Campaign send time isn't important.

Campaign send time isn't important.

Time has long been held as an important consideration as to when to press the send button for your email campaign. There are many blogs and discussions about timing and when the right time to send is, should it be before 9am or at lunch time or…?

However the time of day may not be as critical to you as is often suggested. Let me illustrate with three real life examples.

  • In time of day testing for an online specialist travel company the time of day was found to be totally unimportant. Of note was there was a particular day of the week that gave a better response.
  • A deals type campaign showed no difference in response from late morning delivery to late afternoon. In this case sends early morning and early evening were not tested.
  • A news headlines email of a major newspaper normally sent by 8.30am was due to user error dispatched three hours later than normal. The open and click response from this late send was within the normal variance of this daily email.

These are three very different types of campaign and all show little sensitivity to the time of day when the campaigns are sent.

How can this be? The graph below shows email open and click activity from analysis of millions of mainly B2C emails during weekdays.

Whilst email open and click activity varies by 10% during the day, it doesn't automatically follow that campaign performance will be sensitive to exact time of send.

If your email could be the top email in the inbox then arguably it may provide an advantage. This is purely theoretical. It's not possible to time to achieve this, even on an individual basis.

The answer as to why timing is not so sensitive lies in how people engage and process their email inbox.

In a small poll we ran, 94% of people said that when returning to their inbox they scan all new or recent unread emails. This means your position in the inbox is relatively unimportant. Your email will be scanned for a delete or read decision regardless of whether it's the top email or number 25. Your email will live and die by much stronger factors than time of day such as:

  • Subject line and from name
  • Content relevance
  • Previous experience of your emails
  • Brand loyalty and engagement

Trying to time an email to a 2 to 5 hour slot is relatively unimportant. Your email will be deleted based on the above factors and not whether it was first seen at 10am or 2pm.

More important than time of day timing, is timing with regard to the customer lifecycle. Right message, right person, right time is often quoted. However, time doesn't mean 9am or 10am. Perfect timing is reaching the customer when they are actively:

  • Identifying a need
  • Researching options to fulfil a need
  • Deciding which offer to choose

If you've split tested and found that midday is better for you than 3pm, then great. Keep sending at your best time and re-test every six to 12 months in case it changes.

If urgency is the campaign driver, such as a 10am email to promote a midday to 2pm flash sale then time is of course critical.

Otherwise don't jump to the conclusion that time of day is important. If you want to know, then run a quick timing split test or otherwise put your energy into improving other more important factors.

I hope you've enjoyed this, my first post on the Emailvision blog, leave a comment and I will read and reply. Thanks for reading.

01 Aug 2011

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