Email marketing is a tried and tested method for reaching out to your audience in a compelling way. Almost any business can benefit from building a strong, engaged email marketing list, and by sending them regular updates about anything from offers and new releases to company news.
In our report on email marketing ROI, we found that for every $1 a business spends on email marketing in 2023, they can expect to see a return of $36. But it isn’t just the return on investment that makes email so worthwhile. Unlike other forms of digital marketing – such as paid ads and social media – email marketing enables you to maintain a high level of control over your audience.
For example, you may invest a considerable amount of time and money into building a huge social media following – only for the social platform to close down the following year, or for them to change the rules on how you can communicate with your audience. This isn’t an issue when you invest in email marketing.
However, doing email marketing alone isn’t enough. Hordes of marketing emails wind up deleted without being read, or don’t even make it into their intended recipient’s inbox at all. Businesses that benefit from the tool know that they need to create the perfect mix of great content, compelling copy, and perfect timing in order to succeed.
In this guide, we’re going to run you through everything you need to know about sending high-performing marketing emails, with a special focus on when to send them.
So, when is the best time to send a marketing email?
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits all approach.
Many factors come into play such as your brand, your niche and your target audiences’ personal habits. However, there is a wealth of data available which can help offer us some general guidance. This information can provide us with an informed starting place from which we can collect and leverage our own data.
General Guidelines for Timing
Understanding your customer is the key to sending your emails at the best time. Knowing their daily routines will help you send emails at a time where they are most likely to be opened and acted upon. This will change widely across businesses and industries.
For example, a B2B business that sells office supplies would likely benefit from sending emails during the work day and especially near times where office supplies stocks are assessed and new orders are made. On the other hand, a B2C business that sells bespoke homeware products would likely benefit from sending emails in out-of-office hours, near the end of the work day and especially around pay day.
Frequency will also play a part in success. Too many emails and you may put customers off, but too few and you will likely go unnoticed. Getting this right will take time and practice.
Weekdays vs. Weekends
The data shows that weekdays are typically the best for email performance. For example, a study by Mailjet found that emails sent on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday had the highest open rates (Tuesday and Thursday for higher engagement). This is similar to Salesforce’s study which found mid-week sending to be the most successful, with the highest open rates on a Thursday.
However, Friday and Monday shouldn’t be discounted. This is especially true as inboxes tend to be a little less hectic on these days and you may benefit from more time and attention being given to your emails. In fact, a study by Omnisend found that users that opened emails on Friday are more likely to make a purchase.
Weekends are often seen as bad days for sending emails. This is most probably because people are less likely to check their emails when they are away from their desk. A few exceptions to this rule include emails which are weekend specific such as leisure and retail emails – especially those which are light hearted.
For off-peak days such as Monday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, conducting A/B testing can help you assess whether sending marketing emails is worthwhile.
Morning, Afternoon, and Evening Sends
Mornings can be a great time to send emails and can help you catch early risers as they get ahead of the game by checking their emails. Data by Moosend suggests that between 9am and 11am is one of the best times to send emails.
Data from Mailjet found that this varies widely by location, with those in the USA most likely to check their emails as soon as they wake up, but those in Spain being more likely to check them a little later in the morning.
As early risers are more likely to check their emails on the go, it is important to ensure that morning emails are optimized for viewing on mobile.
Afternoon emails can help you tap into audiences that check their emails during their lunch break. It may also help you reach audiences that are more likely to check their emails during the afternoon such as students.
Moosend’s study suggests that sending emails between 1-2pm will see peak open rates averaging 22.09%.
Sending your emails in the evening may see lower conversions, but can work well for specific audiences such as those who are busy and only find time to check emails during the evening. However, some studies find that email open rates generally start to fall significantly after 5PM.
Time Zone Considerations
Time zones are an important consideration for those that send emails to different countries. Luckily, many email marketing platforms allow you to segment your audience based on their location or time zone and send emails to each segment at different times.
You should also consider the culture in the zone you are sending to. For example, Mailjet’s study found those in the USA are most likely to check their email first thing or early in the day, whereas those in France were most likely to open their emails in the evening.
Being aware of local holidays help you avoid sending emails at times where people are unlikely to be in the office, while also leveraging potential excitement around those holidays in the lead up to them.
Seasonal and Holiday Timing
Planning for holidays isn’t just important when considering other time zones. Doing so can help you drive better results across all segments of your email marketing list.
For example, forward planning for a major shopping event such as Black Friday can help you create email campaigns that offer a consistent message and tap into excitement by using seasonal themes. You may also create campaigns which leverage post-holiday trends, this is often seen in the fitness industry with a ramp up in email marketing after the festive period.
Personalizing your emails based on individual key dates such as birthdays or anniversaries can also drive engagement.
In Mailjet’s study they highlight how consistency is important, but that businesses shouldn’t hesitate to postpone key emails such as newsletters that fall on dates where engagement is likely to be low.
The results from the studies mentioned in the last section are interesting, and there’s certainly some consensus between them about when best to send emails, for example multiple studies have shown that midweek is most effective.
However, there’s still no hard and fast rule. Even within the same study, they found that the best days and times varied between geographic locations. With that in mind, your own email marketing results will also depend on other factors such as:
- Your industry (if you run a bar or restaurant, sending emails over the weekend may work better than during the week)
- The demographics of your audience (if you’re looking to reach retired men, you’ll see your best results at different times than if you were targeting university-aged women)
- The type of emails you send, and their content (fun, entertaining emails may perform better at the end of the day to information-heavy emails)
- The season (emails promoting deals on children’s toys are likely to perform better closer to Christmas than during the rest of the year)
- Any other major events that are currently happening (a global event, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, may give people more time to read emails than before)
For all of these reasons, it’s beneficial to test the success of your own emails to get a true idea of when it is best to send them. To do this, you’ll need to pick the KPIs which you believe matter most to your success. Then, you’ll need to systematically send out emails at different times, to assess which ones perform best.
To observe the most reliable results, you’ll want to A/B test the same email at different times, to ensure that other factors – such as subject lines and content – are not the real reason for better or poorer performance.
What makes email marketing great for your business?
If you don’t know what to measure, it will be impossible to truly understand the performance of all the effort you put into your marketing emails. So, deciding what matters – and then tracking this – can be a worthwhile task. What you track is commonly known as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI).
A few common email KPIs that businesses track include:
Email Open Rate
Your email open rate is the percentage of people you sent your email to who actually opened it. For example, if you sent an email to a list of 5,000 people, and only 1,250 people opened it, then your email open rate would be 25% (which, as an aside, would be absolutely phenomenal!).
It’s simple math – the more people who open your emails, the more of a chance you have to turn them into paying customers. If your email open rate is low, this could be for several reasons, such as:
- Your emails are going into their spam folder
- Your subject line isn’t interesting or intriguing enough
- Your recipients don’t know or trust your business
- The previous emails you have sent haven’t been considered valuable
Learn how to Increase Your Email Open Rates in our full guide.
The majority of emails are sent with the goal of getting the recipient to click through to something else. For example, you may send your list an email announcing the launch of a new product, with a link to the page where they can buy it. Alternatively, you may send an email aimed at educating customers about your offering, with a link out to further information.
Your click-through rate (CTR) is the percentage of people you sent the email to who actually click on the link(s) that you provided. A poor CTR could be an indicator that people are not opening your emails, or that your email content is not compelling them enough to click the links provided.
Your click-to-open ratio is a combination of your email open rate and CTR. Working out this ratio helps you dig deeper into your click-through rate.
Let’s use a quick, simple example to explain:
You start by sending an email to a list of 2,000 people. After a week, you discover that your CTR is just 2% – understandably, you want to know why this is so low.
You work out that of the 2,000 people to whom you sent the email, only 80 people actually opened it, which gives you an open rate of 4%. This means that actually, a huge 50% of people who opened your email clicked the link you provided – which is pretty good going!
So, simply by working out your click-to-open ratio, you’ve quickly identified that the issue lies mostly in getting people to open the email, rather than clicking the link. This makes it much easier to work out what improvements can be made to boost performance.
When you send an email, the likelihood is that you’re going to see a few people unsubscribing from your list. This, of course, can be a little disheartening. High rates of unsubscribes can be an indicator that you’re not sending emails that meet the expectations of your audience.
Many email marketing platforms will allow you to ask those who unsubscribe from your list why they’re doing so. This information can be super helpful when it comes to driving changes to your email strategy, that will increase engagement and satisfaction going forward.
It’s also important to remember that unsubscribes aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes people’s needs change, meaning they’re no longer interested in what you have to offer. Instead of trying to sell to an uninterested audience, focus on serving those who are interested – or who may buy from you in the future.
If you need inspiration, check out our list of Unsubscribe Email Templates to see how other brands do this well.
Sales are the holy grail of email KPIs. Although it isn’t always easy to track direct sales of email marketing, this is becoming increasingly easier to do for businesses that sell online, thanks to the use of smart tools such as Google Analytics.
Even if you can’t directly track sales as a result of your emails, it can be worthwhile to work out the actions an individual typically takes before purchasing – such as booking a call with a member of your sales team. When you combine this with your average sales team conversion rate, you’ll be able to assign a financial value to each email you send.
Sometimes, it isn’t just your timing that leads to poor email performance. Here are a few other things to check and consider when trying to boost your email marketing endeavours:
Are your emails going straight into spam folders?
This can be for a number of reasons: such as using ‘spam phrases’ in your emails, or including suspicious links. If your emails are ending up in your audience’s spam folders, they don’t stand a chance of performing well.
Subject Line + Opening Sentence
Using a compelling subject line is crucial to email marketing success. Most people will make a decision on whether to open an email based on a subject line alone, so it’s essentially your one chance to grab their attention and get them to read on.
Subject lines that are too salesy – or, at the other end of the spectrum, too boring in nature – are often deleted quickly.
Equally, the first line of your email will usually appear as a preview on your audience’s email platform, so it’s crucial to really grab their attention in the first few words of your copy.
One big reason that emails don’t get opened is that the recipient doesn’t know or trust the name of the person sending it. You may decide to test sending your emails from both your brand and personal accounts to figure out which one performs best.
Sending Lots of Emails
If you send lots of emails, your audience can quickly become bored and frustrated with the level of communication. It can also mean that it becomes difficult to always add value with each email, leading to people becoming uninterested in what you have to say.
Although it’s important to maintain consistent contact with your online audience, you should try and limit the quantity of your communications, whilst increasing the quality of each. You may even decide to ask how often an audience member would like to be contacted, to ensure that you meet their unique needs.
Email marketing is a powerful tool, and can generate significant ROI – but only when used correctly. In this article, we’ve walked you through everything you need to know – from which KPIs are worth tracking, to the best times to send an email – as well as offering some advice on what else may be impacting your email marketing results.
As businesses and markets change, what works today may not work tomorrow. It’s important to constantly monitor your email marketing performance, in order to ensure its ongoing success – so keep iterating, optimizing, and improving!