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Posted on October 21, 2013

Perfect your email marketing campaigns by using data

By Neale Gilhooley, Evolution Design (updated 26 April 2016)

Many of us involved in sending e-mail marketing campaigns (or Christmas e-cards) are often left wondering if we are sending the right content with the best subject line at the optimum time in each e-campaign. What are the best ways to short cut how we benchmark and pick through the data provided by our sender? Sadly most of us do not have the time or luxury of being able to do AB version testing, as we need to get the news out and each campaign is a unique one-off (see end of article 45 words to avoid using in your subject line added 26/6/15). We can learn but that’s a costly way of doing it as a bad e-mail subject line can be ignored and left in the In Box, or moved to the Junk Box and poor contact could lead to a permanent Unsubscribe. At a recent event held by E-shot the speaker valued each e-mail contact at £10 so think of it that way for each one that unsubscribes. If that customer makes significant purchases then it could lose you a lot more, so care is needed every time and haste could lead to permanent waste.

To get your own free e-mail account click here Powered by MailChimp we can design a great looking style template for you and even help set up your mailing lists.

We often get conflicting reports on what and when to send, so here are some stats and tips on this infographic which give you some real statistics rather than anecdotal reports or urban myths even. The 2013 Results are from data compiled by GetResponse (a competitor of MailChimp), they scoured 300 million e-mail messages to determine the top times for open and click-through rates in a bid to come up with the perfect email marketing send strategy. But remember that they are averages and may not suit the particular needs of your own target audience, list of members, past customers, potential Clients etc.

Of course the e-mail design and content do help and we can assist with both, but which is the best day to send? Here is their methodology in measuring client engagement on this Infographic with highlights on the right.

GetResponse 2013 Infographic

GetResponse 2013 Infographic

Their vast dataset yielded these email benchmarks:

  • Average Open Rate 18.58%
  • Average CTR 4.51%.
  • The business quarter with the most activity is Q4, with almost a third of the emails being sent during this time, 40% of annual retail sales occur in November & December
  • Tuesday is the most popular day for sending emails (see daily breakdown below how very close it is though!)
  • Tuesday e-mailing campaigns also have the highest Open Rate and CTR.
  • Most email Opens – 23.8% – occur during the first hour after delivery; after 24 hours an email’s chance of being opened drops below 1%.
  • Automated emails have 24% higher Open Rate and 47% higher CTR.
  • Welcome messages and confirmation emails can reach an amazing 67% Open Rate and 33% CTR.
  • Autoresponder cycles with 2-10 messages have the best results, so optimizing the length of email cycles is an important factor driving customer engagement

Autoresponder e-mails are action or time-based messages, ideal for daily deals or time-sensitive sale offers and are not part of the free subscription offers from MailChimp or others. They also include personalised auto response offers based on a recent purchase or activity.

You will see that there is very little appreciable difference between the first 4 days of the working week, not enough to significantly alter your strategy – depending on what works for you of course.

Monday:      17%  (16.59)

Tuesday:     18% (17.93)

Wednesday: 16% (16.08)

Thursday:    17% (17.25)

Friday:        15% (14.90)

Saturday:    9% (8.58)

Sunday:      9% (8.68)

But to be balanced it’s also worth looking at MailChimp  whose stats which inevitably do vary, but not by that much. MailChimp send around 50 million emails every day, so they’ve gathered got a mountain of data to learn from.

MailChimp days of week graph MailChimp days of week graph

They do show how close Tues-Wed-Thursday are in this chart based on over a billion e-mails sent.  So now lets look at the optimum send timing.

MailChimp - Best Time of Day Chart MailChimp – Best Time of Day Chart

Pinpointing the best day and time to send a campaign is difficult because ideal sending times vary between industries and lists, and may also depend on the segment of a list you’re sending to. Our own rates vary considerably from the industry standards of:

Industry Open Click Soft Bounce Hard Bounce Abuse Unsub
Creative Services/Agency 41.9% 3.5% 1.1% 1.1% 0.045% 0.253%
Evolution Design – best 32 % 1.5 % 0.9% 4.5% 0.018% 1.62%
Evolution Design – worst 21% 1% 1.4% 1.4% 0.021% 1.93%

Update: Our 2013 Christmas e-card just achieved a best result of 38.2% and a Click Rate of 3.8%, pretty good click rate for a single image e-card, but still plenty of room for improvement. We tracked the users on both MailChimp and via Google Analytics and it was an 88% new visitors rate, so our objectives achieved.

We would be the first to admit that we are learning and are keen to learn best practice if it improves our results. It is important to state that your own objectives may be to hook that one single customer or to shift perceptions and raise awareness rather than generate web traffic or direct sales. So it’s best to be aware of rather than fixated by Click rates.

It would also be of maximise your campaign evaluation and benefits if you do have Google Analytics installed on your website as we do for all web design customers. Then you can gather a lot more usage data. We would love to hear your thoughts and conclusions if your results mirror those above,  or if not why not?

Here is the biggest unseen external factor which may be hampering your e-mailing efforts and reducing your open rate – Email fraud. Why are new customers likely to open your emails? Email fraud can significantly damage that level of trust, this can similarly have an impact on the extent to which people share and forward your email messages. We see a lot of email fraud in every sector, not just top level stuff like data stealing, but also just nuisance emails.  Those emails appear to come from brands and not all consumers are sophisticated enough to tell they aren’t genuine. After the first fraud attack of this kind, legitimate email activity from that brand is filtered much more often, and with each attack it gets a little worse. Already the average consumer receives more than 500 marketing messages each month, they open fewer than 1 in 15. So anything looking remotely non-genuine or potentially malicious (be especially carefully of attachments these days of malware – will get sent to spam and you may never have an opportunity to recover that contact, so be very careful with your subject lines and try to look as unspammy as possible.

Moving on to that special sales period of Christmas/Festive holiday time when e-mail activity and traffic increases exponentially. The forecast is that UK retailers are set for best Christmas sales growth since 2007. That’s quite a bold prediction. Lets look at the actual mail frequency of the big UK retailers with online sales predicted to increase by 2% on last year to £88.4bn. As you can see from this chart, many retailers don’t hold back!

We can expect British retailers to be sending more email than ever during the upcoming holiday period, this increase in volume won’t come without a cost though. Sudden increases in your volume can make you look like a spammer to some ISPs, plus your unsubscribe rates and spam complaints will undoubtedly skyrocket. For tips on how to mitigate the unsubscribe loss read these e-consultancy articles:

Christmas e-mail frequency tips and 30 E-mail tips for Christmas but do not take it literally as one e-mailer says send out as many emails as you can. And then send out a few more.  It takes so long to acquire good names it’s a tragic waste to let them go because of one poorly targeted or annoying e-mail, so take some care to survive the Christmas season.

Sources:  For full sized infographic visit GetRepsonse.com

How to set up e-mail marketing campaigns professionally

E-consultancy post:  45 words to avoid in your email marketing subject lines, including days of the week, number and even the deceptive use of fake FWD: and RE:

E-Consultancy article linking to other 6 case study sources of e-mail data

MailChimp have their own resource library linked in the text above.