What is the best time to send an email?
Last updated: April 10, 2023
What is the best time to send an email?
Surprisingly, there’s no consensus among email marketers. And it’s only gotten more complicated in recent years.
Most common knowledge about send times presupposes that recipients are working the standard 9-to-5 schedule. People were most likely to check their email while commuting into the office, between meetings, or on the way home, so marketers sent the bulk of their email at those times.
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There are two problems with that tactic, though.
First, there’s the risk of oversaturation. Sending at high-traffic times increases the likelihood that someone will check their email when you’re top of their inbox, but the amount of competition makes it less likely they’ll click your message in particular.
And if you’re sending your message at, say, 10am on a Tuesday, you also have competition from your audience’s work-related emails, which will almost always take priority over your weekly newsletter.
Second, the widespread shift to remote work hasn’t just shifted daily schedules. Routines have become more individualized, making it harder for email marketers to predict with any regularity or consistency. In 2019, the standard office professional commuted into an office between 7-8am, worked until 4-6pm, then went home to unwind. Marketers could send emails at “optimal” times, assuming that a critical mass of their audience was commuting home at the same time and more likely to open.
Now, some people still follow the 9-to-5 commuting schedule, while remote workers might shift their work schedule to accommodate caregiving responsibilities, freelance work, etc.
Ultimately, it takes trial and error to discover when your audience is most likely to read your email. Below, we’ll walk you through a framework for hypothesizing, testing and optimizing the best send time for your emails.
What is the best time to send an email?: Factors to consider
Gather information about your users
Your hypotheses should be grounded in observable information about your users. To find the best sending time for your email, collect as much data as possible about how your audience interacts with your website, email and other properties.
Some important questions to consider:
- What industry are they in?
- Are they primarily junior-, mid- or executive-level employees?
- What location (and time zone) are they in?
Use these data points to make educated guesses about how your audience goes about their workdays — and when they’re most likely to both open and read your emails. On Omeda, you can use Audience Search to easily query this information within your full customer database.
Also look into your audience’s content consumption behaviors, including:
- What kinds of content does my audience interact with and download most frequently?
- How much time do they spend on webpages? (Use Omeda’s web analytic service to track both known and unknown website visits.)
- Does your audience tend to make purchases upon reading an email? Are there any demographic similarities among those who buy?
- What kind of purchases do they make? What is their average order volume and/or customer lifetime value?
The more you know, the more prepared you are to send messages that resonate with your audience.
Segment your subscriber list
In the rush to find the “right” send time, it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees. So let’s level set here: The ultimate goal isn’t to increase one metric by X percent, but to reach each of your customers with the right message at the right time.
Sending your email at the “best” time still won’t generate results if you’re not sending the right messages to the right people to begin with. So before you begin experimenting, look to segment your audience into different demographic, behavior-based and product-related groups. This ensures that no matter when you send your emails, you’re maximizing your potential with each one.
Choose your success metrics
Throughout this post, we’re going to provide best practices on testing different send times. And to conduct an experiment, you need to know what variable you’re looking to optimize.
This should vary depending on the goals of your organization. If you’re looking to maximize incoming leads, your goal might be to generate as many opens as possible. Need to generate revenue for a new product or service? You may want to judge success by the number of clicks and/or click-throughs to a dedicated landing page.
And if you’re looking to shift your strategy toward a new product line or target audience, you might even want to attract the most responses from a specific demographic within your list.
On Omeda, you can run an A/B test for either most opens, most clicks, or the most responses from recipients meeting pre-set demographic or behavioral characteristics, as shown below.
Form a hypothesis about the best time to send an email
Next, make an educated guess about what send times will yield the best response rates. Consider a few different variables here, including your past performance, audience preferences and the email type.
For instance, if you’re running a finance magazine and your target audience is mostly white-collar professionals working a 9-to-5 schedule, they’re most likely to open your email at the beginning or end of their workday, or during their lunch break. But if your audience consists mostly of self-employed content creators, they’re more likely to check email during nights, weekends or early mornings. (In this case, you may need to run multiple experiments before finding your sweet spot.)
Also account for the kind of email you’re sending — and the amount of time it demands from the reader. Content-heavy newsletters are likely to get more eyes when the reader is just getting started with their day or just wrapping up. At either point, readers are more likely to invest the time needed to open, click and/or click-through to the content.
Promotions demand less time from recipients, though, especially in the age of one-click purchasing. So you can get away with sending these during busier points of the day.
Create and send your test email
Once you’ve formed a hypothesis, design an experiment that will compare your “test” send time against a control.
Using your email service provider, create two identical emails, a test and a control. You’ll send your test email at your experimental send time and your control will be sent at the same time as usual. Arrange to send each to half of your audience. This ensures that any performance differences can be attributed to the different send time, rather than subject line, content or any other conflating factors.
(Don’t want to run your test on your full 50,000+ person list? Use these resources to find the best test size for your campaign. A good starting size is about 1,000 subscribers, but this can vary depending on the size of your list and the type of campaign.)
Evaluate your results
Once you’ve sent your email, check your results to see if your “test” email meaningfully outperformed your control. From there, decide whether to proceed with the “winning” send time or whether you’ll continue to experiment.
And if you find yourself back at step one at the end? That’s OK. It takes a combination of art, science and experimentation to discover the right send times for your email, so it might take a few trials to find what’s best for your audience. As long as you’re learning about your audience and incorporating it into your strategy going forward, you’re still coming out ahead in the end.
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