MailerMailer recently released its latest “Email Marketing Metrics Report,” a study rich in data and based on 1.4 billion email messages sent last year. One of the most interesting topics for email marketers covered in the report is how scheduling affects open and click rates. The study takes a look not only at open and click rates by time scheduled, but also at the hours of the day when recipients were most likely to open the emails, as well as open and click rates by day of the week. Some interesting patterns emerge.
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 don’t have those limits.)
- Click rate statistics exclude emails that did not contain links.
It’s also important to remember – as the researchers remind – that each list acts differently, so the results cannot be considered prescriptive.
Open Rates by Time Scheduled
Generally speaking, much as with last year’s study, emails scheduled to be sent between the early evening and the early morning achieved the best open rates. As the above interactive chart shows (hover for data points), during the first half of the year (H1), messages scheduled for midnight led to the best open rate, of 20.1%, while during the second half (H2), those scheduled for 8PM and 11PM had the best open rate, of 15.1%.
Scheduling emails around lunchtime appears to be a losing proposition, per the data, with emails sent at 12PM returning the worst open rates during both H1 (5.5%) and H2 (7.9%).
To some extent, MailerMailer’s results align with recent data from Experian, which found that during Q4 2012, emails sent during the late evening hours achieved the best open rates.
It’s interesting to contrast scheduled email performance with recipients’ behavior, as there appears to be an almost inverse relationship between the two. While emails scheduled between the evening hours and early morning tended to lead to the best email open rates, emails were actually opened at a much greater rate during the workday than during those overnight 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 (though not at the rapid rate with which they increased in the morning) until their low in the early morning hours.
As the researchers note, emails were generally more likely to be opened during business hours, a fairly intuitive result. Still, with emails scheduled during those hours seemingly less likely to be opened, the results suggest that perhaps 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.
Click Rates by Time Scheduled
Click rates followed a similar pattern to open rates when sorting by time scheduled. During H1, messages scheduled to be sent at midnight resulted in an average click rate of 6.7%, compared to a low of 1.1% for those scheduled for delivery at noon. During H2, the highest click rate was achieved by emails scheduled for 6PM, while the lowest click rates were had by those scheduled at 10AM and 11AM (1.2%).
Overall, then, click rates tended to be highest for emails scheduled during the evening and early morning hours, and lowest for those scheduled for delivery during work hours.
Open and Click Rates by Day of the Week
There was less variance when sorting by day of the week (these results not limited to US accounts), although some patterns were apparent. During H1, email open rates were lowest on Sunday (8.5%), Saturday (9.4%) and Thursday (9.4%), while during H2, Saturday (6.1%) clearly had the lowest open rate, followed by Sunday (9%) and Thursday (9.6%). While there seemed to be a clear trend for lower open rates during the weekend, the sluggish rates on Thursdays was a fairly curious result.
During H1, open rates were highest on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (each at 10.7%), while during H2, they were highest on Tuesdays (10.7%) and Mondays (10.4%).
Click rates followed a different pattern. While Sundays sported generally below-average open rates, they had the highest click rate during both H1 (2.2%) and H2 (2.6%). Also of note: the next-highest click rates were reserved for Tuesdays (H1: 2.1%; H2: 2.5%), which had the highest open rates, suggesting that drawing conclusions regarding the relationship between open and click rates is a perilous endeavor.
During H1, the lowest click rate was on Monday (1.5%), while during H2, Saturday had the lowest average click rate (1.3%).
Overall, the average open rate during H1 was 9.7% and 10% during H2. Both figures were a step below last year’s rates. Average click rate was 2.1% in H1 and 1.9% in H2, both also below rates from a year earlier.