Time Testing in Email Marketing Campaigns: Client Example

Time Testing in Email Marketing Campaigns: Client Example

By Maddie WeberFeb 27 /2013

email time tests clockIf your inbox is anything like mine, then it's flooded constantly throughout the day with various marketing emails, coupons, news from friends and family and funny cat photos; but when it comes to receiving the content you actually want to read—what's the best time to receive it? And if you're on the flip-side—pushing content to your readers—what's the best time of day to send your email marketing message?

When it comes to timing, there are two inherent factors to consider: day of the week and time of day.

Before You Start Testing Your Email Sending Times

There are several considerations you must make before you start to test your email timing. Let's take a look at the top five:

  • How early is too early? 
    • Generalized user habits indicate that most people (read: most likely your customers) check their email first thing when starting the work day, so there is some advantage to emailing earlier in the day. But consider the earlier you send your email the more likely it might be to get lost in the throng of first emails and, thus, skipped over.
  • When are my customers used to hearing from me? 
    • Is there a particular day of the week your customers expect to hear from you? The example shown below is actually from Wednesdays—not because Wednesday is a particularly "better" day, but because customers were already used to receiving emails, newsletters and news on Wednesdays. If it's expected, they might already be looking forward to your communication.
  • Is there a day of the week I get more emails from others in my industry? 
    • Maybe it's for a good reason, and you want to be a part of that; but maybe everyone else chose Wednesdays too and you want to stand out from your competitors. Test both, separately.
  • At what time of day do you normally read targeted content via email?
    • We can talk about general user habits, but it's more important to know your industry specifics and the best person to know that is you! When is the best time of day in your industry to take a breather and read new content? Apply this logic to your email sending. 
  • What does my email marketing data history show? 
    • The best indicator will be your testing history. If you don't have any, that's OK, you just have to start somewhere and gather data. Try partitioning your list in to five separate lists and send your email at the same time every day that week. Remember to limit variables by sending the same email with the same subject line to all recipients.

While there are hundreds (if not thousands) of email marketing infographics you can find summarizing some of the information from different studies, I'm going to showcase just one example I've been working on for the last few years. If you want to see some infographics, here are 11 to look at now.

Email Marketing Time Testing Example

The following data is from a real medical industry related client that's using the HubSpot CMS to send emails to its client list. We've used other email tools as well, such as Adobe Business Catalyst and Constant Contact, but the data examples are more easily seen by HubSpot's breakdown.

[Image 1: Delivery, Open Rate and Click (through) Rate of the last 5 emails sent]

hs email open rates

[Image 2: Time of Day, Delivery, Open Rate and Click (through) Rate of all emails sent through HubSpot - averages on right hand side]

excel email open times

Analysis of Data and Conclusions

The data that's shown above is real data, so conclusions can be drawn, the biggest for this client being that emails sent before 10:00 AM (EST) typically perform better in both open and click-through-rate. But the analysis could be done in several different ways. First, you could segment the time stamps into three sections, early morning, mid-morning, afternoon, etc. You could also re-filter it to exclude the outliers. For example, you'll see the string of really high open rates, but low CTR—those emails were a specific announcement without a real call-to-action within the email. So those low CTRs are actually an indication of a lack of CTA rather than the time stamp being poor. 

This is why it's hard to test only one variate at a time, but it's important to look at your raw data and be able to draw some conclusions from a specific variable—if for no other reason than to help determine what your next test should be. 

We've noticed for a while now that the morning emails perform better, so we've started sending more emails in the morning. The next steps for this client is to refine the time stamps better and segment within the 7:00 AM (EST) hour. 

Have you had any recent success with testing times on email marketing? What times work best for your industry? 

Photo credit: Lloyd Morgan

maddie bioMaddie Weber is a Web Developer for Kuno Creative. She truly enjoys being creative, drinking lattes, focusing on user experience for website design and development, and writing haikus. You can connect with her on Twitter.

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