small__4605939960Whether email marketing is a part of your regular ecommerce inbound marketing efforts or a tactic used to nurture abandoned carts, the important thing is simply that you’re using it. The arguments may be that no one reads marketing emails anymore or that Google’s new segmented tabs make getting messages in front of consumers even harder. While there may be some truth to both of these statements, the fact is that email is still very effective when you want to connect directly with your buyers.

If you’re frustrated by your email open rate, maybe you simply need to change things up a bit. A study by the Direct Marketing Association shows email drives more ROI for 67% of companies than any other form of outreach. For 30% of marketers, email is also the number one source of new sales. With this information, you can’t argue that email isn’t effective. 

Many ecommerce marketers blast their email list three times a week with a coupon and call that email marketing -- But there's so much more power in it than that. Although there may be many factors around why ecommerce email marketing performance may be slipping compared to previous years -- such as the increasing consumer demand for personal, relevant emails -- knowing what times your customers like reading emails is a great first step.

So, What's a Savvy Ecommerce Marketer to Do?

Let’s consider the possibility that you’ve segmented your email lists accordingly and only send relevant and valuable messages. Maybe you’ve mastered subject lines and understand the power of personalization. Are there other reasons your emails may be ignored? Absolutely. Your email open rates could simply be low just because of the times you send those messages.

Twenty-five percent of email opens occur within an hour of receipt. An hour after that, the chances that your email will be opened and read drop by 50%. To make the most of this research, you must discover the times when people are most likely to be using their email without choosing the same time as every other ecommerce site. For example, most of the ecommerce emails I read personally get read in the evening from my phone while I'm relaxing on my couch. If you send me an email at 6AM, you're going to get buried under the avalanche of emails I get every day.


1. Dare to Be Different

While most companies may send marketing emails between the hours of 6 am and noon -- nearly 39% as a matter of fact -- you may not want to be one of them. The next most popular time, at 30%, is between the hours of 6 pm and midnight. There is proof that most people are using email during these hours, whether for work or personal use, and that’s why so many companies choose these particular times to send out email blasts. What that means for your email is that it will sit in an inbox with dozens of other ecommerce messages from dozens of other companies. How can you possibly expect to stand out? Most recipients would probably do a mass delete of all marketing emails received during those times, while other may read the first one or two and then forget the rest. Can you take a chance on being one of the deleted or forgotten?


If you’ll note in the above chart , email sent later in the evening may experience a smaller percentage of transactions, but the average order is much higher. As always, you want to focus on optimizing for the variable most likely to help you grow your business. Instead of being just like everyone else, consider some potential alternatives. Maybe you could consider early afternoon, just after people have returned from lunch. Another time might be early evening, so emails could be waiting for people when they arrive home from work. By choosing something outside the norm, your emails are much more likely to be the only one waiting in the inbox, and that means you have no crowd from which you have to stand out.

2. Remember Time Zones When Sending

By segmenting your email lists by time zones, you can be sure you’re not delivering emails outside the optimal times for large portions of your customers. Why go through the trouble of determining the best send times for your ecommerce emails if many of them won’t actually reach the customer during optimal open times? In addition to this problem, there’s also the fact that different time zones could affect your experiments when you’re determining the best delivery times. 

How can you find out what time zone a customer is in? You can find out using a fancy IP address locator, you can pull it from their last shipping or billing address, or you could just ask them. You'd be surprised how often people are willing to give you information if they know that you're trying to make their lives easier and better.

Always remember time zones during your planning or your results will never be reliable.

3. Send During Work Hours

Not only do employees need to be on their work-related email accounts throughout they day, but they also often check personal accounts during free moments. The most common email times have been noted as 6 am to noon, but there are several more hours in the workday besides these. Studies show employees often check their email just as they plan to leave for the day, meaning 3 pm to 4 pm could be prime time for optimal open rates. 

4. People Check Email on Weekends, Too

Believe it or not, you could experience better open rates by sending ecommerce messages during weekends. Because most companies still consider the weekends a bad time to send emails, yours could be the one that actually reaches consumers. According to Experian, email volume drops significantly on Saturdays and Sundays, but the open rates are significantly higher for those days. 


Remember, too, that people are rarely without their smartphones, which means they’re checking email all the time when not in front of a computer. As long as your emails are formatted for mobile devices, you could experience much greater success.

5. Conduct A/B Testing

No matter what our research may tell you, your results could always be the contradiction. The best way to determine what works best for your company is to gather the available data and then test the theories for yourself. Send messages to segmented lists at various times during the week and note which times work best. Then, change your strategy to include weekends. You could discover something for your ecommerce site that works for you and no one else.

Keep in mind that you’ll never discover the optimal times without experimenting. Even when you think you’ve determined the perfect delivery time, change something and test again. When you receive new insights, apply them quickly and then test again.

We share best practices not to tell you what to do, but to give you ideas for what and how to test.

The work you put into determining your ecommerce email send times will pay off in the end. You can't experience success if you continue doing the same thing day after day. Even if your email open rates are already higher than you expected, there is always room for improvement. 

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photo credit: Surat Lozowick via photopin cc

Originally published Oct 24, 2013 2:00:00 PM, updated April 19 2023


Email Marketing Ecommerce