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The Holy Grail: Email Send Time Optimization

By Serenity Gibbons

Do people open your emails and delete them without a second thought? If most of your campaigns end up in the trash, then your timing — not your content — may be the culprit.

Email send time studies vary greatly on their conclusions. When the data from various companies was consolidated, it was found that midweek emails perform best, with optimal times ranging from 6 a.m. to midnight. That information may be accurate, but unfortunately, it doesn’t make the decision of when to send any easier.

Studies that recommend 60% of workdays and 75% of the 24-hour clock as the best times to send emails leave too much to the imagination. Under those guidelines, you could send an email at 10 p.m. on a Thursday or at 6 a.m. on a Tuesday, and both would be correct. That can’t be right — can it?

The truth is that the perfect email send time depends on your audience, your campaign, and your goals. A 6 a.m. Tuesday email might be great for a B2B newsletter, but it might not work for a flash sale on clothing. The infuriating answer to optimal email send time is, as usual, “it depends.”

Just because the answer varies doesn’t mean you can’t make smarter choices, though. By understanding the factors that impact your campaign performance, you can narrow your window and identify the perfect moment to deliver communications to your audience.

1. Unique time slot

If everyone agrees the best time to send an email is 9 a.m. on Wednesday, guess what? Everyone in the world will receive dozens of emails at 9:05 a.m. every Wednesday. People process information in batches, so most will see that long list of emails, glance through to make sure none of the subject lines include phrases like “Your payment is overdue,” and delete them all.

You can’t follow the crowd if you want to stand out, and neither can your emails. Regardless of what time you choose, try sending your emails at an unusual time, like 9:17 instead of 9:00. After overwhelmed people delete all the emails from copycats, yours will come in by itself to demand their full attention.

2. Timely subject matter

Readers don’t want to waste their time on evergreen email content. Leave the long-term pieces for the blogs. Emails should encourage users to take immediate action, whether that means engaging with a longer piece of content, signing up for an event, or making a purchase.

Your send time should reflect the nature of the action you want to inspire. Advertising for an event this weekend? Try sending your email on Thursday morning, around the time most people start making plans for their time off. For less immediate topics, target times when people have a few minutes to consume content or consider their options. Early morning, before and after lunch, and late afternoon work well for these purposes.

3. Geography and culture

The bigger your business grows, the more diverse your audience will become. You may not think much about optimizing email send times for a few dozen subscribers in different countries, but those people reached across the world to connect with you for a reason. They could be even more engaged than your local audience if you treat them with the same level of consideration.

Adjust your email send times to reflect the living situations of your audience, if you have the data to do so. This follow-the-sun model, made popular by customer service teams, can work wonders for marketers who test and optimize for international sending. Pay close attention to distant audiences to see if their engagement rates beat the norms, then use your discoveries to inform your marketing tactics as your overseas audience grows.

4. A/B test results

Even the most well-researched plans can fail. You may have crunched the numbers, but if your emails on Saturday morning consistently outperform your emails on Wednesday afternoon, stop wasting money on tactics that don’t deliver results for your business. Your actual data, not theoretical advice from online experts, should be the brightest beacon for your email marketing strategy.

If email send time doesn’t seem to affect your open rates, take a closer look. That may be normal for companies with small lists filled with devoted fans, but as you grow, your email audience will inevitably prefer a few different times. Test some send times you normally wouldn’t expect to succeed, like evenings or weekends for a B2B company. You may discover that your data doesn’t look like everyone else’s.

King Content can’t rule effectively without Queen Distribution by his side. Instead of leaving your email send times to chance — or, worse, blindly following the crowd — do yourself a favor and look for opportunities to stand out. Optimizing your email send time is one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to boost your audience engagement and get your content in front of more people.

Sending your emails at the right times is just one way to ensure that they reach as many inboxes as possible and as many of their recipients as possible read them. See how to “Do More with Email Deliverability and Privacy.”

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