Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
“When is the best time to send an email?” is one of the most frequently asked questions about email marketing. After all the work of building a list, crafting a message, and designing the email, everybody wants to get the best results possible. Nobody wants to mail at the wrong time.
So when is the best time to send an email? Answers vary. The best course of action is to test and find out.
Testing Email Deployment Times Won’t Work for Everybody
The trouble with testing when to send is you need a fairly large list to get statistically valid results. Without statistically valid results, you’re just playing a well-informed guessing game.
So how big would your list have to be? At least 70,000 names if you ran the test once, which is not recommended, and at least 25,000 names if you ran the test three times, which I recommend.
Many businesses don’t boast a list that big. If you’re in that category, keep reading — I’ll get to your solution in a moment.
How to Test Which Day is Best to Send Email
If you have a big enough list, here is how to test.
- Split your list into seven segments.
- Mail one segment at the same time every day for a week.
- Repeat at least three times so you have enough data to see a clear trend.
Why test three times? So you can balance out any events like holidays and sales that might skew your results.
How to Test Which Time is Best to Mail
Once you know which day of the week is best, then you can segment again to find out which time is best. Here’s how:
- Break up your list into eight segments — one for each three-hour block of the day.
- Schedule your email messages to go out to one of those segments every three hours.
You can also break your segments into four-hour time spans, and have just six segments. Going with six segments will give you larger sample sizes, and thus you won’t have to test as many times. If your list is on the small side, six segments may work better.
As before, run this test at least three times so you can have a nice body of data to make your decision from.
Remember Time Zones
Remember that 8 a.m. in San Francisco is 11 a.m. in Boston.
Your list may also be too small to split up for time zones and three-hour blocks — which would require 24 segments and a list of at least 70,000 names. If your list is smaller, the best you can do may be to ignore time zones and pick a time that works best for the list as a whole. Getting too obsessed about when to send can compromise other optimization projects that might deliver more sales.
Small List Testing, or if Testing is Too Much of a Hassle
If you don’t have the resources or the time to test the best time to mail, the next best thing is to borrow other people’s data. There is a steady stream of reports put out by the email marketing industry that will give you good clues about when to send. The trouble is, the reports often contradict each other.
Which Day of the Week Gets the Most Responses?
Here is a chart from Experian’s “Email Marketing Benchmark Study” Q4 2012:
In Experian’s report, Saturday and Sunday win for “Unique opens” and “Unique clicks.” Saturday wins for “Transaction rate” and Sunday comes in second, tied with Friday for “Transaction rate.”
This infographic from HC Digital also favors Saturday.
GetResponse’s research shows Thursday as the best weekday for clickthroughs.
They also give Thursday first prize for open ratio.
GetResponse isn’t the only email provider whose data favors Thursdays. MailChimp’s data from its Email Genome project also shows Thursdays as the best performing day for opens. Wednesdays and Tuesdays follow close behind.
MailerMailer’s “Email Marketing Metrics Report,” published in July 2013, shows Tuesday and Wednesday as best for opens and Sunday, followed closely by Tuesday, as best for click-through rates.
Unfortunately, the data from these different reports doesn’t line up. Several reports show Saturdays and Thursdays as the strongest days, while others give Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays high marks. The only clear thing is Mondays and Fridays never come in first place for any metrics.
Which Time of Day is Best?
For time of day, there’s a whole new batch of charts.
Here is GetResponse’s take on what time of day to send. This first graphic shows when emails are sent:
This graphic shows which times get the most results:
According to Get Response, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., 3 p.m., and around 8 p.m. do best.
8 p.m. is a top-performing time in another report. Experian’s Email Marketing Q4 2012 Benchmark Study had one section devoted just to best times for highest transaction rate and 8 p.m. won.
Experian, like GetResponse, also reported that 40 percent of emails are sent between 8 a.m. and noon. So if you want to avoid the inbox jam, don’t mail during this time.
MailChimp’s data also has 8 p.m. performing well, but its data definitely favors afternoon emails over emails sent in the evening, especially if those emails are sent between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
So what’s the conclusion here? Only GetResponse shows mornings as one of the best times to mail. All the other reports mentioned here point to afternoon mailings as best. And if you care about making sales, you’ll definitely want to remember Experian’s 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. golden window.
There’s one last way to gauge what time is best to send. It only works if you post to Google+ regularly. If you do, head over to the Google+ Timing tool. Log in to your Google+ account and take a look at Google’s very specific recommendation of when you should post, based on which day of the week and which hours you typically get the most responses from your Google+ posts.
If you don’t post to Google+ but you are active on other social media channels, check your stats to see when your fans and followers are most active. That just might be the perfect time to click “send.”