All of us who deliver email for a living monitor changes in consumer patterns. But do trends shift due to consumer changing their patterns, or do marketers contribute to this pattern shift by conditioning consumers?
I think a lot of the patterns are driven by marketers with poor production practices. I look across our platform at not just send time patterns, but when companies are uploading lists, doing creative, using workflow tools, doing segmentation, processing targeting and running reporting, and there is a direct link between the production patterns of the U.S. workday and send time patterns. Even with advanced scheduling and tool automation, turnaround with small staffs is still difficult. Getting it out the door without mistakes ends up the primary objective.
Most send time patterns are also so-client specific it’s very hard to trend. There’s usually a skewed trend report that is a reflection of the vendor’s client mix and its changing promotion or engagement strategies, along with how much staffing there is to deliver on these strategies.
Here are a few things that may help you isolate patterns for your business:
- We have seen a triage effect for email opens because of easy access to mobile devices leading to the “always-on” consumer. Thus we see trends of early morning, mid-morning and even nighttime on the smartphone. Still, pay attention to mobile and mobile commerce trends to help correlate to send time.
- We have seen a considerable effect from consumers’ tablet behavior, which has led more marketers to target later in the day and early evening as a delivery point. Also keep close tabs on mobile advertising and app consumption patterns.
- We have seen the margin of variance in send time value decline because of the ISPs’ new approaches to help consumers manage email. Pole position is not necessarily the key driver. You should continue to mine high-value “reach” “referral” and “conversion” segments to ISP and keep a close eye on Yahoo and Gmail.
- We have seen that deliverability affects send time. Some brands must limit the number of connections per hour, some have global demands that require throttling, and some that have less than adequate deliverability reputations may throttle. There are certainly known ISP problem children, but this is a pulse effect. There is usually a direct correlation to your practices (front –of-the-funnel) with the patterns of ISP deliverability effects. It may skew or force you into timing patterns that are not ideal.
All these factors have affected send time, send days and how we look at performance. I do believe send-time optimization is critically valuable for marketers, for several reasons:
1. If advertising and reach is your goal, send time is paramount. You must diversify your timing patterns to your readership, and send time optimization can aid the efficiency of running many campaign variations of campaigns, allowing you to self-optimize audiences by different timing characteristics. But many have trouble trusting automation.
2. If retail and commerce is your goal, send time is obviously paramount, but you must correlate conversion day-part behaviors to email send time to limit the gap between exposure and conversion. Classic funnel marketing, but with a new twist. The tablet consumer has really spawned a new generation of second-screen distraction that can help or hinder commerce goals. We’ve also seen considerable shifts in browsing behavior in tablets in the evening hours, which is certainly a priority for me to test this year.
I believe more of us will look at send time optimization in new ways this year, really thinking hard about creating micro segments for mobile and tablet consumers with separate goals in mind (reach, engagement, conversion).