MailerMailer has dug into its customer data and released its 16th annual “Email Marketing Metrics Report” analyzing results from almost 1 billion opt-in newsletters. Although there’s rightly a debate to be had on the usefulness of studies regarding email timing (and such efforts should always be based on an individual list’s performance), the sample allows for a look at some interesting high-level trends.
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 remind: “Please note that opens and clicks did not necessarily occur at the send time. For instance, a message scheduled to be delivered in the early morning may not have been opened until later that day.”
It’s also important to remember that each list acts differently, so the results should not 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), there are some clear trends apparent in terms of open rates. Consistent with last year’s data covering 2014, there appears to be a relatively high open rate for emails scheduled to send from 1-2AM. After that, there is a dip, with the 3AM send time showing the lowest average open rate.
From 4AM onwards, there’s a general upward trend in open rates throughout the workday, spiking at 6PM, presumably correlating with the end of the workday. Open rates then remain relatively high during the evening hours, again showing some consistency with last year’s results.
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 and wee hours of the morning 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 and early morning hours. Recipients were (understandably) least likely to open emails from 1-3AM, withÂ 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 2014, with emails being most commonlyÂ 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 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.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, separateÂ data from MailerMailer’s report shows that click rates have rebounded on a global level. Looking at all customer campaigns (not just those sent within the US), the study indicates that click rates averaged 1.9% last year, after having declined from 3.5% in H1 2011 to 1.5% in H2 2014. This stands somewhat in contrast to data from Epsilon, which shows that, at least within North America, click rates continue to gradually decline.
The opposite trend shows for open rates: while Epsilon data shows that within North America, open rates have descended from a recent peak, the MailerMailer report indicates that average open rates are trending up on a global basis. Indeed, the average open rate for all campaigns in H2 2015 was 13.6%, a substantial increase from the H2 2014 rate of 11.3%.
As for open rates by day of the week, the MailerMailer study shows that Monday has the highest performance, with the lowest rates seen on the weekend. When it comes to click rates, weekends were again the worst-performing (in contrast to Experian Marketing Services data), with no clear trend during the week.
Overall, the largest share of email opens – in 2015 as in 2014 and 2013 – occurred in the first hour after sending, with more than 1 in 8 (13.7%) of 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 (54%) of all opens for the typical email occurred within the first 5 hours after it was sent, while 83% of all opens took place within the first 24 hours. After that, the cumulative open curve flattens considerably, with it taking exactly 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 higher for emails that contained more links: those with 21+ links saw a click rate of 2.6%, more than double that of emails containing 1-5 links (1.1%);
- Open and click rates continued to be 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, with click rates tending to be higher for emails with longer subject lines.
About the Data: The report features data from close to 1 billion email messages, which comprised 49,000 campaigns sent between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015. 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 and/or campaigns with 25 or more list members.