Where Does Your Audience Open Their Email?

Time was, we used to consider only when in the day people would open their email. We wanted to send our campaigns at the time people were most likely to be at their computers to receive them. We tested sending email at 9.10am – people coming into the office, firing up Outlook, settling in with their first cup of coffee … your email would ping straight to the top of the queue. Perfect.

Then, we tested sending emails at strategic times through the day … just after lunch, in that mid-afternoon lull, at or just after each hour (meetings are scheduled at whole hours-o-clock … so, people flitting between meetings and checking their email as they go). And so on. But now, as well as ‘when’ we really need to consider ‘where’ – and what that means to our email campaigns.

If you tinker around with Google’s wonderful Mobile Planet tool (and if you haven’t, you should – it’s great fun) you’ll see that last year, 79% of smartphone users in the UK used their phone to check email. Combine that with these stats from Litmus stating that 44% of all email opens happen on a mobile phone, and you’ll begin to get a handle on how significant smartphone penetration is for email marketing.

And the thing with mobile phones is that, well, they’re mobile. So, where do emails get opened – and how should that impact your campaigns?

Who are you marketing to?

As ever, knowing your audience will go a long way to answering the question of where your emails get opened. According to a report by Cisco, 90% of Gen Y’s (those born between 1980 and 2000 approximately) check their smartphones in bed – that’s before they get up. 90%. Suggesting that you should both send your email early, and keep it simple … nobody’s going to process complicated information that early in the day!

You would want to carry out some a/b split testing to see if emails convert well in the morning – I’m guessing not, but it might be a good time to get your brand message out to people.

Where Does Your Audience Open Their Email? image smartphone emailWhere Does Your Audience Open Their Email?Source: Phil Campbell, Flickr

What are they doing?

The morning commute … time for coffee, a flattened croissant, and a little smartphone usage maybe. If you’re publishing news, or information based products, then the morning commute is a great time to be reaching people. Studies show that “news app readerships hit a peak at 7am but drop off precipitously at 9am, when workers clock in for the day”.

Where Does Your Audience Open Their Email? image localytics category breakdown by time of dayWhere Does Your Audience Open Their Email?
source: Pando Daily / Localytics

People are unlikely to be completing purchases (no privacy, awkward to get credit cards out on crowded trains), but if you’re looking to get eyes on your content, then the morning commute represents a great captive audience who are looking to fill bite sized chunks of time – unlikely to settle into one hour long task, more likely to flip between a few different activities.

After the commute you’re looking at Cafés as a classic, wi-fi friendly location for checking emails. Obviously, you can’t tell if someone is reading your email in a café, but what you can do is time your email to take advantage of the first period of time in the day when people have a little more space to spread out and relax a little. Perhaps you could test whether a longer sales email at 11am converts better than a shorter one. You could test whether people are more likely to take purchasing actions in their coffee break vs. the morning commute.

Consider the environment your customers are in when they receive your message, and tailor the desired action accordingly.

What about in-store? Customers will check their email, check websites, check your prices, check your offers all in-store. What are they doing? Likely comparing your prices to amazon’s. 53% of shoppers using their smartphones in-store are using them for price comparison. A further 39% are using them for finding offers. Again, it’s unlikely that a shopper is going to convert from your email into a purchase directly using their smartphone in-store, but it’s clear that a well timed offer or promotion could certainly influence the outcome.

And shoppers who use mobile more, buy more. This infographic from Google neatly shows that mobile shoppers “are using their phones both before heading to the stores and while they are there”.

Where Does Your Audience Open Their Email? image storeWhere Does Your Audience Open Their Email?

Why does any of this matter?

The long and the short of it is that smartphones aren’t really used for making calls any more. (In fact, making calls is the 5th most frequent use of a smartphone!) And then, 97% of subscribers only open their email once – and it’s unlikely that they’re focusing purely on that task (they’re commuting, shopping, reading, working out … whatever). It’s never been harder to gain – and keep – your customer’s attention.

So, to succeed, you need to be aware and adapt to the prevailing trends influencing your customers:

Mobile Optimisation

It’s clear, your emails are being delivered to and read on mobile devices. Are they optimised for mobile? Are they legible, do images load smartly, are the call to actions nice and clear, do people need to scroll horizontally to access content, do they need to zoom in / out? Use a scalable or responsive design to ensure that your customers can access your content effortlessly.

Email once, or follow up?

If 97% of subscribers only open their email once, should you be sending out scheduled follow up campaigns? If you send a branding email to your Gen Y customers at 7.30am, maybe you should follow up with a specific ‘call to action’ email at 11am, coffee time. You could send the follow up email to those who opened the first but who didn’t carry out the desired action. Target those who’s environment at the time of the original email maybe prevented them from acting.

When to send the email?

If you think about what your subscribers are likely to be doing at any time of the day you can then test different send times – try and anticipate when they would have the time / other resources required to complete your desired action, and test the two. Take a look at your delivery statistics to see what devices are used at different times of the day, and tailor both your content and calls to action accordingly.

What about the content?

Based on the different times of day that are most effective for you, can you tailor your content accordingly? If most of your emails are being opened in the morning commute, how does that affect the messages you send? Is an email with 50 product links in it the most appropriate, or would you be better served sending out industry news at that time? What does the traffic on your website tell you – at 9.00am, how long do people spend on your site and what do they do – can that inform the content you put in your email?

… so much to think about!

Yep. Always. And the answer is to test, test and test again. And measure. Figure it out … these aren’t things you’re going to know right away – and making assumptions can be misleading. So, start with your core audience, develop a hypothesis, and test it. It’s the only way you’ll know – but I hope that this has at least given you food for thought!

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