Unlike other channels—such as direct mail, where delivery is at the mercy of the USPS, or search engine marketing, where your message only renders when someone enters the right keywords—e-mail offers the advantage of being able to control precisely when an effort is delivered. But, as Peter Parker taught us, “With great power comes great responsibility.” And smart marketers understand that when it comes to e-mail response, timing can be everything.
About a year and a half ago, e-mail consultancies Return Path and eROI both came out with studies that identified Monday as the best day of the week for e-mail deliverability. And as Jeff Mills, e-mail analyst for Portland, Ore.-based eROI observes, “The noise on Monday increased real quick. … And the best day to send e-mail has been a shifting target ever since.”
In a quarter-over-quarter analysis of open rates, eROI found that, in Q404, Monday was indeed the top day, at 31.9 percent; in Q405, that number had dropped to 14.3 percent—the lowest open rates of the workweek. Thursday also experienced a big drop, from 26.5 percent in Q404 to 20 percent in Q405; while Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday each only dropped a few points, and all hovered around 20 percent. The same general trends can be observed with click rates, which dropped the most on Mondays and Thursdays from Q404 to Q405.
So when is the best time to drop those e-mails? The answer is, it depends. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on industry trends, particularly concerning which days have the most volume, as that has an inverse relationship with open and clickthrough rates; to wit, in studying Q405, eROI found volume surged nearly 50 percent from Q305 to Q405, while open rates for the same period dropped 29 percent and clickthroughs dropped 21 percent. But more importantly, advises Mills, test which days and times deliver the best for your audience. “I would recommend taking five even lists and sending [tests] all five workdays, and check performance from there,” suggests Mills. “Then, test the hours of the day—one at 9 a.m., one at noon, one at 2 p.m., etc., and see what’s most effective.” Then, monitor your open and clickthrough rates, and retest when they start to flag.
Another idea is to monitor Web traffic, looking for the days when your site gets the fewest hits. Then you can test to see if e-mail drops on those days will give your site a whole new source of revenue, recommends Mills.
—Tracy A. Gill