Although the technology has evolved over the past 10 years, the fundamentals that make email marketing effective have not really changed.

When is the best time to send an email?

Prior to smartphones, for many ecommerce operations the best times to send emails were Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, typically mid-morning or mid-afternoon, all during a standard workweek. Avoiding Mondays and Fridays was important, since recipients were either just starting their workweek or getting ready to end it. Avoiding early morning was important, too, as individuals cleaned out their inbox of overnight emails without, presumably, reading them.

Since smartphones are now dominant — representing most email opens — the timing of email sends has become more complex. It depends on the email’s call to action, and the type of organization sending it. For emails from ecommerce companies, sending midweek still provides strong results. However, mobile shopping picks up considerably during evenings and weekends. Thus sending during those times can also provide strong results.

For an event or time-sensitive offer, sending a reminder email close to the deadline (while still allowing time for the recipient to take action) typically performs the best, recognizing that individuals are natural procrastinators.

Moreover, the sender’s industry greatly impacts deployment times. For example, restaurants and brick-and-mortar stores typically benefit from sending emails on Thursday evenings, Friday evenings, and on weekends to drive traffic to their locations.

What type of offer should I have?

This is a complex question, with many factors to consider.

  • What is the positioning of the product or brand? Usually luxury brands avoid heavy discounts and frequent promotions.
  • What other promotions or offers are circulating? You may have specific offers for affiliates, display ads, social ads ,and email. Looking across all channels at all offers is important. When presented with an offer code option at checkout, shoppers may simply search your brand for offers and use the first discount code they see, which could be different from the one that drove them to your site to begin with.
  • What are the financial goals? Discounting too much can hurt profits.
  • What is your offer-saturation threshold? There is a point, typically, when sending offers or discounts does not improve sales.

Once you’ve addressed those questions, test your offers. Which provide the highest lift in sales and margins? Based on my own tests, an offer for a straight percentage off a low order quantity typically performs the best.

How often should I send emails?

The frequency of email campaigns should reflect your segmentation strategy as well as your saturation point, when recipients start to unsubscribe at a higher rate and conversion metrics plateau or fall. While this will differ greatly for each business, most ecommerce retailers send emails no less than one per week and as often as daily. Many brands send two to three times per week. To determine your company’s frequency, test different options and monitor their metrics.

How do I measure performance of my emails?

Setting a specific goal or objective for your email campaign sounds easy. But many retailers struggle with this concept. Email performance metrics typically include the following.

  • Open rates.
  • Click rates.
  • Traffic to website.
  • Volume of offer-code redemptions.
  • Conversions.
  • Repeat purchases.

What constitutes success in the above metrics will vary by brand. But measuring the performance of email is becoming more difficult with the complex shopping behavior of most individuals, who often use multiple devices and offers prior to making a purchase decision. Regardless, setting benchmarks and tracking campaigns across those benchmarks over time will provide good overall performance monitoring.

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