“What is the perfect time to send my email campaign? Can we optimize our distribution time some more? Can we test them systematically?” We get these questions again and again from our clients and they are absolutely valid. If you think about it – the “better” the distribution time is the more likely your email is to be read and the more revenue your email campaign generates.
Well, at least that is the theory. In reality this approach doesn’t really hold up to the expectations. Or to put it a bit different: of course the time of distribution plays a role in your email campaign’s success, but this is only a minor role.
The search for a static “optimal time of distribution” for all your campaigns is plainly not realistic. There simply is no “best” time to send an email. The time when an email is actually read by the recipients differs significantly between target groups and even between single recipients within those target groups and yes, it even differs from email to email. Additionally you need to take into account that reading emails on mobile devices is becoming more and more popular. This fact introduces an additional variable into the equation since your recipients no longer only read their emails sitting at their desktop, but rather anywhere and anytime.
It is near impossible to determine the perfect time to distribute for all your recipients. Of course there are some industries in which it can be statistically shown that emails sent on a certain day or at a certain time are read more often. Some email distribution platforms try to provide algorithms to determine the ideal distribution time per user group and industry or even – on a more granular level – per user. Based on a user’s individual open response the newsletter is then sent within 24 hours of initiating the distribution depending on the alleged perfect time for each recipient.
But let’s be honest: at what point in time exactly would you personally read an email on fashion, software or dog food and actually click on one of the links? Would you open and click just because the email was delivered to your inbox at exactly 11:30am? Or wouldn’t you rather read it whenever you are interested in the actual content of the message? When you focus on the time of distribution too much you run the risk of loosing sight of a much more important factor in email marketing.
This factor is the relevance your emails have to your recipients.
If your email is not relevant to your recipients it really doesn’t make much of a difference if it is delivered in the morning, at lunch time or in the evening. If your email is highly relevant it is likely to be opened by your recipients.
To guarantee high relevance you need to account for several factors: the segmentation of your target group, tailoring your information and products to these segments, the right tone and depth of your information and the context in which your recipients will be opening your emails.
Let’s image for example you are sending your recipients a limited-time special offer, but some of your readers open the email the next day when your offer has already expired. To those recipients who open the email too late it is not relevant.
You cannot determine when your recipients will actually read your emails but you can make sure that your emails are always relevant to your recipients at the time they are opened.
We are now talking about Open Time Optimization as opposed to the much discussed Send Time Optimization (or “the quest for the perfect time to hit send”).
Context sensitive emails are an excellent way to ensure high relevance. This means that the content of your email is automatically adapted to the context in which your recipients open their emails. Here are a few examples:
- Location: Where is a recipient located when opening the email? Are they on the road opening the email on a mobile device? Depending on the location your email could feature an offer in a nearby store.
- Time: When is your email read? If a limited-time offer has expired the content of your email can adapt accordingly.
- Salutation: Your email can be personalized according to the time of day it is read at. E.g. you can greet your readers by wishing them a “Good morning” or a “Good evening” to make your email more relevant.
- Weather: The weather has an evident influence on recipients’ moods and their willingness to purchase. Have your email display products that match the recipients’ current situation.
- Device: The email’s content automatically adapts to the recipients’ devices. You no longer need to offer multiple download options for apps in your emails. Rather have your emails display the correct links for Android devices and iPhones.
- Social Media: Display your most current Tweet or Instagram post in your emails.
These are only a few of the options you have to adapt emails to the context in which an email is opened. Instead of chasing the perfect time to launch you are better off making sure that your emails are relevant to your recipients – regardless of when, where and on which device they are opened.