When to Press Send: Timing Your Email Campaigns

Blog Post by Lindsey Imperatore, Director of Marketing at The News Funnel

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Fashionably late is not a “thing” in the marketing world. Timing matters. To get the best results from social media campaigns, you must publish at optimal times. That applies to email marketing, too. By sending an email at the right time, you increase your open and click-through rates. The guidelines below are based on general research. Always consult your metrics to determine the best time to send campaigns to your email list. Note: all of the times listed here reflect the Eastern time zone.

Day of the week

A 2013 survey by Getresponse found Tuesday is the most popular day to send marketing emails. These emails had an average open rate of 18%, just slightly higher than Saturday's 18.3% open rate. Since fewer email campaigns are sent on the weekends, Tuesday still beats Saturday, as the volume alters average open rate results.

Additional research concluded if you want readers to take action inside the email, the highest clickthrough rates occurred on the weekends. These actions could be signing up for something, taking a survey, or downloading an ebook. The thinking behind why weekends produce better click-through is because people finally have time to read the content versus scan and postpone for later. The reduced email volume over the weekend contributes to the increased likelihood of action.

Time of day

In a previous post, we analyzed best email content practices. Consumers look at an optimized subject line, preheader, and “from” address when deciding to open an email. Another factor high on the list is what time email arrived in their inbox. A marketing piece sent at 3 a.m. signals it's not really a personalized message regardless of the subject line or “from” address.

Since most people try to start the workday productively, any email unnecessary to producing work is less likely to be read. Emails sent between midnight and 6 am are sucked into the “unopened” black hole. This makes afternoons and evenings optimal to achieve the highest open rates. Experian found the highest engagement rates occurred between 8 pm and midnight after people settle in at home and the hectic day is over.

One caveat: the same study found the type of email matters when deciding the time to send. News and alert mails see positive open rates during the lunch time hour and emails about property and financial services see strong open rates later in the afternoon. Consumer promotion emails have higher open rates late in the day, from 7-10 p.m.

Frequency of sending

How often a month you send emails matters for your clickthrough rates. A study through Kissmetrics found that the best sending frequency is 1-4 emails a month. Anything over that generates similar clickthrough rates. Interestingly, the unsubscribe rate is highest when sending 1-4 emails a month.

Adjust timing to meet your audience

Emails are most likely to be opened within an hour arriving. Open rates drop to less than 5% after four hours and less than 1% after 24 hours. Know the audience you serve and match the timing. If your audience are busy entrepreneurs who prefer to check email over lunch, try sending at noon. Conversely, emails may report high engagement rates early in the morning if your readers prefer to start their day eating breakfast and skimming email. For the best results, try different times and study your metrics to figure out when your audience is most likely to open or click through.