"What is the best day and time to send an email blast?"
This is the most common question we hear regarding email marketing. It makes sense, I suppose. You put in all the work to make a great looking email, and you want to get the highest return on that work. As always, there is a short answer that is mostly wrong, and a long, tedious answer that is mostly right. Hopefully, I can illuminate the subject without being too dull, but we will need to get a little technical, so bear with me.
What does the data say?
There are a plethora of large-scale studies that analyze the open rates of billions of emails. I am partial to Hubspot and MailChimp as platforms and as thought leaders on the matter. Both companies did their own studies to determine ideal send times for optimal open rates.
Here is a quick synopsis of their findings (Spoiler Alert!):
- The best days to send emails is Tuesday and Thursday
- The best time of day to send is 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
These graphs are from MailChimp's study. The first shows Tuesday and Thursday to be peak days, while Saturday and Sunday are dismal days for open rates (keep that in mind for later). The second graph shows 10:00 am - 12:00 pm to be the best time of day to send emails.
Both studies note that the specific demographics of your audience will impact your ideal send times. There are many more studies, but they more or less come to the same conclusions. (The only exception I found was Experian, but that's for another day.)
Many marketers will look at these charts and think, "Hot dog! Analysis of billions of emails can't be wrong; I'll send all of my emails mid-morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays!" However, I believe that would be a mistake. It's the correct conclusion to make from the data in the study, but...
You're asking the wrong question!
When you send out an email, what is your goal? I daresay it is rarely for the person to simply open the email, right? Likely you want the recipient to take an action. Whether that action is reading a blog, watching a video, downloading content, or buying a product, the point is that you must look past the open Rate of an email and consider the true call to action. The question you should be asking is, "what is the optimal day and time for my audience to take the action I want them to take?"
Case in point:
Let us look at a real-world example. RFF recently executed an email campaign for a client with an email list of nearly 30,000 customers. The goal of the email campaign was to drive awareness of a tool already available to their customers. We had three success metrics (notice that open rate is not one of them):
- Traffic to a landing page with educational content and video
- Account logins (tracked through a CTA on HubSpot)
- Mobile app downloads
Since the content was highly relevant to the entire email list there was no meaningful way to segment the list. Therefore, we arbitrarily divided the list into four, relatively equal sized, segments and scheduled them for the following days and times:
Segment 1 - Thursday @ 11:45 am (perfect time right?)
Segment 2 - Friday @ 6:30 am (not perfect, but ok...)
Segment 3 - Friday @ 7:00 am (weird...)
Segment 4 - Sunday @ 1:00 pm (what are we doing!?)
Let's see what happened...
When it came to open rates, the Thursday mid-morning send time lived up to expectations by edging out the other segments (barely). However, Thursday's click rate was the second lowest, and the click-through rate was substantially lower than all the other segments.
Meanwhile, the Sunday afternoon segment had the second lowest open rate. Not quite the dismal performance we would have expected from the studies, but substantially lower than Thursday mid-morning. However, the click rate was 2 points higher than Thursday, and the click-through rate was the highest of all the segments!
(Truthfully, we did not set out to prove this point. It is believed that Sunday afternoon is an ideal time for posting educational content on Facebook; we wanted to see if that held true for emails with similar value to the audience.)
"Ok! I'll start sending my emails on Sunday afternoons!"
Please, do not walk away from this thinking Sunday (or any day) is universally the best day to send emails. Coming to that conclusion from anything other than your own data, with your own audience, is a mistake.
My point is simply this:
- Look beyond the superficial metrics.
Consider the ideal times for your audience to engage with your content and respond to your call-to-action, and don't just focus on open-rates.
- Try, measure, and adjust!
The Sunday segment's performance was surprising despite the logic behind it. We were fortunate the client allowed us to experiment. I suggest you try new things, A/B test, and by all means MEASURE!
- Understand the relationship your audience has with your brand and its content.
This is a large topic for another day, but email marketing is a relationship tool. Be mindful of your context in your audience's life and where they are in their buyer's journey. (I know I didn't cover this much in this article, but it's important and wanted to mention it anyway.)
I hope this was helpful. You can comment below if you agree or disagree from your own experience. Otherwise, go forth and market wisely, my friends.