Is there really a ‘best time’ to send email newsletters?

Without doubt, “when is the best time to send email newsletters?” is one of the most frequently asked questions in email marketing today, and has been since time immemorial. Well at least since this online marketing strategy first started making a name for itself over a decade ago.

The truth is if you asked this question to 10 different email marketers, you’d likely get 10 different answers. Sure, there’s the Tuesday/Thursday morning/afternoon suggestion, or the ‘send over a weekend’ advice based on the fact that people are more likely to take their time reading through their emails at home. I’m not disputing any of these suggestions, as they have certainly helped garner higher open and click through rates for many companies that employ this sending strategy.

Ultimately though, in answering this question, it’s going to come down to what time works best for your campaigns and subscribers. To do this, you’re going to need to start analysing and segmenting different aspects of their online behaviour. Think it sounds a bit too much like stalking? It’s not, you’re simply using data that is readily available to optimise your campaigns and better target your customers. It’s a win-win situation.

With this in mind, where do you start? Let’s have a look at a couple of points you need to consider.

First, who are your recipients? Are they business people, consumers, stay-at-home-parents or students? What occupations do they have, what type of hours would they typically work or study? Put yourself in their shoes, when might you prefer to receive emails?

If you don’t have this information available about your subscribers, you should definitely consider setting up an email preference centre, especially if you have more than one product/service or different types of email newsletters. A preference centre allows subscribers to dictate what emails they receive and how often they receive them (which puts them in control and takes the guessing work out of it for you). The added bonus is that they’re also encouraged to include personal information about themselves, such as: gender, profession, location etc., which means you can start segmenting straight away.

Secondly, when are your subscribers most active online? Monitor your website analytics to see if you can establish patterns in their online behaviour. Are they more active and interactive in the mornings, afternoons or evenings? You should also segment according to this information.

Thirdly, how often are you testing? Once you’ve gathered the information you need, test it out with a few campaigns. From here, you can see how or if it changes any of your metrics. Unfortunately, you can’t assume that it’s just going to work. People are unpredictable in nature and you can assume that their online behaviour will change over time, which means this process is something you need to do on a regular basis.

Yes it’s going to take time to figure out averages based on behaviour over a certain period, and yes it’s going take time to effectively segment your target audience. The potential success that you can have from doing this, however, far outweighs the extra work involved. At the end of it, not only will you have worked out what the best time is for you to send your campaigns to your subscribers, but it will also allow you to:

  • Better engage with your subscribers on their terms
  • Improve your open rates, CTR’s and other valuable metrics
  • Improve your brand positioning (the more subscribers are reading and reacting (favourably) to your emails the greater the chance is of them talking about your company, both online and offline.
  • Finally, you (hopefully) don’t waste any unnecessary time or money sending emails at the wrong times or to the wrong people
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