Now, here’s a universal truth that invariably all of us are wise to by now- it doesn’t matter how sincere your efforts are and staunch your conviction, they’ll never earn the merit they deserve if your timing is off. Whether you’re trying to taste success on the personal front or professional, bear in mind that timing, really, is everything. Email campaigns, too, you ask? Yes, them too.
Besides acing email content and polishing email designs, there’s another very essential question that all email marketers have to contend with- what’s the best time to send an email campaign? And well, the answer to that is as subjective and nuanced as it gets. It depends on several factors, such as the industry type, region, and email type, among others. Reaching out to customers with the right email at the right time tops the priority list of every business out there, but getting there is no walk in the park. Safe to say then that once you get your email timing right, there’s absolutely no looking back either for you or your business! Ready to learn more about it? Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents:
- Importance of Timing in Email Marketing
- What is the Best Day to Send Email
- What is the Best Time to Send Email
- Factors to Consider to Ace Your Timing
- Setting Right Time for Automation
- What Next
- Wrapping it Up
Importance of Timing in Email Marketing
Many email marketers struggle with generating the expected engagement and ROI on their campaigns. The primary culprit? Timing. Your emails will only work their magic on your subscribers if you deliver them at the right time. And that’s quite logical, isn’t it? Suppose a store is planning to organize a sale in a week’s time from now. They decide to print flyers for the same. They’ll obviously get more footfall if they start distributing the flyers 4-5 days before the sale than if they do it just a day prior. Likewise, distributing the flyers late afternoon or evening when the streets are more crowded will fetch the store more visitors than during the wee hours. It’s all about timing.
In the current scheme of things, what you send in your emails isn’t the sole factor that determines your success anymore; when you send it, is equally vital. However, selecting the best time to send emails to your audience is a tricky affair. One email marketer’s ideal slot might not necessarily hold true for the other. It depends largely on the Internet habits and the overall behavior of your target audience. Every day, a flurry of customized email templates flood your customers’ inboxes. Thus, the only way to get their attention (and register improved open rates and click-throughs in the process) is by sending them emails at the right time. Sure, email marketing might have an astounding ROI, but that also means it invites far more competition than other marketing channels in the fray. So, how do you come up trumps? Yes, you guessed it, by staying on top of your email timing.
What is the Best Day to Send Email?
We understand that the answer to this question can be extremely subjective. Hence, to construct a reliable response, we will reflect on the data-driven findings compiled by industry leaders such as HubSpot, GetResponse, Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, Omnisend, and a few others on this matter.
On the broader side of things, weekdays have been observed to register substantially higher engagement rates than weekends. SendinBlue’s findings report that weekdays account for over 85% of the total weekly volume of opens and almost 95% of weekly clicks. The majority of these studies are unanimous in their opinion that Tuesday is the best day of the week to send your emails (followed closely by Wednesday). Emails delivered on Tuesday were observed to fetch the highest open rates, subsequently leading to improved click-throughs and conversions.
Come to think of it, it makes perfect sense too. Working weeks generally start on Monday, so you’d expect Mondays to have high email engagement rates. But that’s not the case courtesy of Monday blues (shuddered at the very mention of it, didn’t you?) and the fact that people have to plan their work for the week and check work-related emails first. So, it eventually takes people till Tuesday to actually start checking all emails including marketing emails, explaining the high email opens and click-throughs.
Although hardly any survey crowns Wednesday as the most popular day for delivering emails, it did take second place in quite a few of them. However, if you are planning on sending two promotional emails a week, send one on Tuesday and select Thursday as your second day. This will put you in a better position to maximize your open rates. Sending emails on consecutive days might not do any favors to your engagement metrics, and these studies corroborate the same.
Moreover, different days are more likely to cater to different engagement metrics. For instance, most of these studies conclude that while Tuesday fetches the highest open rates, Thursday takes the cake when it comes to click-throughs. This means that emails sent on Tuesday might get you visibility, but the emails delivered on Thursday will be roping in business.
Another important thing to keep in mind- don’t ever go about blasting your subscribers’ inboxes. Even on high engagement days spamming your recipients is never the solution- it will sooner or later cause them to grow resentful of you. The last thing you’d want for your meticulously crafted emails is to end up in bins or spam folders, right?
As you’d have already figured by now, the worst days of the week to send emails are Saturday and Sunday. People rarely check their emails on weekends, and no matter what kind of email you decide to greet them with during these two days, it will inevitably get ignored. A few of these studies highlighted Saturdays and Sundays registering high opens and click-throughs. But, there’s a caveat associated with it- Saturdays and Sundays are also the two days of the week when the fewest emails are delivered. Hence, even with higher open rates, the total number of emails that are opened on weekends is considerably small.
The bottom line is that email activity attains its peak in the middle of the week. As the week goes on, although the number of opens remains steady more or less, the volume of clicks tapers dramatically. Of course, there will be a few exceptions every now and then, but delivering your promotional emails and weekly newsletters between Tuesday and Thursday is most likely to bring them greater success.
At the same time, keep in mind that you and we are not the only ones privy to this data; your competitors are too. As we speak, they’re perhaps formulating strategies that align inch by inch with the inferences of this data. Thus, occasionally to outwit your competitors, you must be open to experimenting with your email campaigns (in a calculated manner, of course). Factor in your conversion goals and the behavior of your subscribers and test out different days to finalize the best course of action. Remember, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to email timing, only a bunch of data-driven conventions. And if you are breaking patterns with practical observations and experiences, we don’t see the harm in it. For all you know, you could very well become a trend-setter within your domain or niche.
Take a look at this graph for more clarity:
Now that we know which are the best days for sending newsletters and emails, let’s look at how different industries time their campaigns.
- Ecommerce: Most ecommerce companies experience a spike in their email open volume on Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, though, they register their highest clicks. Only goes to show that high opening rates don’t always necessarily convert to rewarding engagement. Stronger engagement for ecommerce companies towards the beginning of the week could possibly be related to the fact that most people prefer shopping during the first few days of the week. Because doing so ensures that their product gets delivered to them by the weekend. Even those who are not keen on buying like to loiter on these websites while catching a break from work. After all, what’s a better pastime than adding more items to your already overflowing wishlist. If you’re an ecommerce business, you’d ideally want to time your emails such that it is the first thing that greets your customers as soon as they open their inbox.
- SaaS: SaaS products have no physical presence and only make sense to a fistful of B2B companies, making SaaS email marketing incredibly complicated. Getting the timing of your SaaS email campaigns right, therefore, is crucial towards building and consolidating their visibility. It has been observed that most SaaS newsletters and emails register maximum engagement during the middle of the week. SaaS newsletters shed information on their products and tools and often guide users on the best ways to utilize them. Thus, it makes sense that these emails register their highest opens and clicks during Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, which are arguably the busiest days of the week.
- NGOs: NGOs and nonprofits are cause-driven, and they primarily engage with a demographic that is as passionate about their cause as they are. Such an audience is already motivated and doesn’t really need much of a push to engage with the emails that come their way. But that doesn’t mean that NGO emails and newsletters enjoy steady engagement throughout the week; they experience their peak during weekdays. That’s because, at the end of the day, most nonprofit and NGO volunteers are working professionals, which means that their email activity is highest during the weekdays itself. Although very few emails are delivered during the weekends, NGOs can try their luck on the weekends as well. Experimenting with a motivated audience is a safer bet than most.
- Marketing services: Marketing services work pretty much in the same fashion as SaaS products. As a result, their email marketing strategies closely resemble that of SaaS campaigns. And much like their SaaS counterparts, marketing services newsletters and emails, too, have been observed to experience maximum engagement during the middle of the week. Users of these services only find these emails relevant during weekdays when they’re trying to amass more and more information about implementing them in their jobs.
- Offline retail: The engagement patterns of offline retail businesses are rather curious. This is largely because the opens and clicks of offline retail businesses are dictated by the recipient’s intent. The majority of their emails receive engagement during Thursdays and Fridays. If you want to make sense of this, you have to put yourself in the customer’s shoes- as you inch closer towards the weekend, your shopping bug intensifies. So, the likelihood of people interacting with offline retail emails is obviously higher during Thursdays and Fridays compared to the remaining days. Personally, we’d recommend offline retail stores to send their emails on Thursday instead of toeing the line on Friday itself. Emails delivered on Thursday that get accidentally ignored at least have a chance of getting noticed on Friday. Not quite the case with emails sent on Friday.
- B2B: B2B emails and newsletters have an extremely unique engagement pattern. Their weekly email click volume climaxes right at the beginning of the week, i.e., on Mondays and Tuesdays. And after that, it plunges just as sharply. What’s the reason behind this peculiar pattern? Much like offline retail emails, the answer here also lies with the customer (or client, in this case). The email activity of B2B clients peaks during Mondays and Tuesdays, thereby ushering in greater clicks and opens for B2B emails during this period.
Which is the Best Time For Email Campaigns?
Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best days for sending your emails- we know that by now. However, that solves only half our problems. Unless you know which is the ideal time to send emails on Tuesday, Thursdays, and other email-friendly days, you’ll never be able to crack the complete email timing code.
The time of the day at which you deliver your emails can go a long way towards shaping your customer relationships. An email sent at the right time has the power to convert new subscribers and first-time buyers into loyal, recurring customers. On the other hand, sending emails at the wrong time can cause your unsubscribe rates to go through the roof.
As was the case with choosing the best days, choosing the best time slot for sending emails is a subjective affair too. So, how do you finalize it? By thoroughly familiarising yourself with your buyer personas. Wondering what all data points you should gather from your target audience? Consider answering the following questions:
- What is their profession?
- What are their pain points?
- How can you address their pain points with your products or services?
- What does their average schedule look like?
- What kind of triggers can you place to remind them about your products or services?
- At what point in their customer journey should they come across these triggers?
Once you’ve gained the answers to these questions, it’ll become substantially easier for you to intercept your subscribers’ routines and greet them accordingly with your marketing and promotional emails. Before you seal your time slot, though, there’s another important factor you should take into consideration- time zones. If the major chunk of your audience is concentrated in one time zone, you need to formulate a strategy that caters to it. Otherwise, if your customers are distributed equally in number across different time zones, you’ll have to employ individual strategies for each.
Now, let us try to wrap our heads around the findings of the surveys we mentioned above.
The majority of these reports conclude that the ideal time slot for sending your emails is 10 AM. Another notable slot that is highlighted by these findings is 11 AM. Campaign Monitor’s research states that the best time for sending emails is between 9 AM -11 AM. Their report mentions a peak at 10 AM. According to them, as many as 53% of emails are opened between 9 AM – 5 PM (excluding lunchtime) during weekdays.
The folks at Mailchimp suggest 10 AM – 12 PM as the most opportune slot for delivering emails. As per them, this slot witnesses the highest volume of email opens. Another high engagement time slot that was highlighted by most studies was 2 PM. This is the time when most companies wrap up their lunch breaks and resume their second half of the day. Hence, 2 PM registers high opens and clicks for the same reason as 10 AM does- both slots denote a “beginning.” Checking emails is the first order of business for most employees prior to carrying on with their affairs. HubSpot’s analysis states that the highest click-to-open rates are typically observed at 10 AM (21%) and 1 PM (22%).
There’s also a strong chance of boosting your engagement metrics by delivering your emails as early as 6 in the morning. No, really, we’re not making this up. Almost 50% of people start their day by scrolling through their inboxes in bed. The next slot that witnesses a peak in email activity is 8 PM – midnight. This is not particularly surprising considering the fact that many people prefer checking their emails either after signing out of work or just before going to bed.
The only problem with sending emails at 6 AM or 12 AM is that if you haven’t sized up your audience, your campaigns can tremendously backfire. Sure, these slots give you the scope of being the first or last email of the day respectively in your subscribers’ inboxes, but do they want it? Not everyone appreciates waking up to an email or receiving one before hitting the hay. Therefore, ensure you are well-informed on your buyer personas before you lock these slots.
In a nutshell, you need to target your audience:
- When they log in (and out) at work
- During their commute hours
- Immediately before (or after) their lunch breaks
This graph summarizes our arguments:
So, which times of the day are most suitable for various industries? Let’s find out.
- Ecommerce: The majority of ecommerce emails get opened during the late afternoon, anywhere between 4 PM – 6 PM. This is because when you come to think of it, people prefer engaging with these emails either after they have wrapped up their affairs for the day or when they have to kill some time before logging out of the office. In our opinion, the best time to send marketing emails can also be late evening slots between 7 PM- 9 PM. During these hours, people are commuting or have reached home and have time to interact with emails.
- SaaS: Most SaaS emails and newsletters experience high engagement during the afternoon slot, mostly around 2 PM. This has perhaps got mostly to do with how the workflow is in most offices around us. The first half of the day is usually utilized in briefings and work allocation. Towards the second half, work begins in full swing, which is probably when SaaS users engage the most with the newsletters and emails.
- NGOs: While emails sent from NGOs and nonprofits clock in their highest opens during the early morning (8 AM – 10 AM) and late afternoon (2 PM – 4 PM), their click volume assumes its peak during the early evening (4 PM – 6 PM). This means that although this audience takes stock of the emails during the beginning of their shifts (both morning and post-lunch), they only engage with it after they’re done for the day. Guess the perks of having a motivated subscriber list is they make it a point to return to your emails no matter what.
- Marketing services: As mentioned earlier, marketing services draw a lot of similarities with SaaS companies to the point where both experience high engagement on the same days of the week. However, when it comes to selecting the best time slots, both exhibit different trends. Unlike SaaS emails that experience maximum engagement during the afternoon slot, marketing services emails register their highest clicks and opens around early evening. They typically have low levels of engagement in the morning.
- Offline retail: Approximately 75% of emails sent from offline retail stores are opened during business hours, with engagement reaching its peak in the early morning (8 AM) and early afternoon. That said, as we have already discussed, the engagement metrics for offline retail emails are dictated mainly by the recipients. Hence, you should first find out everything you can about your customers’ internet habits and behaviors before you lock down on any particular time slot.
- B2B: Similar to offline retail stores, the best time to send B2B emails is during business hours (here also, the maxima is at 8 AM and early afternoon).
If you’re subscribed to a business from both your personal as well as official email address, you’ll receive the same email on both of your addresses at different times of the day. Keeping in line with the trends, the email sent to your professional address would most likely be around 10 AM and the one sent to your personal address, probably around 6 PM.
Case in point? These customized email templates are from Uncommon Goods. Take a look at the timestamps.
Email sent to the professional address:
Email sent to the personal address:
Factors to Consider to Ace Your Email Timing
While the findings and trends shared above with you have been derived from data-intensive studies, don’t be surprised if they don’t work for you as they worked for others. We’ve said this once, and we’ll say it again- email timing is incredibly subjective even if you are sending well thought out or innovative and responsive email marketing templates. You’re obviously free to make use of the conventions that have already been established, but unless you test out different days, times, and email types with your target audience, you’ll never understand what’s best for them.
Listed below are the factors you should take into account to make sure your email timing is on point.
- Audience Demographics: This is perhaps the most crucial parameter influencing your email timing. You must factor in your audience’s age, occupation, location, and other important data points before choosing the day and time you want to send them your email. Though various studies state that sending emails on Tuesdays and Thursdays around 10 AM and 6 PM is the best course of action, it won’t hold up for you if your audience works night shifts from Wednesday through Sunday. Likewise, if your customers are spread across different parts of the world, you have to first understand the work culture prevalent in the different regions before you dispatch your emails. For instance, Europe and the US have Monday to Friday as their workweek and Saturday and Sunday as the weekend. However, that is not the case with most Asian countries. So, while sending emails during the weekends might not fetch you many returns from your European and American clients, they can prove to be rewarding with your Asian customers.
- Type of Industry: The industry to which your business belongs plays a significant role in determining your timing. For example, while SaaS, B2B, and ecommerce businesses are better off sending marketing emails during business hours on weekdays, the fashion & lifestyle, entertainment, and food & dining industries prefer communicating with their subscribers over the weekends. The best time to send email newsletter also seems to be during business hours on weekdays.
- Email Frequency: If you want to effectively grab your readers’ attention, you need to work on acing your email frequency. While too many emails push people to hit the unsubscribe button, too few can cause them to be terribly disengaged. Hence, it is vital that you find the sweet spot. Once you have determined your email frequency, you can couple that information with the email timing data at your disposal to maximize your campaigns’ impact. Suppose, if your audience is okay with receiving only two emails per week, you can send them emails only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Because you already know which days of the week are most optimal for emails, you are spared from beating around the bushes.
- Seasonal Changes: It might sound a little bizarre at the outset, but seasonal changes can indeed have an impact on your email timings. Now, sending emails on weekends is typically frowned upon, right? Consider a week where heavy snowfall or rainfall has been forecast for the coming weekend. This essentially translates to a whole bunch of canceled weekend outings. During such a weekend, if you send an email your customer’s way, it is most likely to elicit a response. Doesn’t sound that bizarre anymore, does it?
Setting Right Time For Automation
Automation is a boon to the world of email marketing; automated emails, the future. Automated emails have allowed email marketers to not only send their customers the right message at the right time but also enabled them to realize personalization at scale.
There are different kinds of automated emails- welcome emails, cart abandonment emails, follow-up emails, re-engagement emails, transactional emails, and the like. For each of these emails to have the desired effect on the subscribers, they need to be delivered at the right time.
- Welcome Emails: Given that a welcome email is your customer’s first point of contact with your brand, a well-crafted welcome email is worth its weight in gold. But, your welcome email sequences also need to be timed to perfection if you really want to bowl over your new customers. The first welcome email needs to be sent the moment the user signs up for your communication. Send your second email a full 24 hours after your first one. Then, wait for another 24 hours before you send your third email. Meanwhile, if the customer has gone ahead with a purchase, opt them out of your welcome list and sign them up to a different list instead.
Here’s an example from Airbnb:
- Cart Abandonment Emails: Approximately $18 billion in sales revenue is lost every year on account of cart abandonment. That’s why cart abandonment emails lie at the top of every email marketer’s priority list out there. So, how long do you wait before sending a cart abandonment email? Give your customers at least a couple of hours before sending the first abandoned cart email. If they fail to respond to that, then hold back for another 24 hours before sending the second email. Ensure that you’re creating a sense of urgency with your second email. You can also create interactive email templates to leave a deeper impact with your cart recovery programs.
Take a look at this email from Brooks:
- Follow-up Emails: Post-purchase follow-up emails seeking customer feedback go a long way toward strengthening customer relationships and enhancing the overall customer experience. We’d recommend waiting a couple of weeks (or more in the case of hard goods such as washing machines and refrigerators) before you send your first follow-up email. This is because the customer first has to use the product for a period of 7-10 days so that they can provide you with legitimate feedback. There’s no point in sending one within the first few days of the purchase.
- Transactional Emails: Transactional emails have to be sent to the customer the very instant they complete their transaction. There should absolutely be no waiting period between their purchase and their email. Any delay in delivering a transactional email can greatly undermine the credibility of your business, dealing a severe blow to customer relationships in the process.
- Re-engagement Email: Re-engagement emails are tricky because they’re aimed at customers who used to be regulars but have recently become dormant. In our opinion, a re-engagement email should be sent 45-60 days after your last communication with the now-dormant customer. Use this time period to figure out what could have possibly caused them to tune out of your communication in the first place. There could be many reasons- email frequency, quality of email content, changed interests and preferences, and the like.
Although email timing is critical to improving your email open rates, you can’t consider it as a be-all and end-all. Treat it as a starting point while also implementing other tactics that will help you accrue greater opens and clicks. What are those techniques? Take a quick look.
- Make sure your email content provides value to your subscribers and is relevant to them.
- Focus on crafting creative and compelling subject lines. It’s the first thing that readers notice about your emails- the better your subject lines, the higher your open rates.
- Always personalize your emails.
- Segment your email list- divide your subscribers into different categories based on various parameters such as age, gender, ethnicity, occupation, location, position in the sales funnel, browsing history, interests, and preferences, and the like.
- Give people the option of opting in to your communications rather than adding them to your list without their consent.
- When someone opts-in to your communication for the first time, be transparent with them regarding your email frequency, content, and the merits that your emails and newsletters hold. This will allow you to define their expectations and meet them effectively in the times to follow.
Wrapping It Up
Email timing must be an intrinsic part of your email marketing strategy because sending your email at the right time to your target audience is as vital as curating your campaigns’ design and content. Cracking the email timing code can be a touch taxing, but once you’re successful, nothing can stop your emails from generating surplus engagement and conversions.
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