Never Send An E-mail On Saturday ... And Other Rules To Break

E-mail marketers have tested and retested a multitude of timing scenarios to discover the optimal time to send an e-mail. According to EmailLabs and CheetahMail, which do periodic reviews of the most popular times to e-mail, Tuesdays through Thursdays are the historic winners. While this hasn't changed in many years, I'm continually amazed when I see marketers worrying about when other marketers are sending e-mail, and not being more concerned about when consumers are opening actually opening their e-mails, or when they are clicking or converting. CheetahMail reported in its Q2 2005 Benchmark report that Friday and Saturday yielded the highest open rates, while Sunday and Monday yielded the highest clickthrough rates. Do you follow the status quo, sending on Tuesday through Thursday only? If so, you might rethink your position on timing and how you sequence your messages.

Everyone in this space speaks to relevance as the key to the future of effective e-mail communications. Relevance, in my opinion, is not simply the content or context of the message you are sending. It's also the timing through which you deliver the message (which has many considerations, not excluding seasonal considerations) and should be weighed as heavily as the message you are sending. Many marketers get in such a routine that they don't challenge their own thinking. What was most interesting in CheetahMail's report was the statement that response rates tended to diminish as the volume of e-mail traffic increased. Seems simple right? Well, I have to admit that 80 percent of the clients I speak to fall into this midweek/midday send routine--and haven't changed this pattern in the last year.



How many of you change your timing patterns for seasonal considerations? Are you building the experience to hand off to an offline experience? Facilitating an online buying experience? "Mondays are to online retailers what weekends are to offline retailers," said Young-Bean Song, director of analytics, Atlas, as quoted in Atlas' Fifth-Annual Online Holiday Shopping Study. "Our study clearly shows consumers shop in the store on the weekends and on Monday continue their holiday shopping experience searching for better prices and bargains online," Song added. The report also stated that you should consider targeting messaging to the workweek lunch hour: The noon-to-three p.m. EST hours are typically the time of day when consumers buy online. Regardless, your approach should challenge the status quo and recognize that one timing scenario does not suit all.

I read a blog some months ago in which a marketer professed that he found Monday to be the optimal time to send e-mail, due to a fatigue factor that he claimed sets in as the week progresses. As a relatively open-minded marketer, I tested a client's program against this hypothesis and (happily) found that while it didn't perform to the level of my control group, I did reach a percentage of the audience I had never reached before, or who had never registered a response.

Looking into my crystal ball, my belief is that consumers will become "multi-model," and e-mail strategy will be a combination not only of timing, but also of format (TXT/HTML), type (RSS, SMS, or MMS) and device (e-mail, mobile, PDA, or fax). How are you going to accommodate this new dimension of preferences, and how will you make business decisions on optimizing timing, if you aren't testing actively today?

Marketing is about finding actionable scenarios that we can use to prove our hypotheses. I challenge you to create new scenarios to push past the norm--and I believe you'll find more insight than you will by following the norm.

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