Email timing - the often forgotten about improvement opportunity

 

Mike Duquet, a conversion optimization specialist, says he’s always asked the same question at every email conference he attends:  What’s the best time to send an email? His answer?  There really is no best time to send an email message.  
 
Helpful, right?   Fortunately, there are still some things to consider when determining your best time.

1. Think about newsletters and triggered emails separately

Triggered emails and newsletters are different and that affects the optimal send times. A triggered email is 'triggered' by something the customer does (e.g., abandons a shopping cart) or something which changes on your store (e.g., a product comes back in stock). Hence urgency is helpful in some cases (e.g., send the abandoned cart email 2 hours after the event) but not others, e.g., a back in stock email at midnight when your inventory system updates may not be that useful to anyone. 

Newsletters, however should be sent based on the time they are most likely to be opened by each user.  

2. Optimize based on open patterns for most emails

Different audiences respond differently (duh).  Sending a message out at the same time will yield different open rates, depending on where people live.  For example, when it’s 6am in San Francisco, it’s 9am in New York City— so while your west coast subscriber might be just waking up, your Manhattanite could  be checking their email at work.  

You should factor in mobile and iPad opens.  According to recent mobile marketing surveys, more than 60% of e-mails are now opened on a mobile device rather than a desktop.  So, if you want an urban professional to open your email on their cell phone, send it during a time when they’re likely to be commuting (on a train or bus), instead of when they’re more likely to be actually working.
 
The patterns vary for iPad users, too.  Since iPad users more frequently use their devices at home, it’s probably smarter to send an iPad-optimized email around 7pm then say, around 3pm in the afternoon.

Don't forget days of the week.  Previously, marketers thought that Thursdays and Fridays were the best days to send emails, because they assumed  people were more likely to purchase things closer to the weekend.  While that may have been true in the past, given today’s instant digital, it’s no longer the case.  Even as the 9-5 workweek grows increasingly obsolete, studies show that emails sent over the weekend averaged over 10% high click through rates.  It’s probably that these emails face less competition than those sent during the week.
 
Sounds complicated? You could set up multiple email lists or try and segment your customers based on time zone and device. What happens if your users have multiple devices or commute/work at odd hours? We recommend working with a platform which offers Send Time Optimization which tracks when your customers open their emails and sends future emails just before that time. This does all the hard work for you. We've found revenue per email jumps by about 20% from this neat feature alone. Want to find out more? Get in touch

Send Time Optimization works great for newsletters, welcome series, back in stock emails, post purchase series, anniversary emails and any other long drip campaign you might be sending. 

3. Use a set schedule for user triggered events

Send Time Optimization works great for most emails but not all. Abandoned cart and window shopping emails are good examples. In those cases a well thought out timeline based on an event (e.g., when the customer abandons the cart) works best. 

Although these are general guidelines we recommend testing for your audience and testing each email sequence separately. We've found optimizing send time to be a really helpful lever for improvement which most brands ignore. 

First Impressions Count: How to Nail Welcome Emails

 

Welcome emails provide an excellent opportunity to educate prospective customers about your product or services. They also set the tone and create expectations with your newest subscribers. On average welcome emails have an unusually high open rate of 50-60%. To that end, it’s worth taking the time to understand what makes for a great initial introduction.  Here are some things worth considering:
 
Set clear expectations from the beginning. Let customers know from the start what you'll be emailing them. Also, make sure it’s easy for them to unsubscribe.  If your communication is easy to opt-out of, it’s less likely to be marked as spam.
 
Offer a welcome incentive or a discount, like a coupon for 20% of their next purchase, or free shipping. Fun fact: studies show that welcoming emails offering discounts or free shipping increase overall sales and revenue (duh!).
 
Send more than one welcome email. We suggest sending the first email immediately upon signup, with subsequent emails set a few days apart with the frequency slowing down over time. Things to include in the welcome series include the company's founding story (if it's exciting), helpful branded content which gets a lot of shares or has high engagement, customer reviews, great press, directions to the nearest guide shop (if you have them) etc. 
 
If you don’t have welcome emails in place yet, we suggest taking a look at what competitors or brands who target a similar audience are doing.  Take note of what works for you (and doesn’t).  You can build upon the aspects you like, and improve upon the ones you don’t.  
 
To get you started, here are some of our favorite ‘welcome’ emails:

 
 

We like this email from Paul Evans for its simplicity.  It links to a founding story which also explains the benefits of the direct to consumer model. 

 
 

By highlighting the brand’s sustainable design and manufacture, Reformation’s welcome email appeals to something that the target customer values.  

 
 

We like this introductory email from Hugo Boss for it’s integration of social media. Because of the high click-through rate, welcome emails can be an effective way to promote your brand’s social media presence.
 
Email is one of the best channels at your disposal for online marketing, and welcome emails are an important aspect of any email marketing strategy.  By prioritizing your initial messages and being strategic, you can create a positive first impression and setup your email marketing for future success. 

Shipping Confirmation Emails: Top 4 Tips

 

Marketers don’t always pay attention to transactional emails, like order or shipping confirmations — but that’s a mistake. Transactional emails present an excellent opportunity to establish your brand’s voice, as well as shore up customer loyalty.  Here we’ll focus on shipping confirmation emails, and how to take them up a notch.
 
First, it’s always a good idea to include an image of the products purchased in your email.  This not only helps customers remember what they recently purchased, but it also generates some excitement (hopefully) over the product.
 
Compare the two shipping confirmation emails below, from net-a-porter and Mack Weldon respectively.  Unlike the email from Mack Weldon, which includes an image of the shirts just purchased, net-a-porter’s email only provides a product description.  While the latter includes all relevant logistical information, it doesn’t heighten anticipation as much as the email from Mack Weldon. 

    Second, emphasize the estimated delivery date.  Like including the product image in the email, highlighting the date helps create excitement and builds anticipation.  Include this information alongside a tracking link, and feature it in a prominent place in the email.

    Third, the email should incorporate all relevant details, as well as a way to contact customer support.  Make sure to include the following logistical information:

    • Name(s) of products
    • Product description (size, color, quantity)
    • Shipping Method (Fedex, UPS, etc.)
    • Order No./ID
    • Billing summary
    • Contact for customer support

    In addition, you may also want to include links to return policies or helpful pages, such as frequent customer FAQs.

    Finally, use the post purchase email sequence to encourage your customers to stay engaged. This should be spaced out over a couple of emails and could include:

    • Requests to refer friends
    • Suggestions for cross sells based on the product purchased
    • Or a request for a product review once the product has arrived
     
     

    We like Paul Evan's refer a friend email which is part of their post-purchase sequence. You can play with the offer as well to see what works best for your customers. 
     
    Bottom line, you should focus on your transactional emails as much your marketing emails.  They are a great opportunity to build customer loyalty and generate excitement. When it comes to shipping confirmations in particular, the key is to heighten anticipation around a customer’s recent purchase and give them the information/tools necessary to track and verify their order.  By following the tips suggested above, you’ll be in good shape with lots of happy and engaged customers.

    Top 5 Mistakes Email Marketers Make

     

    Successful email marketing tactics are all over the web.  Just do a simple google search for “email marketing mistakes to avoid,” and you’ll be met with approximately 1.6 million results.  But, even with plenty of resources available (not to mention cutting-edge software), blunders are commonly made.  These are the major mistakes that we see marketers regularly make -- and could cost you dearly. 

    1. Making signup difficult

    Don’t start off on the wrong foot. If someone is interested in your brand, don’t make them jump through hoops just to signup to your email. Give your subscribers an opportunity to provide relevant information but don’t make it the Spanish inquisition. Even if you don't manage the website, make sure signup is easy!

    You should be able to tell country and other broad details like interests based on their browsing patterns - you don’t need to ask for that! You can ask for zip code if it helps direct to a local store but asking for country is redundant.

     
     

    Isabel Marant is an example where it’s too much. They ask you to select your country from a drop down list of over 200 countries and specify your language.

    In a similar spirit, don't use complicated CAPTCHA checks.

     
     

    We love catbird. It’s a local NY jewelry company which has gone from strength to strength but asking us to select all the construction vehicles in an image just to sign up to your email list is a no-no.

    Double opt in emails are rare for fashion brands (<10% of the brands we track use them) and to add on an annoying CAPTCHA phrase is a bit ridiculous. We’re not applying for a mortgage here, just looking to get your emails and show you our love. 

    Leverage browsing behavior to get to know your customer. Category information, like gold vs silver jewelry, statement vs delicate necklaces, price point and other designer preferences can all be inferred from browsing behavior and used to customize your emails. If you need a demo of how to do this, let us know. Use the browsing data to craft relevant emails and make sure you keep it up to date.

    Some information however can’t be ascertained by how people interact with your website, e.g., birth-date. Go ahead and ask for that if you are going to send a special birthday email but test to see if that additional information turns off potential subscribers. Remember, the more complicated signup is, the fewer people will signup.  

    2. Not enough value add

    Emails should be valuable to the customer.  As Noah Kagan puts it, “Just ask yourself if your emails are valuable even if your potential customer never buys.” 

    What’s a valuable email?  Not to be obvious, but one that adds value. 
    Too many emails are ‘me, me, me’ (product centric) — and don’t something the recipient actually cares about.  Emails should serve the customer, not the product.  One way to serve customers is by giving them more than they expect or more than they are paying for with their time.

    This email by Norma Kamali does this well.

     
     

    You don't need to purchase with this email. This content can be helpful even without a purchase

    3. Creative Needs “Reviving”

    There are several components involved in a good email: subject, pre-header, and content.  All too often, however, email marketers focus their energies on the first two parts — and forget the important of the email body.  Studies show that people are more likely to engage with a compelling, creative email (duh) —give them something that catches their eye.   Also, make sure that users can engage with the mail by adding easily found links to the website, sale, or special offer. 
     

     
     

    We love Loeffler Randall’s colorful and creative presentation (not to mention clear call to action!).  

    The shades of pink in the email background complement the featured product and it pops.  Plus, it’s just pretty.

    4. Not Optimizing for Mobile Subscribers

    According to marketing studies, 60%+ of emails are read on a mobile device — and this number is only growing.  Not to be obvious here, but it’s essential that all links, images and text are rendering in an coherent and compelling way for users across multiple platforms.

    We recommend a mobile first strategy. Make sure your emails look great on mobile first and then think about the other formats. 

    5. Email Address (From Name) is “No Reply” or “Admin”

    Using a generic from name (admin, no reply) is a major mistake.  When brands send emails from a mailbox, it gives the impression that they are unavailable (or worse, uninterested) in making themselves available to users.  Bottom line: people want to interact with people, not mailboxes.

    This may be an easy one to get right for the main newsletter but make sure you check across all your brand touch points. Do order confirmation, signups and other automatic emails have any “No Reply” or “Admin” emails? It just takes one slip to start to annoy people and destroy all your hard work. 

    Wrap up

    Despite the abundance of marketing resources about email optimization and successful campaign tactics, blunders are routinely made — some worse than others.  To that end, we’ve reviewed the top five major missteps to keep in mind when planning and executing your email marketing strategy.  While making mistakes is inevitable in business (and in life), the above oversights can, and should be, easily avoided.  Because it’s these little things that can make all the difference.