Call it gut instinct or amateur psychology. Many marketers believe they’ve figured out the optimal time to send out their e-mail campaigns when their customers or prospects are most likely to engage with them.
Some hail Monday mornings because that’s when most people are back on e-mail and recharged for the week. Others swear by weekends because that’s when potential shoppers have the most free time to peruse and act on promotions.
Timing optimization is equally, if not more, important than a catchy subject line or enticing offer. It can mean the difference between an e-mail going straight to the trash folder or a customer opening and engaging with it.
In an effort to separate fact from guesstimation, Retention Science recently conducted industry research to uncover the days and times that result in the highest conversions and the types of offers that perform best. We analyzed more than 100 million online user actions and about 20 million user profiles.
The results? One of the big revelations is that offers sent later in the day generated the highest online conversions. Afternoons, between noon and 6 p.m., were the most effective, yielding a 38 percent conversion rate. Evenings between 6 p.m. and midnight ranked second with 28.5 percent; mornings between 6 a.m. and noon were a close third with 27 percent; and late night trailed significantly with just 6.5 percent.
This data conflicts with the propensity of many marketers to schedule their distributions when most people are sorting through their e-mail messages first thing in the morning. But the strategy could be backfiring. The reality is that most people are digging out of their inboxes at work in the morning and are likely to delete anything that seems unimportant or tuck it away for later and forget about it.
Target Tuesdays, Wane On Weekends
We also took into account that the day of the week an e-mail is sent plays a major role in the likelihood that the recipient engage. Indeed, there was a vast disparity between certain days. Tuesdays and Fridays were far and away the best days. Twenty-eight percent of e-mail messages sent on Tuesdays converted, and 26 percent on Fridays.
Perhaps because most people are out and about on weekends, the conversion rates are strikingly low. This is consistent with general Internet activity stats that show a dip in non-mobile Internet use on the weekends. We saw nominal 3 percent conversions on Saturdays and 6 percent on Sundays. Mondays were barely higher with 8 percent, followed by Wednesdays with 12 percent and Thursdays with 17 percent.
A good case in point for timing optimization is found with SwayChic, a women’s fashion retailer with six physical stores located on the West Coast and a robust online presence. SwayChic switched to Tuesday evening promotional e-mails three months ago and has seen revenues increase by 300 percent. Nothing to sneeze at, that’s for sure.
Free Shipping Can Seal The Deal
It’s no secret that the type of promotion offered can influence conversions and directly feed into customer engagement. Again, I’ll issue a caveat that not all industries are the same, so you may find differing results in your particular space. That said, our data showed that free-shipping offers trump percentage-off offers in terms of conversion. Free shipping offers convert at rates between 0.22 percent and 1.9 percent, making them twice as effective as price-reduction offers, which convert at rates between 0.1 percent and 0.8 percent.
Consumers love a good promotional offer, and free shipping can reduce the bar for purchasability. Studies show that around 60 percent are somewhat likely to cancel an order if free shipping isn’t offered. For marketers, both free shipping and percentage-off promotions can increase their e-commerce conversion rates in short order. They can also be great ways to upsell and cross-sell.
Any way you slice it, e-mail is still one of the most effective marketing tools to reach customers, and success will always be dependent on engaging customers at the right time. It’s up to you to figure out what that means for you. In other words, test and test often. Use A/B split campaigns to test delivery dates and times to pinpoint what’s going to make your customers, open, click, and buy.