was getting from brands I like seemed to come at less than optimal times, or at least for me and my busy inbox. Therein lies part of the challenge and dilemma of this topic. There is no magic bullet for timing and if marketers think that their e-mail will be lifted solely by the right time of day, that could create some disappointment. It deserves your attention though.

So let’s look at some common mistakes on choosing the right time of day for sending your e-mail campaigns:

  • “Just getting it out the door”
  • Pick the time that your boss wants
  • Adapting to the “latest studies that say this is the best time”
  • Disconnect between your subscribers, their e-mail consumption and your product/service
  • Not looking at performance metrics
  • Not testing

Below are thoughts on how to approach this in a different light:

  • Put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes. While this may seem like marketing common sense, I find this to be a gaping hole for e-mail marketers. Internal pressures and thinking drive key marketing decisions. Choosing the deployment time often falls into this category.

    If you are sending an entertainment (e.g., dining, music, sports) related e-mail, do you think your subscribers are thinking about where they are going to eat on Friday night on Tuesday mornings?

  • Consistency and meeting expectations are key: a promotional campaign or B2B announcement featuring a new white paper are e-mails that can be approached in one way, as can a daily e-mail or monthly newsletter. Of course, your e-mail sign-up should spell out how often and (generally) when your subscribers should expect these e-mails. That’s part of the permission agreement, right?

    Gilt Groupe offers flash sales to its members, and its e-mails come within minutes of the sale opening. This makes sense for creating the sense of urgency in its offerings and is consistent with its business model. Inventory is limited and moves quickly, so that e-mail is geared towards spurring quick action, not browsing and awareness.

  • Asking your subscribers what time they want – I have heard for the past year or two that preference centers would become more robust and integrated with other marketing offers. Well, I am still waiting on that on many fronts and the amount of subscriber choices is still lacking. Why not ask your users when the best time to receive e-mails is for them?
  • How is mobile impacting your subscribers’ e-mail habits? This is significant, and as I mentioned in my last column, almost half of every hour on the mobile Internet is spent on e-mail. Chances are your e-mail may be read on a mobile device. This has far-reaching implications, but at its essence it could mean your e-mail will be deleted on a mobile device and not read in full until your subscriber is back at the house/office/preferred tablet reading spot.

    If you pass the mobile e-mail triage stage (when a subscriber only reads/responds to necessary e-mails on their mobile device, deletes some, and keeps others to review on their preferred e-mail consumption device), you are lucky. So the timing is really important in this regard. Is your business sending an announcement of a new software release at 8 p.m. PST when most of your subscribers are on the east coast and probably read your e-mails during the work day? How about the daily deal that arrives early in the morning to a consumer audience that is probably focused on getting the kids to school and to the office? Neither sound like the ideal time. Moving a send time to a time that better synchs up with your product and users’ potential behavior is worth exploring in more detail.

  • What’s the social angle?

    Social media has already received the obligatory best days and times of the week to post (Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST says Vitrue). Of course, taking these with a grain of salt is required, but my company knows from our client work that on social networks there are spikes of activity that have regular patterns. It’s different for each client, but keeping the social dialogue activity top of mind should be a factor in sending your e-mails if part of your goal is to drive engagement on social networks. Either way, no one will share or discuss your e-mail on social platforms if the content and value isn’t there, so ensure that is the core of this social strategy.

While one of the golden rules of e-mail marketing continues to be relevancy (and I believe a strong, value-filled e-mail will be read and responded to no matter what day and time it is sent), digital marketers should seek to mitigate any risks and choose the best times of day for optimal response as well as peak user convenience.

What have you found from your e-mail marketing efforts that should be considered for this discussion?

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