But what about the timing? When is the best time to send an email?
Table of Contents
Why Email Timing Matters
You can intuitively understand why email timing matters based on your own interactions with email. There are probably times when your inbox is overloaded, and when you aren’t checking your inbox regularly; here, you’re unlikely to notice or respond to marketing and sales emails, because they’re buried under higher priorities and you’re not giving much attention to your inbox anyway.
But when you have your inbox open constantly, and you’ve cleared out most of your new messages, you’re much more likely to notice an incoming message.
Mastering the art of email timing often means getting much higher open rates, response rates, click-throughs, and other important user actions.
Timing is also relatively easy to execute, especially if you’re scheduling and automating most of your email blasts.
The Best Time of Day to Send an Email
According to a Yesware study, the best possible time to send an email is at 1 pm, with another spike in activity around 10 am. This study is based almost exclusively on reply rates, rather than open rates, which is worth noting, since an email open doesn’t imply email success.
Image source: Yesware
According to their graph, email response rates are near zero between the hours of 8 pm and around 7 am. At this point, email response rates increase dramatically, peaking around 10 am, experiencing some volatility, then dropping off sharply around 4 pm.
This finding isn’t exactly surprising. Most of us begin work sometime between 7 and 9 am, and spend much of the early hours of our day in meetings, getting organized, and reviewing emails in our inbox. By 3 or 4 pm, we’re wrapping things up and getting ready to go home.
These findings are substantiated by further research from CoSchedule, which consolidated information from many different studies available online. They found the best time to send an email is likely between 10 am and 11 am, with 2 pm as a viable alternative time. They also found a small spike in email success when sent around 8 pm—which could likely serve as the last time people check their email before going to bed.
Image source: CoSchedule
MailChimp, one of the top names in email marketing, found something similar back in 2014. According to their research, optimal send time is lowest between 2 am and 4 am. Email activity spikes, peaking around 10 am, and then slowly drops off, falling sharply around 10 pm, when people are going to bed.
Image source: MailChimp
The Best Day of the Week to Send an Email
What about the best day of the week to send an email?
Let’s review some of the same sources we cited above. According to Yesware, which again studied reply rates rather than open rates, there wasn’t much of a difference in emails sent between Monday and Friday. Monday seemed to have the highest response rate, at 6 percent, with Friday having the lowest response rate, at around 5 percent. The other days fell between these two bounds.
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Image source: Yesware
CoSchedule’s consolidated research found that Tuesday is commonly found to be the best day to send an email, with Thursday coming in at a close second. Wednesday was another common choice, with Mondays and Fridays being the least popular weekdays, and weekends being even less popular than those.
Image source: CoSchedule
MailChimp again shows similar patterns. Email activity tends to peak between Tuesday and Thursday, falling off Friday, then sharply dropping off Saturday and Sunday.
Image source: MailChimp
Considering Email Replies
Of course, before we can make a definitive conclusion about the best time to send an email, we also need to consider the “lifespan” of an email, and the role of following up.
Approximately 60 percent of people claim they wait up to two days to reply to emails they receive. However, the vast majority of emails are opened and responded to within the first few hours of being received. If you don’t receive a response within 24 hours of sending an email, you probably aren’t going to get one—which means it’s time to plan your follow-up strategy.
If you’re planning a cadence for follow-up emails proactively, you need to consider this as part of your overall strategy. For example, let’s say you want to send your first follow-up 48 hours after sending your initial message.
Working with the data we’ve gathered above, this could mean sending your first email on Tuesday, around 10 am, with your first follow-up on Thursday, around 1 pm. You can then wait until the weekend is over to send your next attempt.
Problems With Determining the Best Time to Send an Email
It’s important to recognize that email timing isn’t a perfect science; we need to acknowledge some issues:
- What metrics are you using to define success? First, different campaigns may have different metrics for success, and these metrics can play into your “ideal” email send time in different ways. For example, the best time and day to send emails for opens may be different than the best time and day to send emails for clicks. You’ll need to vary your timing based on what goals you’re hoping to achieve.
- Popularity and competition. There’s an interesting game theory-related effect due to the public knowledge of the “best” time to send emails. Let’s say, arbitrarily, that the best time to send an email is Wednesday at noon. Everyone in the marketing community knows this, so they start sending out all their email blasts around Wednesday at noon. You attempt to do this as well, but you find that your email recipients are overloaded with emails from your competitors and other brands around this time. Due to the popularity of this time, competition increases, and your results fall. Accordingly, the objectively “best” time to send an email may, in practice, be less than ideal. It may be better to time your emails at off-peak intervals, to get an edge over the competition.
- Industry differences. It should go without saying that different industries are going to have different experiences with timing. For example, IT businesses are going to have different peak times than manufacturing businesses. Put simply, while some generalized recommendations may hold true for most businesses, your mileage may (and probably will) vary.
- Audience differences. There may also be differences related to your target audience. For example, most of the studies we reviewed found that peak email times revolve around white collar business hours: in other words, Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 schedules. If your target audience works the night shift, or if they only work part-time on the weekends, you’re not going to see the same benefits writing an email on Tuesday at 10 am.
- Time zones. Let’s not forget about the importance of time zones. Most of the data we’ve found is measured in terms of the recipient’s time zone, so you’ll need to keep this in mind. Your list may have subscribers from different areas of the country (or even the world), so you’ll need to segment and stagger your timing accordingly.
- Follow-ups and other variables. The “perfect” time to send an email usually refers to a single email—but most marketing campaigns don’t work with a single email. Instead, they rely on a series of drip campaign emails, and/or multiple human follow-ups. Because of this, the email sending environment for marketers is more nuanced than some studies would have you believe.
The Bottom Line
So, when is the best time to send an email? The best days to send an email are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with an emphasis on Tuesday. The best time to send an email is 10am, 1pm, or somewhere in between.
But if you want to get the best results for your email campaign, these aren’t the only variables to keep in mind, nor should they be treated as an absolute science. Instead, they need to be considered as a starting point, and a piece of consideration for your overall campaign. Study your industry trends, your audience, your follow-up patterns, and other variables—and make sure you’re consistently measuring and analyzing your results, so you can make improvements in the future.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.