David Kirkpatrick

Infographic: Email open rates by time of day

October 26th, 2012

MarketingSherpa has been covering email marketing for a long time. And, while we’re always interested in the latest tactics, marketers still must never overlook the basics.

For example, email timing. Searching through the MarketingSherpa Article Archive, I found this blog post from 2003, which refers to a case study where time of day helped a marketer garner open rates higher than 70%.


When is the best time to send an email?

This topic is definitely the “Email Marketing 101” question about which any marketer breaking into major email campaigns still wants information.

To take a more quantitative dive into the question of timing email, GetResponse Email Marketing decided to go into its substantial dataset for some research.

This involved analyzing 21 million messages sent from U.S. email accounts during the first quarter of 2012 to determine the top result for the following metrics:

  • Open time
  • Click-through time
  • Recipients’ top engagement time 

Click to enlarge


To provide a little more context on this infographic and GetResponse’s research, I had a few questions for Hanna Andrzejewska, Communication and Marketing Specialist at GetResponse.


MarketingSherpa: What was the impetus behind this research?

Hanna Andrzejewska: We wanted to check if timing actually matters, what might be the factors that shape recipients inbox habits, and if they actually affect engagement metrics. Additionally, we wanted to identify and describe the key elements of optimizing those metrics in relation to timing.


MS: Were any of the results surprising? Did anything really stand out from this research?

HA: Four things:

  1. The really important finding was that all messages, no matter what time they were scheduled for, get most opens within the first hour from delivery (up to 23%).
  1. This means that if a message is sent too early (or too late) to top engagement times, it will miss the chance of reaching its maximum results. It simply cannot wait in the inbox for too long.
  1. The research confirmed that the subscribers are most engaged with their inbox content during the working hours: Scanning emails is the first thing they do when they start work — 8-10 a.m. Then, their inbox activity goes down, with the lowest results around lunch, and goes up again shortly before leaving work — 3-4 p.m.
  1. An interesting thing is that the average click rate also increases around 8 p.m., which might mean that this is the time when recipients read through their messages with more attention.


MS: Given these general practices, what can an email marketer do to optimize the timing of their specific campaigns? Are there steps they can take, or methods of testing their email database to refine the best time to send email?

HA: One, schedule your message delivery to match the top engagement times so that [it] doesn’t wait in the mailbox for more than one hour.

Two, aiming at the afternoon upsurge will let you avoid the morning clutter (more marketers schedule their messages to land in inboxes between 6-12 p.m.).


MS: What is your key takeaway from this research?

HA: It’s that timing matters a lot and that you can identify the patterns for your subscribers’ inbox behavior quite easily, so careful scheduling should be a part of the email marketing routine of every marketer. 

Additionally, marketers who send out globally should use time-zone based segmentation to maximize their messages results exactly for the same reasons – if a message waits too long in the inbox, its chances of being open decrease rapidly with every hour, and after 24 hours, [its chances] are close to zero.


Testing best practices

We hope you find this analysis helpful. Of course, as with any aggregate data or best practices, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that MarketingSherpa suggests you test what timing works best for your scheduled and triggered email sends.


Related Resources:

Best Time To Send Email [INFOGRAPHIC] (blog post on infographics from GetResponse)

Email Relevance: 8 tactics for leveraging timing, segmentation and content

Behavior-based Email Send Times Lift Opens, CTRs and Referrals: Test and results

Email Marketing: How to sprinkle subscribers with a well-timed welcome in 5 steps

Email Summit: Testing timing and format elements in follow-up email

Conversion Window: How to find the right time to ask your customer to act

David Kirkpatrick

About David Kirkpatrick

David is a reporter for MarketingSherpa and has over twenty years of experience in business journalism, marketing and corporate communications. His published work includes newspaper, magazine and online journalism; website content; full-length ghosted nonfiction; marketing content; and short fiction. He served as producer for the business research horizontal at the original Office.com, regularly reporting on the world of marketing; covered a beat for D/FW TechBiz, a member of the American City Business Journals family; and he provided daily reporting for multiple LocalBusiness.com cities. David’s other media and corporate clients include: USA Today, Oxford Intelligence, GMAC, AOL, Business Development Outlook and C-Level Media, among many others.

Categories: Email Marketing Tags: , , ,

  1. October 26th, 2012 at 10:59 | #1

    Useful article and corroborates everything we have observed. Its a toss up between mid morning – to max the open surge or early pm to exploit the visibility surge. We still find that the mid-morning gets us the optimum response.

  2. Zac
    October 29th, 2012 at 08:45 | #2

    This is pretty interesting – and obviously always a pertinent topic. Can I assume that this examined EXCLUSIVELY B2C, direct to consumer, messaging or just predominantly and some B2B messaging was included in the analysis as well?

  3. Rod
    October 29th, 2012 at 10:54 | #3

    I have 2 comments:
    1) For B2B I can understand a mid-morning send, but for B2C I would think that evening makes more sense. I would think it best to analyze the two groups separately.
    2) With the growth in the use of smartphones, it is becoming more likely that people will at least view an email soon after its arrival, although they may not open until later. This may change the ‘best time of day’ to send.

  4. October 29th, 2012 at 12:40 | #4

    This research is in line with what I’ve discovered with my e-mail marketing campains for Madison Capital, which provides a service for B2B.

  5. October 30th, 2012 at 10:50 | #5

    Like with all marketing, timing can have a profound impact on email marketing performance and will vary by audience. The data from this research provides guidelines that can be used by new email marketers as a starting point to test begin testing with. Frequency of send is also another variable to test with the goal to maximize open, clicks and ultimately conversions, while minimizing unsubscribes. Thanks for sharing. @eBizROI.

  6. October 30th, 2012 at 13:22 | #6

    This wonderful opening time optimization infographic is especially relevant for travel email marketing. Not only do you want the recipient to open the email right away, you want them to have enough time to thoughtfully review your trip/hotel/tour offer and consult with their family or travel partner (travel is not typically an impulse/immediate purchase). That usually means they are better off receiving your message during home evening time when you can get their full attention (at the top of their inbox) and get excited to plan that next trip.

    I agree with the comment by Rod about B2C being less likely to open/click after they arrive at work in the mid-morning. Many employers actively discourage using work computers to check personal email. Plus if they are checking email on a smartphone, they won’t always have enough time to click though and if they click through, read everything they want to about your trip special (for those of you marketing travel).

    Great job GetResponse on supplying the analytics data. Perhaps next time you can compare stats between North America and Europe to see if these patterns hold up as workers in Europe may have different commute-type (more public transit)/work-day (fewer hours)/work-life (balance) timing.

    That reminds me, I need to order a pizza (though for my household more like 7:30pm when REALLY done with work and realize there is no time or energy to cook!) 🙂

    -Scott, BookingCounts – Get More Visitors to Book Now with the Book Later Button

  7. November 1st, 2012 at 18:39 | #7

    Very useful! My international list complicates things further, but at least I have a good idea for when to send my message for U.S. based clients.

  8. November 2nd, 2012 at 15:37 | #8

    This is a great infographic for anyone already dabbling in, or thinking of utilizing email marketing. The suggestion to use time travel scheduling to push out emails according to time zone is especially important for companies that operate in multiple countries. Missing peak times by seven or eight hours is in no way ideal, and marketers need to avoid the morning rush of emails that have flooded in overnight – who really takes the time to look through all of those, anyway?

  9. November 15th, 2012 at 04:01 | #9

    In my experience as an e-mail marketing consultant at Flexmail E-mail Marketing Solutions, I feel that this infographic really captures the timing for the B2B market. But best practices in B2B don’t necessarily work for B2C. Practising email marketing is not only about open ratio or click through ratio. It’s also about return on investment. One way to increase that ROI is to be in the right place at the right time, especially in B2C. B2C-marketeers need to figure out when their target audience are accessible. For example Saturday and Sunday morning can be a good timing for e-commerce as people are looking for something to spend their time on.

  10. November 27th, 2012 at 08:23 | #10

    Interesting post although of course email open times will vary by target market since their behaviour will vary. We implement a method whereby we personalise the time that we send emails to every individual – based on their previous email open history. We’ve seen great uplifts in open rates using this method – you can read more about it here… http://www.realadventure.co.uk/email/maximising-email-open-rates-send-time-personalisation/

  11. Tom K
    December 4th, 2013 at 15:51 | #11

    I have an email that needs to incite action. It is a reminder email designed to go out a few hours or days before the time period occurs when this action needs to be taken. What is the best time to send the email? 3 days before you want the action to be taken, the day that the action CAN be taken, etc? Thanks!

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