US Email Open and Click Rates, by Hour Scheduled, in 2013

MailerMailer-US-Email-Open-Rates-by-Hour-Scheduled-in-2013-Oct2014Mailer Mailer has released its latest annual “Email Marketing Metrics Report” analyzing data from almost 1.2 billion opt-in newsletters. While the topic of timing seems to often inspire debate as to its usefulness (and should always be based on an individual list’s performance), it’s certainly interesting to look at general trends based off a large sample.

Before getting to the results, a couple of quick notes on methodology:

  • Results have been adjusted to reflect the local time of the sender.
  • Data concerning emails opened by time of day and open and click rates by time scheduled only take into account emails sent from US accounts. (Email metrics by day of the week – covered later in this article – don’t have those limits.)
  • Metrics about click rates exclude emails with no links.
  • The charts below on response rates by hour of the day refer to the time at which these emails were scheduled. As the analysts note, “keep in mind that the opens and clicks did not necessarily occur at the scheduled delivery time.”

It’s also important to remember that each list acts differently, so the results cannot be considered prescriptive.

And now onto the data.

Open and Click Rates by Hour Scheduled

As the chart at the top of this article demonstrates (click to enlarge), open rates tended to be highest for emails scheduled in the evening hours, and lowest for those scheduled in the early morning and during traditional work hours. (The abnormally high open rate for emails scheduled at midnight during the first half of the year is offset by the average rate for those sent at that time during the second half.)

It’s interesting to note that a review of subscribers’ email open behavior by time of the day shows an almost inverse relationship with the above data. While emails scheduled between the evening hours tended to lead to the best email open rates, emails were actually opened at a much greater rate during the workday than during those evening hours. Recipients were (understandably) least likely to open emails from 2-3AM, with that likelihood rising steadily from those hours before peaking at 10AM. Open rates then gradually descended until their low in the early morning hours.

That indicates that scheduling emails during the hours when open rates are highest will only end in them joining a long queue with less chance of being opened. This is a powerful reminder that inbox clutter is real – there’s a lot of inbox competition during work hours, when email volume is traditionally highest. (Primary research conducted by MarketingCharts into the reasons why consumers open emails from brands yields some interesting data that can help marketers overcome that hurdle.) See below the chart with actual open rates by hour of the day overlaid.

MailerMailer-US-Email-Open-Rates-by-Hour-in-2013-Oct2014

Meanwhile, not surprisingly, the trends surrounding click rates by hour scheduled are very similar to those surrounding open rates by hour scheduled: Click-through rates are highest for emails scheduled for delivery during the evening hours, and tend to be lower for those scheduled during work hours.

MailerMailer-US-Email-Click-Rates-by-Hour-Scheduled-in-2013-Oct2014

While it’s important to remember that these results pertain to scheduled emails (a message scheduled for delivery during the evening might not be opened until the morning), together they add more weight to data suggesting that email response rates tend to be higher in off-peak hours.

Finally, it’s worth noting that there were few key trends apparent when sorting open and click rates by day of the week (not just US accounts). During H2, open rates tended to be higher than average on Friday and Saturday, but that was not the case during the first half of the year, making it difficult to find real implications coming from the data. When it came to click rates, Sunday was highest during H1 and second-highest during H2, with Tuesday also performing well throughout the year. Experian Marketing Services data has in the past found that open and click rates tend to be higher during the weekend.

About the Data: The results are based on data from more than 62,000 newsletter campaigns and approximately 1.18 billion email messages sent. The report only used data from customers with 25 or more list members.