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What’s the Best Time to Send Email? Here’s What the Data Says (2018)

  • Email Marketing

What’s the best time to send email? This is one of the most fundamental questions you’ll likely have as an email marketer. Getting your timing right is critical because it heavily impacts the open rate, which impacts click-throughs, which impacts traffic, which impacts conversions.

It’s all about getting that first domino to fall.

Do that and the rest should fall into place.

If you’ve ever done any research on this, you’ll know that there have been several studies performed to find the optimal email send time—both the day of the week and time of the day.

There’s just one problem. Some of the data is contradictory.

Some say it’s Thursday at 10 am, others say it’s Tuesday at 11 am, and so on.

But at the end of the day, every email campaign is a little different.

So what works brilliantly for one brand may only have limited results for your brand.

Thus, you can’t just accept the data from a single study as being completely authoritative.

But at the same time, it would be foolish to disregard all the research that’s been done.

While the data from these studies may not provide a be-all-end-all answer, it’s certainly a good starting point.

For this post, I’m going to first examine some key studies on the best time to send email to look for overlap.

After that, I’ll explain how to conduct your own experiments.

The idea is that putting all of pieces together like this will inevitably help you identify the optimal time.

Let’s get started.

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What the Data Says

Let me first point you to a post from CoSchedule that links to 10 of the top studies that have been done on this.

They’ve done a great job at synthesizing the information and provide a basic overview that you can draw your own conclusions from.

As for the specific studies, there are two in particular that I would like to discuss.

First, there’s the one from MailChimp on the optimal email send time.

When it comes to the best day to send email, they discovered that it was Thursday, which narrowly beat Tuesday.

But it’s important to point out that Monday, Wednesday, and Friday weren’t all that far behind.

The only major drop-off would be the weekend.

A separate study from HubSpot also found that the weekend was a bad time to send email.

However, they reported that Tuesday was the best day—just barely.

After that, Monday and Wednesday were dead even with just a minor drop off on Thursday and Friday.

As for the optimal time of the day to send email, MailChimp found that it’s 10 am in the recipient’s own time zone.

HubSpot’s data suggests something similar but reports that 11 am is ideal.

And this makes sense considering that many people have arrived at worked and are starting to check their email around this time.

Key Takeaways

The reason I chose to highlight these two particular studies from MailChimp and HubSpot is that they are some of the most respected.

But if you look at other studies, the findings are all pretty similar.

When you put all of this information together, here’s what you get:

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays tend to be the best days to send emails overall (Tuesday appears to have just a slightly higher open rate overall)
  • Mondays and Wednesdays can be viable as well but are unlikely to get quite the same results as Tuesdays and Thursdays
  • Somewhere around 10 and 11 am is the optimal time of day

On the other hand, the weekend is by far the worst time to send email.

This is when many people are off of work and maxing and relaxing.

Therefore, most aren’t hovering over their inboxes, which means a significantly lower open rate.

So generally speaking, you’ll want to avoid sending emails on the weekend if you can help it.

Subtle Differences

At this point, we know what the best time to send email is on the macro-level.

Amalgamating this data tells us that it’s Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10 and 11 am.

But that’s not the entire story.

As I mentioned earlier, every brand is different and separated by industry, country, audience demographic, subscriber preferences, etc.

The data from MailChimp is a testament to the subtle differences that can arise based on these factors.

For instance, optimal send times vary by industry…

And country…

As well as age.

While the differences aren’t immense, they definitely prove that it’s important to do some of your own testing to find the sweet spot for your brand.

This is what should ultimately help you find the perfect email send time.

Conducting Your Own Experiments

The way I see it, the most effective way to go about this is to do some A/B testing to see what works best for you.

So let’s start from the top by touching on sample size.

HubSpot recommends that you have at least 1,000 recipients total.

So group A would need to consist of at least 500 recipients, and group B would have the same.

Of course the more the merrier.

Of if you’re looking for a sample size that’s a bit more specific, you can always use the Sample Size Calculator.

You simply plug in your confidence level, confidence interval, and population.

Then it will tell you exactly how big of a sample size you’ll need.

Test #1: Day of the Week

For your first test, you’ll want to see what the impact is like when you send emails on different days of the week but at the same time of day.

For instance, it would probably make sense to schedule your first emails to go out on a Tuesday at 10 am—that would be group A.

Once you’ve collected your data from group A, you’ll want to see what your open rate is and benchmark it.

Now when it comes to the average open rate across all industries, different studies have produced different answers.

But one of the more recent ones from Sign-Up to places it at 24.79 percent, which I feel is pretty logical.

Their research states that 16.64 percent is the minimum open rate and 44.99 is the maximum open rate, but 24.79 is the average and good benchmark to use.

However, you’ll definitely want to take a look at this list of open rates by industry, which should shed more light on what’s acceptable for your brand.

If you’re happy with the results right out of the gate and your open rate is higher than your industry average, then you may want to stick with sending emails on Tuesdays at 10 am.

But regardless, you’ll still want to complete your A/B testing by scheduling another batch of emails at a different time for group B to see if there’s any type of improvement.

I would personally suggest sending them on a Thursday at 10 am to see how big a difference it makes.

Needless to say, you’ll want to go with the one that has the higher open rate.

Test #2: Time of Day

Once you’ve found the day that works best, you’ll want to see what time of day is optimal.

Given the general consensus is that the highest open rate typically happens around 10 to 11 am, you may want to perform an initial test to see how big of a difference it makes by sending emails at those two times.

So for this, you could launch one test where emails for group A are sent at 10 am and emails for group B are sent at 11 am.

Is the open rate noticeably higher for one-time slot than the other?

If so, that’s what you’ll want to stick with.

But I wouldn’t stop there.

While it’s true that late morning usually has the highest open rate, CoSchedule points out that there are some other times of the day when open rates tend to be high across the board.

Here’s what they have to say about that:

  • 8 pm-Midnight. I bet you didn’t expect that one. It looks like emails generally receive more opens and clicks later in the evening. This is likely due to people checking their email before going to bed.
  • 2 pm. It looks like you might be successful by sending your emails later in the day as people are checking out of work mode or looking for distractions.
  • 6 am. I guess this makes sense since 50 percent of people begin their day by emailing in bed.

This offers insight into what some other potential times you could test.

I would personally be interested in seeing what happens when you send emails first thing in the morning at 6 am.

There’s certainly a chance that the open rate could swell if your email is one of the first ones that recipients see upon opening in their inbox and aren’t yet inundated with the tasks of the day.

So you may want to run another test where you target 6 am and see what the results are.

But let me point one other thing out.

When deciding exactly what time of day for your additional tests, it’s important that you put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes.

Think about what a typical day would look like for your average subscriber.

  • What do they do for a living?
  • What time do they wake up?
  • What time do they go to bed?
  • When are they most likely to check their email?
  • Is there any period of downtime during the day when they would be more likely to check their email?

And so on.

A bit of sleuthing like this should dictate the specifics of your testing.

Ensuring Accuracy

As with any type of A/B testing, it’s all about getting accurate results.

Therefore, you should only be testing one variable at a time.

Otherwise, you may end up with skewed data and false confidence.

For example, you can get yourself in trouble if you use different subject lines because that can affect the open rate.

So make sure that the subject and all other aspects of your emails are the same.

The only thing that should be different is either A) the day you’re sending them or B) the time you’re sending them.

Do that and you should be in good shape.

Rinse and Repeat

When you break it all down, there are two factors that you want to examine when determining the best time to send email—the day of the week and the time of the day.

How many tests you perform to find the perfect combination is up to you.

You may find that after running only one test that you’re completely satisfied with your open rate and want to call it quits right away.

If so, that’s great.

Or you may need to experiment with several different variations until you find your sweet spot.

And that’s fine too.

The bottom line is that you should rinse and repeat until you’re 100 percent sure that you’ve found the ideal time to send email.

Free Downloadable Bonus

Want More Email Marketing Inspiration?

Let’s face it: writing good marketing emails is TOUGH. To help, we’ve put together an email marketing swipe file, including 41 email marketing examples (organized by category). Plus, a few other goodies not featured below (*cough* killer Facebook Ad examples *cough*).

Conclusion

The tweaks and adjustments that can be made to an email marketing campaign are nearly infinite.

But one of the most fundamental things to examine is the timing of your emails.

Get that right and it should bode well for your campaign as a whole.

Examining prior studies like the ones I referenced earlier is a good place to start and should give you a rough idea of which days and times are most conducive to a favorable open rate across the board.

But remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and every brand is just a little bit different.

That’s why you’ll want to put forth the effort to conduct your own experiments.

Doing so puts you in the driver’s seat and paves the way for a higher open rate.

And besides simply getting subscribers to open your emails, this should ultimately translate into you being able to convert the highest percentage of them into actual customers.

What have you found to be the best time to send email so far?

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