Managing your time and social media using Media FunnelThe answer is: it depends!

We all know what it’s like to receive an email just at the right time – a reminder that your home insurance is due for renewal, great offers on summer holidays in the dark winter months when you’re dreaming of tropical beaches. Naturally, it won’t work for everyone, but email marketing is essentially about sending the right message to the right audience at the right time – it’s about knowing your market.

I’m a great believer that email is the perfect medium for building relationships with customers – it’s less about prospecting for new business (far too spammy, in my opinion) and more about reminding people who have expressed an interest in your business that you’re there when they need you.

Email marketing specialists, Pure360, has carried out a study of the best times to send emails – and how open rates vary – and it makes for interesting reading. The findings are based on analysis of 40,000 email campaigns sent by more than 140 companies between January and December 2012 and covering 24 business sectors. So a very robust study!

The best day to send emails?

Open rates vary according to industry and business sector, but research has shown that people are receptive to different messages at different times of the day. The day itself can also have an impact; for instance, if your business is concerned with leisure, travel or lifestyle products or services, you would be well advised to send your emails on a Friday or over the weekend – people are winding down, turning their attention from work matters to social activities, so an email containing a holiday offer is more likely to catch their attention. Conversely, but for much the same reason, if your email contains a B2B message you should avoid sending out on a Friday, and Mondays are also a no-no. Focus on sending between Tuesday and Thursday when your audience is firmly in a work mindset.

The best hour?

The beauty of email marketing software is being able to schedule sending out your campaigns. Some people think that sending out in the wee small hours will guarantee their email is seen at the top of the inbox first thing in a morning; but if you’re anything like me, all those emails that arrive at 4am are instantly relegated to the deleted or junk folder, they just don’t suggest that the sender cares about their audience and are merely carrying out a function. Pure360’s findings support this – only 4% of emails sent between midnight and 7am are ever opened.

So when is the ideal time to email?

Well it would appear that 5-6pm is now the prime time at which to actively engage with your audience; 26% of emails sent during this hour are opened, 9% above average opening rates. If you think about it, it stands to reason; first thing in a morning is more likely to be stressful at work, but at the end of the day as tasks have been completed and people are starting to think about going home, they are more relaxed and more likely to look at non-work emails.

The infographic below provides a visual synopsis of the Pure360’s findings, and gives an hour by hour account of open rates and when people are most responsive to messages from different business sectors.

Email open rates by time of day infographic

It’s also worth pointing out that time of year can also have an impact on the success rate of email campaigns. The research indicates that autumn is the best time of year to launch a campaign; again, it’s very logical – summer is over and there is a need to plan activities for the future, to have something to look forward to.

Open rates are only part of the picture (and not always very accurate), with Click Through and actual transactions being the most important, however the findings are very interesting. If you need more help with knowing what all your email stats are telling you – read my blog post on this subject.

If this piece of research inspires you to approach your email campaigns differently, it would be great to get your feedback.