Email marketing: Under the skin of open rates


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Red C, Manchester based marketing agency, take an insightful look at email marketing opening rates in this easy to digest whitepaper entitled 'Under the skin of open rates'. Strategy Director, Steve White, looks at how the subject header, the 'From' name, the preview panel and the day and time of send can all influence the number of email recipients who open an email and suggests ways in which to maximise this through easy to implement tactics and testing.

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Email marketing: Under the skin of open rates

  1. 1. January 2013Under the skinof open rates
  2. 2. ContentsPublished: January 2013 // Written by: Steve White (Strategy Director)About this documentExecutive summary���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������1. Outside influences1.1 The customer relationship1.2 Customer circumstances2. The importance of the “From” name3. The importance of the subject header3.1 Length3.2 Content3.2.1 Personalisation3.2.2 Urgency3.2.3 Be contextually relevant3.2.4 Don’t stretch the truth3.2.5 Symbols4. The preview panel5. Day and time of send6. Testing and results7. Conclusion7. Further reading and useful links���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������
  3. 3. (1) RefsCopyIntro paragraphTitleAbout this document“I have worked at Red C Marketing for approaching a decade and have managed emailprogrammes for a whole host of different clients from a number of differing sectorsincluding home shopping, travel, retail, insurance and leisure.”���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������This document is intended to outline the process that I would advise when working to establishyour optimum opening rate in what is an increasingly difficult email marketing landscape.About the author���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������Steve White (Strategy Director)
  4. 4. 76My inbox is becoming increasingly busy, increasingly noisy and I simply don’t have the time toopen and digest every single email I receive. I have messages relating to work, emails from friendsand family and of course, emails from retailers and businesses (not all of which I’ve opted into, Imay add). Marketing focused messages are always going to have to work harder than messagesfrom bosses, clients or loved ones, so email marketers need to do all they can to ensure that theygive their emails the best possible opportunity of being seen and opened.Executive summaryThe factors that influence whethersomeone opens or chooses not toopen an email are vast and can oftenbe quite complicated. Some factorsare even outside of the influence ofthe marketing department. Forexample, the relationship you havewith that email recipient and theircircumstances will both have a majorimpact on whether they open youremail or even consider opening it.However, the good news is there areseveral factors that can be influencedand managed by email marketers, justlike you and I.There are many factors that influencewhether someone chooses to open or notopen an email, some of which can’t beinfluenced by email marketers or by a singleemail message.1. Outside influences1.1 The customer relationshipSome email recipients will open and engagewith your emails each and every time yousend one, simply because they’re engagedwith your brand and email programme.However, at the same time there will beemail recipients who are non-engagedand it’ll take a great deal of persuasion toconvince them to open or engage with theemail, no matter what the content or keymessage happens to be.One factor that is going to influence youropening rate, arguably more than any other,is the relationship your brand has with thatemail recipient.The ‘From’ name, the subject header, thepreview panel and when you send theemail can all greatly influence whatpercentage of your base actuallyinteract with your email marketingmessage. Given the influence thesefactors can potentially have over thesuccess of your communication, theyeach need to be given a great deal ofrespect and focus in terms of how theyare managed.The key challenge of anyemail marketer is establishing how eachof these variables can work together inthe most effective and efficient manner,in order to achieve the mostadvantageous results. It’s only when youdetermine this formula that you can becontent that you’re achieving youroptimum opening rates.EngagedNonengagedLivePre-occupiedMisseditContentUrgencyContext-uallyrelevantTime andday ofsendPersonal-isationLengthDecisionto openemailPreviewpanel‘From’nameOutside influencesManageable influencesHolidayLapsedProspectRelationshipCustomercircumstanceSubjectheaderNot inmarket
  5. 5. 98(1) RefsCopyIntro paragraphTitle981.2 Customer circumstancesIt’s a sad state of affairs that no matter how much testing andrefinement you build into your email programme there are alwaysgoing to be reasons that are out of your control that could lead toyour well crafted email not being opened.For example, we have no control whether an email recipient happensto be on holiday when your email message arrives in that inbox.Although that person obviously has the opportunity to engagewith that email message on their return, how many of us adopt arelatively ruthless filtering system when we’re faced with abulging inbox?In a similar vein just think about all those disturbances or events thathave the potential to sidetrack you from sifting through your emailinbox.A knock on the front door, a telephone call, Little Jimmy asking“What’s for tea?” or screaming the house down after falling over andgrazing a knee. If any of those scenarios were to happen you couldhave lost your opportunity of an open!Another key reason as to why an email recipient might not open anemail is if they’re simply not in the mindset to buy or respond. It isof course possible to influence that customer into opening with apersuasive subject header but there will be times when that emailrecipient simply won’t open no matter what you do. For example,if your email recipient has just suffered a financial setback such asa faulty washing machine or an unexpected bill has just hit themthen the content of your email message will have little bearing as towhether they open or not!Although it would be extremely difficult to eradicate these outsideinfluences entirely they could be nullified a little by distributingemails to your email recipients on days and times when historicallythey’re most likely to open and engage (See 5.)Once you’ve accepted that there are always going to be reasons whyan email recipient might not open or even consider opening an emailmessage you can concentrate solely on influencing those factorsthat you can manipulate, test and control.One area that is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to manage is customer circumstance.There are hundreds and thousands of different reasons why someone might not open anemail and most of them can’t be influenced by an email marketer.Like the subject header, the “From” name needs to be prominent andhave instant stand out.There are differing views as to the best way ofachieving this objective, influenced by both the type of message andthe email recipient.For an email list of engaged customers consistency is certainlyadvisable as it would be nonsensical to experiment with the “From”name when you’re generating positive engagement levels. I wouldadvise that you stick with whatever “From” name has becomerecognisable to your loyal and responsive customers.Why change itand risk your email not being recognised in your customer’s inbox?However, we have seen drastically improved opening rates when wehave experimented with the “From” name for large scale mailings thatconsist of both customers and prospects. For example, for a financialservices client we conducted several tests regarding the “From” nameas we wanted to establish what the impact would be if we were tointroduce a person’s name.We conducted the test on our monthlyincentive driven newsletter over the course of several months and theresults were remarkable.By simply adding a forename to the company name i.e., we witnessed an uplift in opening rate of 41%and a 31% increase in click throughs.However, although I have experienced some positive results by makingthe “From” name more personable I certainly would steer away fromdepartmentalising “From” names, as they have a tendency to look likespam. I’ve been amazed in recent weeks as to how many reputablebusinesses are using generic “From” names such as or However, these arenot the worst offenders, some businesses even use email addresses thatare not only unrecognisable but are also incredibly unfriendly. In thepast I’ve seen and, which I’m sure serves the purpose of notgenerating reply emails but I doubt this generates any warmthtowards the message, or indeed the brand.The changing landscape of email marketing has led to the “From” name being anincreasingly important factor when it comes to open rates. Email recipients aremore time precious than ever, scanning emails quickly on their mobile device orracing through overflowing inboxes on their desktops or laptops.Also, with thegrowing number of people using mobile devices to interact with their emails, the“From” name is increasingly influential given that subject headers can be cut downto just 8 or 10 characters on some devices.2. The importance of the “From” name
  6. 6. 1110(1) RefsCopyIntro paragraphTitle11103.1 LengthThere are two reasons for this. Firstly, it is close to a universal rulethat simple messages which can easily be digested are the best wayto take advantage of increasingly short consumer attention spans.The other reason is more of a technical one, email domains oftenlimit the number of subject line characters that are displayed in theinbox. AOL, for example, only allow 38 characters before they arecut or shortened.The character limits• AOL: 38• Hotmail: about 45 for their initial line (using word wrap)• Yahoo!: 47• Gmail: 130• Outlook: 255 charactersThe growing reliance on mobile devices affects this trend too as theirsmaller screens display even fewer characters.So imagine, you’re a swimwear specialist and you’re announcing asale on a new line of bikinis.You certainly have a few options withyour subject header.You could, for example, be highly detailed andignore character length:“Colourful new beach bikinis are now available in a variety ofshapes and styles, and are fifty percent off for a limited time only!”Although descriptive, it does suffer from several fatal flaws. Just lookbelow how these subject headers would show up in the followingplatforms:AOL: “Colourful new beach bikinis are now”Hotmail: “Colourful new beach bikinis are now available”Yahoo: “Colourful new beach bikinis are now available i”However, the subject header’s biggest flaw is not that it’s a little toolong for some platforms, its major problem is the subject headerhasn’t recognised the character issue, as it isn’t using those allimportant first characters as effectively as it could be.Historically, the view has always been “the shorter the better” with the consensus beingthat a subject header should be no longer than 50 characters.So this is my turn, I’m going to announce to the world what makes theperfect subject header. Is it the length? It might be. Is it the content?Almost certainly. Is it the use of personalisation? Well, possibly.Each of these factors are important and each of these factors will havean influence on your opening rate, and I’ll detail why shortly. However,they’re not the most important thing you require when you’redeveloping a strategy for the perfect subject header.The mostimportant thing you’ll need is time.You have to give yourself time totest, test and test again.What might work in one industry might notnecessarily work for another.The latest white paper from your wellrespected email service provider might very well give you some greatpointers, but I guarantee you that each of their recommendations willnot necessarily work for your database.You need to invest in time and it is only at this point that you cancomfortably say you are on the way to the perfect subject header.However, as indicated there are several factors that will certainlyinfluence the success of your subject headers and each of them shouldbe tested.There are thousands upon thousands of blog articles, white papers and discussiondocuments that have been written on the subject of crafting the perfect subjectheader. I think this is a clear indication as to the complex nature of this task. Everymarketer worth their salt has a view and everyone has an opinion.3. The importance of the subject header
  7. 7. 1312(1) RefsCopyIntro paragraphTitle1312It’s absolutely crucial that you front-load your email’s message withthe most compelling part of your proposition.For example, the most important element to this proposition is thatyou’re offering your customers a whopping 50% off a range of bikinis,so surely this has to be at the forefront. So the subject header shouldbe something like this;“Today only: get 50% off bikinis! All styles, all colours, all readyfor summer.”This works so well, because even when AOL or Hotmail cuts the subjectheader the customer is fully aware of the sale and the timing of it:AOL: “Today only: get 50% off bikinis! All ”Hotmail: “Today only: get 50% off bikinis! All styles”Yahoo!: “Today only: get 50% off bikinis! All style, ”Gmail: “Today only: get 50% off bikinis! All styles, all colours,all ready for summer.”Thunderbird: “Today only: get 50% off bikinis! All styles, all colours,all ready for summer.”Outlook: “Today only: get 50% off bikinis! All styles, all colours,all ready for summer.”With a limited amount of time to surf your AOL inbox, which emailwould YOU choose to open, if you happened to be in the market for abikini?Today only: get 50% off bikinis! AllorColourful new beach bikinis are nowIn 2008,Alchemy Worx analysed 646 subject lines across 205 millionmessages and across a number of different sectors.The results of thisresearch unearthed several interesting trends. Firstly, it supported theview that shorter subject lines work harder when it comes to openingrates. However, what was just as interesting was that longer subjectlines, despite poorer open rates, actually generated better click-throughrates when compared to the shorter subject line.If you think about this logically then the findings made by AlchemyWorx make complete sense. Shorter subject lines are indeed more likelyto be more ambiguous than longer subject lines and therefore shouldattract a greater volume of opens because of its relative intrigue.However, although you have the volume, are you attracting the rightopeners? Are you in fact eliminating those who may be in the marketfor your proposition by being so ambiguous? The research suggests thisis exactly the case.They discovered that more detailed and lengthiersubject lines generated better click-through rates, suggesting thatalthough they didn’t necessarily generate volume, they did generatequality. By detailing the email’s proposition in the subject header youare giving email recipients the opportunity of buying into theproposition at open stage, making the decision to click a lessconsidered step.3.1 Length (continued) 3.1 Length (continued)
  8. 8. 1514(1) RefsCopyIntro paragraphTitle1514Subject line 1.This weekend only at your local ABC store, special savingson televisions!Subject line 1.Special savings on televisions at your local ABC store thisweekend only!Without fully understanding the brand or the email’s audience it wouldbe difficult to predict which of these subject lines would generate thebest opening and click through rate. However, it does illustrate thepoint that content and structure are more influential to the success ofa subject header than its length.Although we have seen similar results in other industry sectors, it’simportant not to overdo the use of name focused personalisation. It isnow being used by many retailers (and spammers) meaning somethingthat was once quite novel and interesting has now become a littleordinary.However, as email technology becomes more advanced there areincreasingly more interesting ways to add relevancy and personalisationinto your subject headers. For example, we have conducted severalexperiments in the home shopping and retail industries where we haveacknowledged the customer’s relationship with the brand. On bothoccasions we have identified email recipients as being non-engaged withthe email programme and we’ve made reference to it in both the subjectheaders and the email’s content.We tested this approach against a‘non-personalised’ approach over the course of 6 weeks.Re-engagement email 1Forename we miss you!Main programme email 1Just in... great fashion for the beach.Open now!Re-engagement email 2Come back forename and have 15% offMain programme email 2Got a special occasion? Have 15% off the perfect outfit.Re-engagement 3Let us treat you forename with 20% offMain programme email 3Hurry up to 20% off in ourSummer Spectacular.Although the opening rate of an email can be influenced by the length of thesubject line, it is undoubtedly its content that has the greater influence. I could havetwo subject headers of the same length but due to their content and structure theywould differ in performance.3.2 ContentFor example, we recently tested the impact of personalisation with afinancial service client, who distributes in excess of 3,000,000 emailmessages per month.The results were remarkable considering therelatively simply test that we implemented. By adding the forename tothe subject header we saw an incredible opening rate uplift of 36% anda click-through rate increase of 37%.Name Your car renewal is due xx/xx/xx | Get king-size Cashbackoffers | Extended Great British Sale!vsYour car renewal is due xx/xx/xx | Get king-size Cashback offers |Extended Great British Sale!Subject headers are no different to any other form of marketing, the more relevant andpersonal you can make your message, the better the results tend to be. Over the yearsI’ve conducted several experiments across several industry sectors proving exactly that.3.2.1 Personalisation
  9. 9. 1716(1) RefsCopyTitle1716Littlewoods creating that all important sense of urgencySubject header: Sale still on – 7th June – don’t miss out!River Island incentivising their customers with a time-limited freedelivery offerSubject line: Enjoy FREE delivery until Friday – shop our new arrivalsLakeland creating a sense of urgencySubject header: Be quick! Great deals on kitchen and home solutionsfrom LakelandCreating a sense of urgency in your subject line can also improve the response of anemail, especially if it’s combined with a relevant offer. It is human nature not to wantto miss out on something, so exploiting this in the subject line will undoubtedly createuplift in response.3.2.2 UrgencyFor example, during the UK riots of August 2011 Swinton reacted bysending emails to both their consumer and business customers askingthem whether they had been affected by the ‘riots’. The subjectheaders were timely and relevant and generated exceptional openrates, especially considering that the emails were sent to livecustomers, lapsed customers and prospects.I’m absolutely sure that 63.5% of those who received the SwintonCommercial emails weren’t actually directly affected by the riots.However, given the nature of the troubles, we would have generatedopens from recipients who were just interested to see what we weresaying about a huge national news event.This is crucial, as generatingincremental opens and clicks is what will eventually lead toincremental sales.Relevancy is something every email marketer should invest in and establishingways in which to do this will always lead to positive results. For a number of clients,we do our very best to include references to current affairs and popular culture.3.2.3 Be contextually relevantImportant Customer Information;Riot damage – 32.1% opening rateImportant Customer Information;Riot damage – 63.5% opening rateIf you images are not displaying please click hereFor policy and claims advice regarding the UK riots, call Swinton Commercial on 0845 120 2734Small Business InsuranceVan InsurancePublic Employers’Liability InsuranceFleet InsuranceMotor Trade InsuranceLandlords InsuranceHaulage InsuranceuuuuuuuDear Sample,Following the shocking events of the past few days, we want to offerthese words of reassurance.As a Swinton Commercial customer, you should be covered againstlooting, fire or other structural damage. Business interruption and damageto stock will also be covered, if you have included this on your policy.Therefore, if you have experienced damage to your business propertyand stock as a result of the UK riots, we urge you to contact us as soonas possible, so we can help you process your claim quickly and efficiently.You can call us on 0845 120 2734 9.00am-5.30pm Monday-Fridayand 9.00am-1.00pm Saturday.King regardsSwinton Group Limited, registered in England number 756681, is connected for the purposes of the Insurance CompaniesRegulations 1994 to MMA Insurance plc, Gateway Insurance Company Limited and Provident Insurance plc. Registered office;Swinton House, 6 Great Marlborough Street, Manchester M1 5SW. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.Calls may be monitored and recorded.home about us local offices get a quoteThe UK’s local broker about us local offices get a quoteRiot damage -Please makeyour claimwithin 7 days0845 120 2734Contact a dedicated advisor today onThe Swinton Commercial Team
  10. 10. 1918We’ve also used other more light hearted events and news stories asstimuli for highly contextually relevant emails for Swinton. Each ofwhich have generated extremely positive open rates (and have evenwon a DMA award!).However, clearly it’s important not to take a stance on a particularissue or subject such as politics as you’ll be in danger of alienating aproportion of your audience.3.2.3 Be contextually relevant (continued)The subject header doesn’t just have an influence over the openingrate, it also influences all key performance indicators. So there is verylittle point in generating an excellent open rate by stretching the truthif you’re then going to disappoint your openers and ultimately turnthem off from clicking through.With each of my clients I always maintain that our subject headers can’t overpromise in an attempt to inflate the opening rate. It’s important to maintain asense of honesty as misleading or tricking a customer into opening an email couldultimately destroy trust, damage your brand or even drive your customers away.3.2.4 Don’t stretch the truthOver the last few months I’ve witnessed more and more retailersexperimenting with symbols, like stars and hearts, within theirsubject headers. In the past, the use of symbols has been frownedupon as there were concerns around deliverability. However, as emaildeliverability becomes more of an issue around IP reputation ratherthan content, more retailers are introducing symbols into theirsubject headers as they strive for ‘stand out’ in the inboxes of theiremail recipients.Examples:3.2.5 SymbolsInterflora - the flower experts ** Order before midnight for next day delivery on Valentines Day **Room Restaurant Winter Sale *BONUS DAY EXCLUSIVE* MONDAY 13th - Book Now ** To Gail Show someone you them, order your Valentines gift today!Have the images in this email been rationed? Get them back here.Katie, energy prices are on the up again...keep your costs down withgreat Cashback deals through Swinton on 0800 781 8779’t miss out on the latest Swinton offers – simply add swinton@swinton.chtah.comto your address book or contact list to ensure our emails always go into your inboxScroll down for great insurancedeals and money-saving tipsOuch!Soften the blow withCashback deals throughSwinton KatieAnother energyprice risehome page car home van bike lifetravelcaravan business offersBreakdown Insurance is underwritten by Inter Partner Assistance. Personal Accident Insurance is underwrittenby MMA Insurance PLC. Home Emergency Protection is underwritten by Inter Partner Assistance.Calls may be recorded and monitored.Swinton Group Limited are not responsible for the content of external sites.Lines are open Monday to Friday 8am - 10pm, Saturday 8am - 6pm and Sunday 10am - 6pm. Telephone calls may be recorded andmonitored for your protection. Please do not reply to this email. No responsibility is accepted for loss or damage arising from viruses orchanges made to this message after it was sent. Unsubscribe: If you would prefer not to receive any further email communication fromSwinton, please click here.Swinton Group Limited, registered in England number 756681 is connected for the purpose of the Insurance Companies regulations1994 to MMA Insurance Plc, Gateway Insurance Company Limited and Provident Insurance Plc. Registered Office: Swinton House, 6Great Marlborough Street, Manchester M1 5SW. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.Please do not reply to this email. No responsibility is accepted for loss or damage arising from viruses or changes made to this messageafter it was sent. Unsubscribe: If you would prefer not to receive any further Swinton emails, please click here.Van LifeBusinessBike Caravan TravelHome Page Car Home Offers£££One of the major energy suppliers has todayincreased its prices by 18%. And they’re not theonly ones. 3 out of the big 6 energy companieshave now upped their prices in the last fewmonths, leaving many of us even more outof pocket.Petrol, rent, food... seems like everything costsmore these days. But before you start gettingyour ration book out, here’s some good news.Swinton are putting money back in yourpocket with £75 Cashback on Car Insuranceand £50 Cashback on Home Insurance. Andthe money-saving deals don’t stop there either.Take a look:• 3 months FREE Breakdown Cover• £30 Cashback on Bike Insurance• 3 months FREE on Home EmergencyProtection• 3 months FREE Personal Accident CoverKind regards,P.S Look out for more thrifty August offersThe Swinton TeamSave yourself some cashSave yourself some cashIf you’re counting the pennies and tightening your belt,check out this handy selection of money-saving tips.10 tips on budget-friendly days outSave on Home InsuranceGrown your own vegetablesHow to make money onlineGoGoGoGonice little earners4MoreinfoOffers£££CarHomeBikeVanCaravanTravelBusinessLifePersonalAccidentExtra money inyour pocket...QuoteCar InsuranceEnter Promo CodePMWTEM828QuoteEnter Promo CodeHMWTEM4283 monthsFREE3 monthsFREE3 monthsFREEQuoteQuote QuoteMake sure you make a note of the Carand Home Insurance promo codesabove and type them over the existingcodes when getting your quote online.£50Cashbackmore info£30Cashbackmore info£75Cashbackmore infoHome InsuranceGoThe results were quite astonishing as the re-engagement programmeoutperformed the main email programme’s open rate by 222%.It’s this level of personalisation which retailers have to incorporate intotheir subject headers in order to stay ahead of the competition. Simpleforename or surname personalisation won’t be enough movingforward, as that level of personalisation will become increasingly thenorm. Demographical data, customer behaviour and transactional datawill all have a part to play when it comes to developing subject linesthat have the ability to stand out in increasingly noisy inboxes.3.2.1 Personalisation (continued)
  11. 11. 20 21The reason why the preview panel is having such an influence is emailrecipients have the ability to make a judgement without actuallyregistering an open and more importantly not seeing the email’scomplete proposition. For example, if a recipient happens to be usingOutlook as their email platform, which has preview panel on by default,they literally could base their decision as to whether they open or don’topen by simply looking at the top 2 to 4 inches of the email’s design.As marketers this presents us with a challenge, as not only are ouropening rates being skewed but we are having to make that top sectionof our email design work incredibly hard.However, as difficult as this sounds, it is achievable with some pragmaticdesign and by following 3 simple rules.Rule 1. The golden rule when it comes to designing email for thepreview panel is to ensure you’re establishing the email’s proposition orkey message in that top 2 to 4 inches. If your recipient is scrollingthrough their emails using the preview panel then they can be left inno doubt as to what you’re offering – in basic terms give themeverything they need to make an informed decision.Rule 2. You give yourself the best chance of generating an open bydesigning your email with a good proportion of its content being HTMLtext.The reason for this is more and more email platforms, like Hotmailand Outlook, have their images turned off by default.For each of our email clients we ensure we utilise HTML text for key areasof the email design such as headline message, letter copy, navigationand call to action. By doing this we give ourselves the best chance ofconvincing our email recipients to fully engage with the email.The preview panel is another factor you need to consider as this is becoming moreinfluential in determining your email’s opening rate.4. The preview panelRule 3. The third rule we adopt with all our email clients is toincorporate an HTML line which sits just above the email design. Bydoing this it give email marketers another opportunity of outliningthe email’s proposition. The key to preparing this line of html copyis ensuring that it can work not only in conjunction with the subjectheader but it can also work in isolation.The preview panel is already a hugely influential factor but it is onlygoing to increase in importance. Not only has Gmail introduced apreview panel but there are rumours both Hotmail and Yahoo areplanning to make their preview panels the default inbox setting too.4. The preview panel (continued)The simple answer to this question is: it depends.What works forone email marketer might not necessarily work for another and at thevery least, your market place, your customer set and whether you sellB2C (Business to Consumer) or B2B (Business to Business) can behugely influential.There have been many studies conducted and data collected on thebest time to send emails and these studies can help influence youremail strategy. But although this information can provide a foundationof knowledge there is no better strategy than trackingyour own send results and using this to determine your optimumsend times.During my research I came across a very insightful and interestingarticle in the 60-Second Marketer from Jenn Abecassis, who listed boththe positive and negative aspects of sending email on each day of theweek based on her experiences.Does the time you press send and the day you distribute an email actually affectthe response rate?5. Day and time of send
  12. 12. 22 23MondayPros: Office work has not filled inboxes yet.Cons: People are in “work mode” and won’t be focused on non-worktasks.Best Practice: Send emails late Monday morning, after people havecleaned the weekend spam from their inboxes.TuesdayPros: People have organised their week, and can find personal timefor emails.Cons: Emails poised for a weekend response may be too early.Best Practice: Use Tuesday for emails that request action during theworking week.Wednesday/ThursdayPros: People are planning their weekends and gearing up for personaltime.Cons: Time during the working week is running short, and requestedaction may be pushed back to the following week, or even forgottenabout.Best Practice: Focus leisure and weekend notifications during thesekey weekend planning days.FridayPros: Studies indicate fewer total emails sent compared to the restof the week, increasing visibility among the myriad other messages.Cons: People hurry to leave the office early, and may not take timeto view non-work related emails.Best Practice: Send emails early in the day to give consumers moretime to take action. An unopened email from Friday will fall to thebottom of an inbox on Monday, and is often discarded.WeekendsPros: People check emails on weekends, too, so weekends may haveuntapped potential.Cons: A weekend email may seem overly-intrusive to some people.Best Practice: If possible, try to avoid Sundays and focus onSaturdays, which may have a better response rate.Although Jenn’s points make perfect sense and I can see the rationalebehind them, they are based on her own individual experiences and noton your market or customers, so basing your email strategy on it wouldbe a risk.It is entirely possible for you to be left surprised by your own test resultsand for them to contradict everything that you thought might have beenthe case prior to your testing – this is exactly what happened to meduring some testing I conducted in 2009 with a home shopping client.This experiment lasted several weeks and the results were significant.Historically, we had always distributed our emails on a Thursday or Wednesday.However, after conducting a 6 week test it was clear that Friday, Saturday andSunday were by far the better days to send our emails. In fact, there was a49.5% uplift when distributing email on a Saturday when comparedto Thursday.
  13. 13. 24 256. Testing and resultsHowever, before you delve into a robust programme of testing youshould consider and analyse your previous subject headers and see ifyou can identify any trends that might have driven an increase inopen, click or conversion rates. These learnings might not give youthe definitive answer but they will give you some clue as to whatyou might want to test moving forward.The first step when it comes to email testing is to divide your dataup into test cells. Personally, I’m not a massive advocate of theclassic A/B test as I find it doesn’t give you as much flexibility as anA/B/C/D test does. Make sure that the cells are randomly split as youneed to ensure there is no bias.In addition to that you need to make sure the split email creativesare exactly the same, except for the subject header or ‘From’ name.It is also vitally important that the tests are sent out at exactly thesame time and on the same day. Any deviance in this, even a coupleof hours, will undoubtedly result in the results being skewed.Subject header length, copy style, tone of voice can all be testedusing a simple testing matrix, as can incentives and brand names.For example:Cell 1. Brand name and more than 40 charactersCell 2. No brand name and less than 40 charactersCell 3. Brand name and less than 40 charactersCell 4. Hold out groupThe ‘From’ name, the subject header’s length, its content and the time you send youremail will all undoubtedly affect the performance of your email. However, there isn’ta secret formula that guarantees success.There isn’t a one size fits all solution. I’mafraid the only way you can optimise the performance of your email’s first impressionis to test.However, the results from a single test might not necessarily beconclusive and it would be dangerous to take these results andassume that they would be suitable to run for the whole programme.Tests need to be run over a series of campaigns.When determining the successful subject header it needs to bejudged on your most valuable metric e.g. revenue, downloads orregistrations. It most certainly should not be the opening rate asalthough it might drive more openers, it might not necessarily drivethe most demand.6. Testing and results (continued)
  14. 14. 26 27Returnpath – www.returnpath.netGoodmail – www.goodmailsystems.comEmail marketing council blog – www.spammcop.net8. Further reading and useful links7. ConclusionAchieving optimum open rates is no easy feat, but it can be done aslong as the right influencing factors for open rate success areestablished and made to work together effectively.The key factors thatneed to be focused on include the ‘From’ name, subject header, previewpanel and timing of when an email enters an inbox.In addition, it is also important to be mindful of the outside influencesthat can dictate the success and open rate of your email.These includecustomer relationships, a factor that can be split into engaged andnon-engaged, and managed to some extent by tailoring subjectheaders.The second, more complicated, outside influence is customercircumstances an area that has just too many variables to becompletely overcome. However, it can be marginally managed bydistributing emails on particular days and times that are known tohave better opening success rates for your target market.Then, once you have worked on your opening rate key factors andconsidered the outside influences, it is time to do one final thing: test,test and then test again. Unfortunately, there isn’t a secret formula thatoptimises the performance of all email programmes.The only way toguarantee a successful opening rate is to monitor and test factors suchas subject header, copy style and tone of voice, and then identify anytrends that have driven an increase for that unique email.Of course, the results from a single test are very rarely conclusive;multiple tests are often necessary over a series of email campaigns.Yes, this may be a long and laborious process, but one that is necessaryto achieve the opening rates you desire.
  15. 15. Red C, Anchorage 1, Anchorage Quay, Salford Quays, Manchester M50 3YL