Yes, we talk a lot about email around here. Tons, in fact. But let’s get rid of that word for a second and remember what an email really is: communication. “Email is still the most personal form of digital marketing,” says Nick Westergaard, founder of Brand Driven Digital. “Social media comes and goes. If we’re connected via email, we’re connected for the long haul.” And communication requires two parts: the sender and receiver. If the receiver isn’t in the right frame of mind to process your message when you relay it, you might as well be talking to yourself. Like any form of communication, your emails are going to have more of an impact if you can learn how to use timing to your advantage. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how email send times can impact your overall performance, as well as ways to optimize for success.

The stats don’t lie

A study from Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California reveals the importance of timing. It shows that if people are going to respond to an email, they’re most likely to do so within two minutes of opening it. From there, the likelihood of a response starts to dwindle. If someone doesn’t take action within 48 hours, they probably won’t. [bctt tweet=”If someone doesn’t take action within 48 hours, they probably won’t.”] That means if you’re not sending emails when people are most ready to respond to your calls to action, you may be missing important opportunities. With that in mind, let’s talk about when you should be sending emails to make the biggest impact.

The absolute best time to send an email… maybe

So when exactly is the best time to send an email? That’s easy – it’s 5:16 a.m. Or at least it is if your name is Seth Godin. Seth sends an email nearly every day and most of them arrive around 5:16 a.m. EST. But wait… is your name Seth Godin? (We’re guessing that answer is probably no.) Seth has figured out, for his purposes, that early morning is the time to reach his people. Perhaps he’s banking on the fact that 50 percent of people check email before they get out of bed in the morning. However, what works for Seth might not work for everyone. For example, if you have a call to action that requires someone to make a purchase or sign up for something, you might be better off sending your message after people have had their first cup of coffee. It’s important to consider what you’re asking people to do, and when they’re most likely to be in the frame of mind to do it.

Test your assumptions

Because the optimal send time is different for everyone, your best bet is to run a few experiments to find out when your audience is most likely to open your emails. If you know your target audience, you can probably make an assumption about when you think they’ll be most in the mood to engage with your subject matter. But, of course, you want to test your assumptions. Deliberately schedule your next few emails at a variety of different times, and on different days. Track your performance in a spreadsheet until you notice a trend of specific days and times that work for you and your audience. While we want to emphatically repeat that what works for one sender may be totally different for another, we’ll also give you a few starting points to consider:

  • In general, studies show that Tuesdays may be the best day to send email. That’s according to a report by CoSchedule that looked at 10 different studies of email open rates. Thursday was the second-best day, followed by Wednesday. However, weekends were also high-open times in certain industries, further underlining the point that results may vary widely.
  • The same report states that the best open times are 10 a.m., followed by 8 p.m. – midnight, 2 p.m., and 6 a.m. Obviously, these are also wildly different results. However, these times provide a good template for you to use for your tests.
  • The Seth Godin early-morning strategy may be a winner for you, too. It’s worth testing to find out.

Again, the USC study provides some additional insight that might be helpful when planning your send times. It found that people of different ages were likely to handle email very differently. Among people who were likely to respond to an email:

  • Younger people replied faster, with teens logging an average email response time of 13 minutes.
  • People aged 20-35 responded an average of 16 minutes after opening an email.
  • Those in the 35—50 year olds age bracket responded in an average of 24 minutes.
  • People 51 and older responded in about 47 minutes.

If you’re targeting a group that takes longer to respond, you may want to test out earlier send times. That way, people will have a chance to take action before the end of the work day, or before they go to bed. If you have a younger target audience, you may find that night time is the right time. The upshot: You won’t know until you test.

Ready to find your optimal send time?

Email marketing is part art, part science and part luck. And by constantly testing new ways to optimize your send times, you can help improve your open rates and achieve greater email success.

Want to learn about other tweaks and techniques to level up your email game? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for more info.