Email plays an important role in your marketing strategy. Contrary to any rumors you’ve heard over the years, social media is not taking away from this at all; it’s stronger than ever.
The success of your next email campaign is crucial and it’s important to leave no stone unturned while trying to gain an edge on the competition. This, however, is one situation where your customer is not making direct comparisons amongst their options.
Instead, the name of the game here is open rates and your true competition is every other email in their inbox that’s obscuring an otherwise pristine view of your message.
Sending your campaign on days where your customer’s inbox tends to be relatively uncluttered can lead to higher open rates. Let’s take a look at the highest scoring days.
You Can’t Go Wrong with the Middle of the Week
Numerous studies find that open rates are higher on middle days, such as Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, versus Mondays and Fridays.
However, it’s important to note that there is not unanimous consensus with this.
Surprisingly, some studies find comparable and even higher open rates on weekends.
Sanity is restored, though, as the following considerations typically bring most marketers back to their instinctual sense that the middle of the week is best:
- Monday mornings are spent in meeting rooms and catching up with the backlog of messages received over the weekend.
- On Fridays, people are more likely to be out of the office and generally have less motivation to act on the email that you’ve sent.
- Weekends are spent with families and leisurely activities. Generally, people are not working.
Not only does this pass the gut test, but studies have bared this out. In fact, a 2013 study from GetResponse.com reinforces the general consensus that the middle of the week is a consistent performer:
courtesy of getresponse.com
Their study finds that Tuesdays have the highest open rate and the 3rd highest click-through rate. This supports strongly why many marketers choose to send their important campaigns on this day.
It also stands to reason why more emails overall are sent on Tuesdays than any other days.
Contrary to the general consensus, the GetResponse study finds that Friday’s metrics stack up surprisingly well with Tuesday’s numbers. It receives the 2nd highest open rate and boasts far and away the highest click-through rate (CTR).
It could be theorized that since a lower number of emails are sent on Fridays, that by sending on Friday there is inherently greater exposure for your message since you’re competing with a fewer number of emails.
Reinforcing that the middle of the week is a safe bet are studies, such as Experian’s Email Benchmark Study. However, their findings are particularly interesting because they show fairly even numbers across all seven days. In fact, Saturdays and Sundays actually have HIGHER open rates:
courtesy of experian.com
Further backing this is Vero’s study from earlier this year in March. After examining over 100 million emails sent through their system they found strong numbers over the weekend (particularly on Sunday) and Tuesdays fared the worst:
courtesy of getvero.com
Statistical Averages Provide Guidelines, Not Rules
The middle of the week always performs at or near the top of the list, so you simply cannot go wrong with this as a starting point.
However, when you begin to segment your data you’ll see different trends and open rates. When you slice and dice by industry and job role, for example, the numbers can change.
So, what’s the right answer for you?
Testing and more testing is the answer here. Namely — A/B Split testing.
Many marketers rightly test their subject lines and calls-to-action, but how many experiment with sending their content at different times?
MarketingSherpa’s Email Marketing Benchmark Report shows that less than half of marketers invest time in doing this; both for day of week and time of day testing:
Your customer base is unique and trends can easily be found after some testing. You might find that Thursdays over lunch time provide your highest open rates.
If you can segment your email list by region then this can be effective, otherwise focusing on the time zone where most of your customers are in is the best rule of thumb.
Keep Content Relevant, Watch Open Rates Rise
When reviewing open rate averages across the days of a week, the differences between days can be marginal.
Increasing your open rate by 2% or so is your goal in order to maximize your reach, right? Of course, but when you consider the stark difference in open rates between TYPES of emails, then it becomes clearer how a more dramatic increase is possible.
Vero’s research has found that transactional emails triggered by the actions of your customers, for example request for password reset emails, have a 48% higher open rate than marketing campaigns, such as newsletters:
courtesy of getvero.com
Creating a cross-section of marketing and transactional content seems to be a formula for success, but how can this be practically implemented?
Start by analyzing your customer’s behavior and then going from there.
Imagine for a moment that you host a web application and you’ve found that your peak hours of usage are Tuesdays from 10 am – Noon.
Delivering your message during this window of opportunity when your service is top of mind could not only increase open rates, but readers would be more likely to engage in your content and follow through on the call-to-action within your message.
This idea can be extended to delivering content that is as relevant as possible to your customer’s project types.
Let’s say that your web application offers a free 14-day trial of your service and upon signup trial customers can self-select their current line of work (HR, IT, sales/marketing, market research, non-profit, etc…).
Your service offers unique value in each one of these areas, so delivering content that’s relevant to their project will increase the value that you’re delivering exponentially.
Time to Experiment
If you’ve not yet begun to A/B split test your emails, start with the following:
1) Choose a safe time to send your emails. One of the middle weekdays (for example, Tuesday) will yield safe and solid results.
2) Begin to test the same email and subject lines on a different day, say, Thursday.
3) Experiment further by testing the same content at different times of the day. Create Split A to send first thing at 8 am, and create Split B to send over lunch time.
Fine tune your release times in this way and you’ll be perfecting your email campaigns in areas that most marketers forget about.