Time for a Better Discussion Around Best Time to Send

Despite some of the buzz you might be hearing, don’t think the “best time to send” discussion can be tabled as no longer relevant. To maximize your email marketing ROI, you must still discover the day and the time that give you the highest response rate and return on your investment.

Are you already operating off of some “best time to send” assumptions? As marketers, we want to default to industry best practices and well-publicized case studies. But as email marketers, we are able to—and must—test, not take for granted. Rather than rely on the results of others, we must discover our own. And there’s a real danger in following the crowd. When they say Tuesday is the best day to send and then everyone sends on Tuesday, then what? Tuesday leads to crowded inboxes.

The fact is, the industry doesn’t determine your best time to send; your audience does. And you can only learn that by testing.

Beyond knowing it’s the audience who decides, you must also be clear about what you’re measuring. Number delivered? Opens? Click-throughs? Conversions? Total revenue? Then instead of asking “What’s the best time to send?” the question could be, “Which day and time gives us the highest (insert metric here)?”

Know what your metrics really mean. If your metric is revenue, remember that an email opened is not necessarily an email acted upon. The recipient might be curious enough to look beyond the preview pane, but not ready to buy.

This is especially true with mobile devices. Sure, mobile means 24×7 access to email but that probably doesn’t impact your optimum send day. Just because people see their email 24×7 doesn’t mean they respond to it or even really pay attention to it. A relatively safe assumption is that people are less likely to respond to a marketing email on their PDA or BlackBerry. They’ll wait until they are back at their computer to actually respond to—or buy—something.

Also keep in mind that depending on how your audience is segmented, you might have more than one best time to send. For example, the stay-at-home mom can get your email during the day because she’s online and checking her inbox while the kids are at school. But the working mom has to get it after the kids are in bed and she’s catching up on personal email before she turns out the lights.

To determine your own best time for sending by testing, first be clear on your goal. Which metric are you aiming to improve? Then test to that metric, segmenting as much as you can to optimize the delivery day and time for each of your different audiences.

One of our clients is a national home builder. Through testing they’ve learned Friday is the best day to send emails about open houses because they know their audience is planning to spend Saturday touring new home models. Or consider the outdoor equipment retailer that also sends their promotional emails on Friday afternoons. They’ve learned their young, male audience doesn’t plan their weekend activities until Friday afternoon, so the retailer times their emails to coincide with when their audience is beginning to think about Saturday’s fun. If these two companies followed the crowd, imagine the negative impact on their email marketing ROI. They’d be emailing on Tuesdays…and getting totally ignored.

The success of these email campaigns is testament to the importance of knowing when your audience will be most likely to respond to your promotional email. Maybe it’s time for a better “best time to send” discussion, not an end to the discussion.

– Marco Marini
ClickMail Marketing