The Best Time to Send an eCommerce Email
High-performing ecommerce emails share a few key characteristics: compelling subject lines, strong body content, effective call-to-action buttons (CTAs), and high deliverability.
Deliverability isn’t just about avoiding the spam folder. It also means getting the email in front of the recipient’s eyes, where it has the chance to work its magic instead of drowning in a busy inbox.
Your hard work on an email is meaningless if recipients never see it. The subject line and CTAs you spent hours perfecting become irrelevant. Even the best ecommerce email in the world would generate no sales if it were never seen.
That’s why learning about the best time to send an email can have a profound effect on your campaign’s success. Analysis of over five billion emails found that almost a quarter of emails that eventually get opened are opened within the first hour of being sent—so the longer your email sits unopened, the less likely it is to ever be read. This is important information for all marketers to consider, but especially when sending time-sensitive messages, like one announcing a flash sale.
Let’s take a closer look at the data and ways you can stand out in the inbox.
The Best Days to Send an Email: What the Research Says
Over 306 billion emails were sent every day in 2020—that’s almost 40 emails for each person on the planet, daily! In 2017, that number was 269 billion, and there’s been a year-on-year increase ever since.
These huge volume of emails means two things:
- Email is still a powerful marketing channel with no signs of slowing down
- Existing research has had a lot of data to work with and now offers insights to improve your email marketing strategy
When determining the best time to send an email, there are two primary considerations: time of day and day of the week.
A review of 14 email marketing studies identified Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday as the best days to send emails. The exact reasons can only be speculated, but a safe assumption is that people may be preparing for the week ahead on Monday, while on Friday, they’re wrapping tasks up and getting ready for the weekend, making them less likely to open emails.
Some data also suggest that the weekends can deliver high click rates. The caveat here is that fewer emails are sent on the weekends and open rates are lower—so the higher click-through rate might be artificially inflated.
The Best Time of Day to Send Emails
The same review also looked at the best time of day to send emails and found significant variance: 6 am, 10 am, 2 pm, and 8 pm to midnight are the most effective times. This suggests that we check our inboxes regularly, except when we are otherwise engaged in commuting, arriving at or leaving work, or on lunch breaks.
If we look at those hours a little more closely, we can consider the likely reasons these times are popular for reading emails.
At 6 am, we’re probably checking emails on our phone from bed, but from the time we get up until late morning, we’re getting ready for work, commuting, and settling into the office. Early afternoon is a common time for people to have an energy slump and be distracted from work, and by 8 pm, we’re home, fed, and are relaxing before bed. During these times, people may be more likely to check their phones for relaxation or distraction, including checking their emails.
What about time zones, though? If you want to send an email at 8 pm in London, it will be noon for recipients in Los Angeles, 3 pm in New York, and 7 am in Sydney. Don’t tie yourself in knots about sending the email at 8 pm for all your recipients: instead, look at your stats to see where the majority of your audience lives, and schedule according to that time zone.
The Best Time of the Month to Send Emails
It may not always be a primary consideration, but a third factor in email timing is the time of the month. In a review of over two billion emails sent with Omnisend during 2018, opens and clicks were found to vary from one week to another. Specifically, the first two weeks of the month performed better than the last week in the month, with the three best-performing days being the fifth, seventh, and twelfth.
The first 10 days of the month saw an average open rate of 18.56% and 7.16 orders, or purchases. For days 11–20, the average numbers were similar at 18.55% and 6.96, respectively. For days 21–31, though, both metrics dipped to averages of 17.87% and 6.67. It’s possible that these figures reflect common pay cycles, with people having more money to spend at the start of the month and restricting their spending at the end of the month as they approach the next payday.
The Best Time to Send an Email in Your Business
When it comes to your own business, there’s the time the research says is best to send an email, and then there’s the actual best time. The two are not always the same.
Research is a great starting point that can help you avoid painful months of discovery, but it shouldn’t be the endpoint. For one thing, people’s behavior can change over time due to technology, with 85% of people reading their emails on their mobile phones, and 58% checking their emails the first thing in the morning.
Ultimately, your audience will show you the best time to email them. If you’re trying to reach people about a work-related topic, then contacting them during standard office hours makes sense. It makes less sense to email customers at 9 am on Monday with a flash sale coupon that’s valid for the next two hours.
You must also consider your industry: it might be okay to send daily emails about fashion items, but you probably wouldn’t want to hear from your bank that often.
The only reliable way to learn the best time to send an email for your business is to track your emails’ performance.
The first step is to decide what’s most important to you—be it increasing click rates, sales and revenue, or repeat customers or avoiding unsubscribes. Open rates have traditionally been a key metric for email marketers, but with Apple’s iOS15 update, these numbers are no longer reliable.
Once you have determined your area of focus, create a simple spreadsheet with columns for the day and time each email is sent and the relevant performance metrics. You’ll soon start to build a picture of what timing is most effective, which may or may not be in line with what works for other businesses.
Here’s an example of what that spreadsheet might look like. While you shouldn’t change the day and time every week, as you need to gather enough data about each possible time, changes made over time will make it possible to spot any trends, such as spikes in clicks or revenue, related to particular subject line formats or email timings.
If you really want to make light work of landing in your customers’ inboxes at the right time, you can use the send-optimization feature of your chosen email marketing platform. This kind of software analyzes when each recipient usually opens your emails and schedules emails for them at that time. That way, you always land in their inbox at the right time to be front and center, not buried under 20 other promotions.
Other Considerations for Successful Email Marketing
Sending emails at the appropriate time is important for maximizing your results, but it’s not the only factor that can improve your emails’ success. Let’s look at some other things to think about to improve the success of your email campaigns.
But before we do, it’s important to maintain realistic expectations. If your emails are already performing above the industry average, then your expectations need to be in line with that: you probably won’t be able to quadruple your click rates. Sometimes, an increase of 0.5% should be considered a significant improvement. On the other hand, if you’re new to email marketing or performing well below average, you can aim for more drastic improvements.
With that said, let’s look at how to improve your open rates. A good place to start is your welcome email.
It’s often said that you can only make a first impression once, so you have to make it count. This is certainly true of your welcome email. According to the aforementioned analysis of over five billion emails, welcome emails have an average open rate above 86% and a click-through rate of 25%. Put another way, they average higher open rates four times higher and click-through rates ten times higher than those of other emails.
The welcome email is your best opportunity to set expectations of how often you’ll email subscribers and why, as well as to convert the recipient into an early customer with a coupon code or free offer.
It’s also recommended that you send the welcome email immediately upon subscription. When someone subscribes to you, they’re currently online and actively thinking about your business. If you wait a day or even an hour to deliver the welcome email, you miss out on that level of attention.
Getting an email seen in the inbox is one thing; crafting an email interesting enough to capture the recipient’s attention is another thing entirely. That’s why perfecting the subject line is critical.
There’s no single way to write a compelling subject line, so it’s worth experimenting. You can play around with and test:
- Format: does your audience respond better to questions, statements, or offers? (i.e., “Are you ready for Black Friday?” vs. “Our Black Friday sale is live!” vs. “Here’s your 15% discount code.”)
- Length: in an analysis of over 229 million emails sent during 2020’s Black Friday-Cyber Monday (BFCM) period, it was found that subject lines with up to seven words were the most popular and had open rates of 15–17%
- Personalization: include the recipient’s name or mention that you’ve selected products you know they’ll like (this can be done with automatic product recommendations in your email software)
Free tools that score your subject lines are available, which may help you refine your subject lines into ones more likely to perform well. Many email marketing platforms also offer A/B testing, allowing you to pick two different subject lines you like and test their performance against each other.
Here’s Omnisend’s subject line tester as an example, demonstrating that different ways of phrasing the same announcement can have a drastic impact on the open rate:
The top subject line is more appealing to the visitors (using the word “sale”), falls within the recommended word/character count (at least 21 characters or four words), introduces a bit of urgency, and generally has a better mood. The bottom subject line is dull in comparison.
So you’ve arrived in the recipient’s inbox at the right time, and your subject line has compelled them to open the email. Now it’s time to prove to the customer that opening it was the right choice.
The length of your email is an important consideration. The analysis of last year’s BFCM emails found that word counts of up to 480 had better click rates than longer emails. However, be mindful of cutting content just to reach a lower word count—aim to deliver the necessary information concisely rather than cutting so much detail that the reader is no longer sure what you’re trying to say.
Personalization is another effective element. The most common form of personalization is to address the recipient by name, but it’s possible to go a lot further, such as by sending birthday coupons or offers based on previous browsing and buying history.
Then there’s segmentation, the technique of varying the content of the email according to readers’ particular qualities. Examples of customer segmentation can include:
- Demographics (e.g., age, gender, religion)
- Interests (e.g., lifestyle choices, hobbies, values)
- Behaviors (e.g., browsing and purchasing history, loyalty discounts)
- Location (e.g., free shipping to certain countries)
- Engagement (e.g., sending fewer emails to people who only open occasionally and more emails to those who open each one)
Finally, the body of an email includes your CTAs. Test out variables such as how many CTAs to include in a single email and the wording used on the buttons related to each CTA. For example, you could test whether any of the following three phrases significantly outperform or underperform against the others: “Shop now,” “Learn more,” and “I want this.”
How often you email your audience can have a significant impact on your campaign performance. If you don’t send emails often enough, people may lose interest or even forget about your brand entirely. But send too many, and you risk annoying your subscribers. Both scenarios can result in unsubscribes.
Some analyses show that sending fewer than five newsletters per week is good on average, but you need to test the best rate for yourself.
You may find that switching from weekly to fortnightly emails yields higher performance. Log all the changes you make in your email performance spreadsheet, and you’ll be able to observe any increase or decrease in clicks and unsubscribes as they occur.
Optimize for Mobile Devices
Almost 55% of global website traffic comes from mobile devices, excluding tablets, and 85% of people check email on their phones. Despite these figures, almost 20% of email campaigns are not optimized for mobile devices. If you fall within that category, mobile optimization is the low-hanging fruit you should aim for.
The main purpose of optimizing for mobile devices is to make it easy for recipients to read and engage with your emails. If they have to zoom in to read small text, scroll to see text that’s gone off the side of the screen, or can’t click the buttons, they will probably close the email and move on.
The length of your subject line must also be considered for smaller screens to ensure it doesn’t get cut off, as seen in the following image:
The best time to send an email is simply when your audience is most likely to read it. This timing will vary depending on your industry, your audience, and even the action you want your readers to take.
That’s why there’s no substitute for investing time in analyzing your subscribers’ preferences and behaviors in response to your emails. And always remember: email marketing has multiple moving parts, so success depends on more than just the timing of your sends.
To achieve higher open rates and revenue, you need to craft messages that make your audience want to hear from you—that’s why optimizing your content, subject lines, and frequency in addition to send time is so important.