The Inbox Abyss: Marketing emails sent before business hours go unread

By Abi Jacks

Marketers should avoid the pitfall of sending emails in the early hours to ensure they are top of people’s inboxes when they arrive in the office, according to new research from Pure360, the email and SMS marketing specialists. The study shows that only 4% of emails sent between midnight and 7am then go on to be opened.

In fact, the best time to send an email is now during the “Post-Work Peak” as people are finishing up at work and heading home. Over a quarter (26%) of marketing emails that are sent in the most successful hour, 5pm to 6pm, are opened – 9% above average.

It’s easy to make assumptions about consumer behaviour and many marketers believe that sending emails first thing in the morning benefits their open rates.

But in fact, our research shows that they need to really get to know their sector audience and be aware of unexpected trends – such as the habit people have for opening emails that they receive as the time-pressures of the work day ease off on the commute home.

The research is based on the analysis of 40,000 email campaigns sent by over 140 companies in 24 sectors, between January and December 2012.

Achieving Peak Performance

Based on the research, Pure360 has identified the peaks and troughs throughout the day of when consumers are most receptive to being sent emails. These include the “Hike of Hope” when sending leisure emails is particularly successful, and the “Practical Pinnacle”, the point at which sending finance emails is most effective.

The Inbox Abyss (Midnight to 7am): Emails distributed in the early hours of the morning enter the “Inbox Abyss”: only 4% of emails sent between midnight and 7am then go on to be opened. However, b2b marketing bucks this trend, with emails sent between 1am and 2am being opened almost half the time (45%).

The Practical Pinnacle (7am-10am): Before work starts is an effective time to send emails about issues that could have been worrying people overnight. Finance, healthcare and recruitment all have their most successful hour before 10am.

The Hike of Hope (10am-12noon): People are receptive to opening emails sent at the start of the workday on more relaxing, leisure-based topics, during the “Hike of Hope”. For instance, almost a quarter (24%) of hotel offers sent between 10am and 11am are opened.

The Lunchtime Ledge (12noon-3pm): There is a lull between noon and 3pm, on the “Lunchtime Ledge”. However, emails sent on functional concerns such as green issues, energy and technology perform best during these hours.

The Gradual Ascent (3pm-5pm): There is a “Gradual Ascent” in opening rates for emails sent between 3pm and 5pm. Travel emails sent at 3pm are more likely to be opened (41%) than at any other point of the day.

The Post-Work Peak (5pm-7pm): The best time to send a direct response email across all sectors is during the “Post-Work Peak”, between 5pm and 7pm. Over a quarter (26%) of emails that are sent in the most successful hour, 5pm to 6pm, are opened.

The Little Rock (7pm-9pm): There is another smaller peak in opening rates of emails sent between 7pm and 9pm. This is the best time to send emails on topics requiring a lot of consideration, such as cars, education and insurance.

The Steep Descent (9pm-midnight): There is then a “Steep Descent” in opening rates of emails sent in the evening, although leisure and travel emails sent between 10pm and 11pm remain effective, with over a third being opened.

Seasons Greetings

Pure360’s research also shows that autumn is the best time of year to launch an email campaign. Over a fifth (21%) of marketing messages sent between September and November are opened, compared to a 17% average.

The most successful months for events, hotels, retail, technology and travel emails are all in autumn, indicating that people get through the post-summer low by planning activities for the future.

It’s interesting to see that autumn is getting marketers the best results. We regularly see high volumes of email campaigns being sent around key holidays but this research confirms that they’re not having the biggest impact.

It’s worth marketers looking for times when inboxes aren’t so competitive and recipients aren’t distracted by holidays and festivities.

About the author

Abi Jacks is head of marketing at Pure360.

About Pure360

Pure360 is a direct digital marketing provider, improving customer engagement results via email and SMS marketing campaigns. Pure360 customers are not tied into any contract, but buy services based on their needs, and include leading brands such as Rightmove, Virgin and innocent drinks.

A member of the DMA, Pure360 record a 10% higher open rate for customers than the DMA average, leading to higher clicks and conversions for client email marketing campaigns. It is privately owned having been established in 2001. Pure360 is growing fast and was recently given the ‘one to watch’ company accolade following its impressive growth (by investment bank GP Bullhound).

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