The time of day that you send your emails can have a noticeable effect on how your audience engages with them. With this in mind, scheduling the arrival of your campaigns to suit the needs of your audience can have a significant impact on their success.
Most active email consumers read and act upon emails within the first 24 to 48 hours of receiving them. Some degree of later interaction continues, but beyond this statistics like open and click-through rate generally stabilise to close to their final values. This means that understanding and optimising this initial window of interaction can have significant consequences to the success of your campaigns.
We’ve crunched the numbers taken from all of the email sends through the Sign-Up.to platform to get a better understanding of how consumers engage with their inbox throughout the day. These results are compiled from over 1 billion permission marketing emails, over a 12 month period, delivered across a range of B2B and B2C industry sectors. The blue line shows the amalgamated opens on a desktop device, the red line opens on a mobile device.
The time of delivery and time of open are intrinsically linked. Assuming that your audience is awake and online it’s quite likely that if they are going to open and interact with your campaign many will do so within a relatively short period of time from delivery. This is especially noticeable for daytime sends. We can anticipate that a significant proportion of the B2B audience will be daytime desktop device users. Furthermore, even though over half of the emails reviewed were to a B2C audience it’s likely that the majority of these recipients are also daytime workers. It’s also likely that both groups have access to both desktop and mobile devices but use them in different ways and at different times throughout the day.
Over all of the campaigns analysed both desktop and mobile device opens show a steep growth over the first few morning hours. However there’s a notable lag between the desktop and mobile device open curves. Desktop open show an initial peak around 10 to 11am, quite likely after the initial rush of urgent to-do’s has been dealt with, mobile devices slightly later. For both curves there’s another peak, at around lunchtime for desktop consumers (possibly those who prefer to allocate a specific window to deal with their emails). While desktop interaction steadily declines throughout the rest of the day, mobile opens show a main peak at around 6pm. Take a trip on any rush-hour commuter train or bus and this will come as no surprise. Interestingly, mobile opens show another sub-peak at around 9pm. We can theorise that evening dinner (and Eastenders) are finished, the kids are in bed and there’s another opportunity to review the day’s emails. At home, for many the tablet or smart phone is now likely to be the device of choice.
So what can we learn from this?
Firstly, all of this is a statistical generalisation, made up from a lot of (different) individual behaviours. Optimising delivery time at an individual level can only be done using 1-1 automated emails – our data also show that automated 1-1 emails typically exhibit twice the average open rate, in cases up to 4 or 5 times. However email marketing is statistically driven and even relatively modest scales of broadcast delivery can benefit from such analysis.
Secondly, at least to some extent, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Observing an 11am peak in email consumers’ opens also identifies this time to email marketers as an optimal sending time. It becomes a resonant cycle, with the cause and effect being continually amplified. Nonetheless, experimenting with different delivery times is a worthwhile exercise.
Below are some sample campaign deliveries which identify how interaction (in these cases, opens) within the first 24 hour period can be used to advantage. The graphs below are generated using the Analyse section of the Sign-Up.to platform and show opens for specific campaigns over their first 24 hours.
Designing an early-bird 8am campaign strategy can be used to attract the ‘first-thing’ email consumers, either arriving at their desk or on the commute to work. It’s quite possible that the initial open may not be the final interaction. Like many I frequently screen my emails on a mobile device while on the train, earmarking those I will return to once at my desk.
The popular 11am delivery shows aspects of the lunchtime surge but also catches the audience throughout the early evening. It’s a popular B2C audience choice, especially in sectors like eCommerce and hospitality. It also allows scope within the first 24 hour window for further engagement the following morning.
4pm is also a popular choice and can be used where mobile consumption and impulse are important drivers. The 4pm delivery here show open peaks at 6pm and 22pm, ideal for those making decisions about dinner, late night entertainment or online shopping. The 5pm delivery, here to a primarily B2B audience, shows a small 9pm effect and also the continued interest the following morning.
Finally, the late night delivery. The sample below shows an 11pm delivery. Some marketers use this as a strategy to get first billing in the morning inbox. However it can also be used to good effect in order to time specific behaviour. The example here was designed to take advantage of the Black Friday phenomena prompting next day, single day only bargain discounts. The 11pm delivery nicely demonstrates interaction from both the ‘night-owls’ and the ‘early-bird’ discount hunters – interesting behaviour!