The Question of “When”: Is There Really an Ideal Time to Send Ecommerce Email?
On most days, I wake up around 6 a.m., turn toward my nightstand, and do — according to one recent study — what 35% of the population does first in the morning: I reach for my phone.
Usually, there are a few useless emails waiting in my inbox and a text message from my wife reminding me to pack our kids’ lunches before school. And, generally, I have about five minutes to sift through those messages before my kids sprint into the bedroom and kick-off our chaotic morning routine.
So, needless to say, that isn’t the time to hit me with a message about your store’s online flash sale, or remind to me about the list of items I left in my cart the day before. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those emails, but they’re probably best saved for 8 p.m. — when the stress of the work day is behind me, my kids have gone to bed, and I have the time to buy things I don’t really need.
Then again, that’s me.
In all likelihood, my routine is very different than yours, or that of a 24-year-old single guy who wakes up at 7 am with an hour to kill before work. And it’s certainly different than the 50-year-old executive who recently became an empty-nester.
The Truth About Email Timing
You’ve probably read advice from experts about the “best” days or times to send ecommerce emails. Maybe that advice was even accompanied by nice charts and graphs from their “data deep dives.”
But here’s the cold, hard truth about the “best” day or time to send an email: It depends.
It depends on your customers (a 40-year-old working mom will have a very different schedule than a 20-something college student). It depends on your industry (fitness fanatics might be alert and ready to buy at 7 a.m., but gamers who stayed up until 3 playing Call of Duty won’t be). And it depends on the types of messages you’re sending (cart abandonment emails will have different engagement metrics than emails to loyal customers about exclusive sales).
As such, all of the advice about Wednesdays being the ideal days to send emails, and 7-10 p.m. being the best time to deliver them, might be 100% true. But it might also be horribly misleading.
The Only Way to Truly Identify the Best Days and Times
So, where does this leave ecommerce marketers?
The point of this post isn’t to debunk all of the research and analysis that’s been done around the best days and times to send email. Some of those studies have revealed interesting insights that might be applicable to your business.
Instead, the point is this: The only way to truly know the best days and times to send emails is to conduct a handful of good, old-fashioned tests on your customers.
Here are a couple of simple steps to help you do that:
1. Segment Your List Based on Behavioral, Demographic, and Psychographic Data
Dynamically segmenting your customers will allow you to study patterns on a much deeper level and create delivery schedules that jive with a specific segment’s tendencies and behaviors.
For instance, you might group customers by what they have (and haven’t) bought, what they’ve viewed on your website, and where they’re located. And, if you’re using an email platform like Klaviyo, once you’ve created a segment, it’ll remain updated in real-time so you’re always looking at the right set of customers.
2. A/B Test Different Days and Times (and Ask Thoughtful Questions as You Do)
Once you’ve broken your database into a variety of segments with similar attributes and behavioral patterns, you can begin A/B testing emails on different days and times that loosely align with them.
As you do this, here are some questions you’ll want to consider:
- Which offers and email types are most likely to resonate with specific segments on specific days? If one of your segments is 30-something moms who’ve shopped with you before, are they more likely to respond to a promotional email on a Monday (when they’ve departed weekend mode) or a Saturday (when they’re relaxing on the couch with an iPad)? The only way to really know the answer is to test.
- What will people in specific segments be doing when they receive and open your email? Studies suggest that most emails are opened within four hours of being sent, so it’s best to think in that window. If you send an email at noon EST to a segment of business professionals on the West Coast, you may be setting yourself up for failure. This is where tools that allow you to send emails based on a recipient’s time zone can be incredibly valuable (you can do this through Klaviyo). If your target demo is business professionals, but they’re dispersed across the country, you can still send them the same email and ensure it’ll arrive at a time that corresponds to their time zone.
- What can order history and open rate tell you about customer activity? Generally, this data will give you some insight into when a specific customer — or subset of customers — is most active and willing to engage with your brand. This data should be viewed as an input, however, not as conclusive evidence.
Keep in mind that the goal of this step is to generate thoughtful hypotheses and test them. While many of your assumptions may prove right, it’s best to let the data — not your intuition — do the talking.
3. Analyze Results, Generate Intelligence, Iterate, Rinse, and Repeat
Once you’ve sent enough emails to achieve statistical significance, you’ll start to notice trends that clue you into the days and times that specific customer segments tend to engage with your emails. Generally, 5-10 emails is usually enough if you’re testing time of day, while 5 weeks is enough if you’re testing the best day.
But don’t stop there.
While one test or experiment might deliver critical intelligence into certain patterns of behavior, it doesn’t often paint a complete — or accurate — picture. There may have been extenuating circumstances or factors that influenced the results, or maybe your messaging in one or two emails resonated more than it usually does.
So, rather than call it quits after a couple of quick tests, use the intelligence you generate to dig deeper, iterate, and continue to optimize your email campaigns. Going this route will allow you to refine your segments even further and, ultimately, inch closer to that utopia we all dream of: Sending the right message to the right customer at precisely the right time.