Back to the Future: Best Day & Time To Mail Rises from the Grave

Folks, things have gotten so bad that I’ve intentionally mashed up to movie tropes: “Back to the Future” and zombies.

Let me back up.  Email marketers–especially retailers–have done a pretty good job of jumping on the opt-down bandwagon.  If you haven’t heard the term, I refer to the practice of letting email subscribers who want to unsubscribe from you choose a more relaxed mailing frequency, such as weekly or monthly.

 

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Oh, Brooks Brothers, I wish I knew how to quit you.

While opt-down gives marketers a powerful tool for retention, it also forces us to revisit a debate that has raged since AOL accounted for the biggest number of email addresses: best day of week and time of day to mail.

Opt-down fills a real consumer need.  One expert recently discussed a survey in which over half of all subscribers said that retailers sent them too much email.  Not only does opt-down keep valuable audience members in the fold, it also may enhance response.  I conducted a test for a spa brand a few years ago in which I found that consumers that we had put into a weekly email cadence responded better in terms of opens and clicks than those whom we put in twice- or thrice-weekly cadences.  (Yes, three times per week; for a spa, they were pretty antsy.)

After culling down some of the more hyperactive emailers in my own inbox recently, I noticed that many opt-down emailers seemed, well, desperate.  Several retailers whom I won’t name sent emails first thing (8-9 AM Eastern Time) Monday morning.

As a consumer, I read this timing as taking the first opportunity to grab my attention, rather the opposite of the intent of opt-down.  However, as an email marketer, I wondered whether they knew something I didn’t.  Maybe they had good reason to expect a lift from this time slot.  Then again, one of these marketers wanted to sell me business printing and another had bicycles on offer.  It seems unlikely that one time slot would work best for both retailers.

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I love the smell of chain grease in the morning

In the end, the answer we gave back in the days of 56K phone modems remains the answer we must give today.  You MUST test your way to best time of day and day of week for email.  With every major email platform designed to accommodate testing, marketers have no excuse but to answer the question for themselves.

If nothing else, opt-down reinforces some eternal truths about marketing, and email marketing in particular:

  • The consumer is most assuredly in charge
  • Only testing can reveal what works best for your brand
  • If you see a zombie driving a DeLorean at 88 MPH, run like hell

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