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MailerMailer-US-Email-Open-Rates-by-Hour-Scheduled-in-2014-Oct2015MailerMailer has released its latest annual “Email Marketing Metrics Report” analyzing data from almost 1.2 billion opt-in newsletters. Although there continues to be some debate as to usefulness of timing studies (and these efforts should always be based on an individual list’s performance), it’s 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 lower for those scheduled in the early morning (3-5AM) and during traditional work hours. There does appear to be a high average for emails scheduled from 1-2AM, and a very low response rate for those scheduled at 5PM, potentially due to the latter being a heavy commute time.

It’s interesting to see, in reviewing subscribers’ email open behavior by time of the day, that there appears to be almost an inverse relationship with the above data. While emails scheduled in the evening hours tended to lead to the best email open rates, emails were actually opened at a much higher rate during the workday than during those evening hours. Recipients were (understandably) least likely to open emails from 1-3AM, with likelihood of opening rising steadily from those hours before peaking at 10-11AM. Open rates then gradually descended until their low in the early morning hours.

These results are generally in keeping with last year, with emails being most commonly opened during the workday, but open rates being generally higher for emails scheduled in the evening.

That suggests that scheduling emails during the hours when recipients are most often opening their emails might 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 the below chart with actual rates of subscriber opens by hour of the day overlaid.

MailerMailer-US-Email-Open-Rates-by-Hour-in-2014-Oct2015

Meanwhile, not surprisingly, the trends surrounding click rates by hour scheduled follow a similar pattern to 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 traditional work hours. There is again a bump during the very early morning hours of 1-2AM.

MailerMailer-US-Email-Click-Rates-by-Hour-Scheduled-in-2014-Oct2015

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.

Interestingly, separate data from MailerMailer’s report shows that while open rates have trended gradually higher over the past couple of years, the same isn’t true for click rates, which have trended downward, with this supported by recent email engagement trends reported by Epsilon. This could be reflective of mobile’s growing influence on email, which could contribute to higher open rates due to greater accessibility but lower click rates (as emails are less likely to be clicked on mobile devices). The relative consistency in the timing data from last year, though, suggests that while mobile may be affecting overall engagement trends, it doesn’t appear to be significantly changing the times at which recipients interact with their email, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, there were few trends apparent when sorting open rates by day of the week (not just US accounts). During both H1 and H2, Sunday had the lowest open rate, and Monday the highest, suggesting that recipients are catching up on their inboxes at the start of the week. However, when it came to click rates, there was no clear trend, with Sunday having among the lowest click rates in H1 but then then highest in H2…

Overall, the largest share of email opens – in 2014 as in 2013 – occurred within the first hour after sending, with about 1 in 8 total opens coming in that first hour. By the 12th hour post-sending, just 1.6% of all opens occurred, and just 0.5% of all opens occurred at the 24 hour mark.

Indeed, a majority (51.4%) of all opens for the typical email occurred within the first 5 hours after it was sent, while almost 82% of all opens took place within the first 24 hours. After that, the cumulative open curve flattens considerably, with it taking a little more than 2 days to reach 90% of an email’s total opens, and about two weeks for all the opens to occur.

In other results:

  • Click rates were greater for emails that contained more links: those with 21+ links saw a click rate of 2.1%, almost double that of emails containing 1-5 links (1.1%);
  • Open and click rates were highest for emails in which only the message was personalized, and lowest when both the subject line and message were personalized (with it difficult to draw conclusions from this data); and
  • Open rates were fairly steady by subject line length, a result backed up by data from Return Path.

About the Data: The report features data from approximately 1.1 billion email messages, which comprised 56,000 campaigns sent between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014. Click rate statistics excluded emails with no links and subject line metrics omitted those with less than four characters. In addition, the report only included information from customers with 25 or more list members.

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