"When is the best time to send an email?" is one of the most often asked questions in email marketing. Maybe even the most asked. It's also one of the hardest questions to answer, in any way other than "it depends." And the answer you get today can be influenced by things outside of your control tomorrow. Tell email marketers that the best day to send is Tuesday, and soon they will all be sending on Tuesday, flooding consumers' mailboxes with email. Suddenly, Tuesday isn't going to be the best day to mail any longer!
Email marketers don't just want to know the best day -- they also seek to understand the best time of day to send to their subscribers. Up until recently, the only way to answer this question was to test, test again, and when you thought you were done testing, test some more. But the arrival of new Send Time Optimization (STO) tools offer new answers to this perennial question. New STO offerings from companies like AudiencePoint and Seventh Sense that are based on historic engagement behavior of each subscriber across all of his or her email, not "test and learn" models, offer potential benefits to marketers, specifically in regards to the ability to get immediate benefits. Optimization of send time to a specific subscriber is a big improvement over earlier STO solutions that only optimized the sending time of the entire campaign, not individual emails.
Is STO right for you? That depends on how important the following four benefits are to you and your email marketing program. The more you say "that's important to me," the more you need to look into STO.
STO answers the question, "When do I send?"
The technology uses historic engagement data of subscribers to predict when an individual is more likely to engage with content in the future. That may sound like a lot of work, but STO technology has advanced so much that it is quite easy. Thus it becomes very simple to customize the deployment time for each individual subscriber.
You should see improved performance
The whole point of STO is to increase subscriber engagement, and many users of STO see increases in key metrics such as higher open, click through rates and revenue. Research conducted in 2013 by GetResponse showed 24 percent of opens take place in the first hour after the deployment and after 24 hours, an email's chance of being opened drops below 1 percent. By scheduling your send based on previous behavior, you can be fairly certain to increase the percent of opens that happen in the first hour, which should drive your overall open rate higher. More opens mean more clicks.
You can hit a pause button
While many ESP platforms allow you to pause a campaign, others don't make it so easy. However, the right STO solution can provide you with a pause button for every deployment allowing email marketers to interrupt a deploy mid-stream for any reason. The cruise ship virus swamping the call center? IT called and said the website is down? Or, the warehouse flooded and it will take 24 hours to repair the damage? The reason doesn't matter, because you can pause the deployment and resume when the circumstances have improved.
You can improve your deliverability and inbox placement
A successful email program requires that email is delivered by the ISP. STO applies an intelligent throttle to each deployment reducing the volume of email addresses at any one time which increases the number of emails ultimately delivered. However, you don't just want your messages to get to the ISP, they need to be delivered to the recipients' inboxes. By increasing the engagement rates on email, the ISP escorts the promotional content straight to the inbox.
With 2016, coming to a close, your email marketing program needs to be positioned for continued success in 2017. Start planning your resources and budget now so that you can at least do a test of STO in early 2017. And while not all STO technologies are the same, if you do your homework and ask hard questions of the vendors, you will experience the benefits that STO can bring to your email program.