Timing is key to achieving higher engagement and fewer unsubscribes

More than 70% of first interactions with a brand are also the last. This statement should be more than enough for brands to get into gear and re-strategise the way that they are sending email marketing messages. With the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) deadline date just around the corner, the time remaining is extremely vital if brands are to ensure that they secure customers before they have to re-consent.

In less than two weeks, the power balance will be redistributed back into the hands of the consumer, opening up an entirely new set of data challenges for marketers and brands. Essentially, customer databases accumulated from years in the making will be rendered unusable, and brands will only be able to engage with customers who have given their explicit permission. This permission will not be easily granted either, as brands will have to provide “legitimate reasons” for requiring such data, and naturally, consumers will be less willing to offload their personal data to any brand that asks for it.

Although the directive will completely upend the established trend of mass-email digital marketing campaigns, as these could potentially breach the regulations, GDPR must be seen as an opportunity for brands to refine their approach to marketing and their use of customer data.

With this in mind, marketers can no longer rely solely on personalisation as the key to success post-GDPR, although it will undoubtedly remain crucial in providing tailored content. Now, the emphasis must be placed on delivering personalised communications, at the right time and at scale across all channels.

Don’t let your time go to waste

It goes without saying that brands invest an immeasurable amount of time and effort in refining their email marketing campaigns to create content that is targeted specifically to consumer preferences. However, too often than not, this bespoke content is going to waste because brands are missing the peak of their customers’ engagement levels, leaving many emails to go unopened.

Whilst there is no single magic answer, there are various optimum times, according to age and gender of consumer, which should be considered carefully and seriously.

The good, the bad and the ugly

SmartFocus recently analysed more than 1.4 billion email marketing messages sent to customers (and would be customers) in 2016 and 2017. The study denied the common belief that consumers engage most with emails received towards the end of the week. In fact, the results revealed that consumers are more likely to engage with their emails on certain days of the week, with Tuesday receiving the highest engagement, followed by Monday and Sunday.

More specifically, consumers proved to be more responsive to their emails in the evening, especially from 5pm. Emails that were sent out during this time bracket received less unsubscribes and a higher engagement rate throughout the evening. In contrast, marketing messages which were sent between 11am and 12.15pm were not only subject to the most unsubscribes than any other time of the day, but also opened and read the least during this time period.

Millennial mornings 

Within these wider timeframes, brands must also cater to more specific subcategories – generational differences being a significant one. Predictably, there is a clear distinction between email preferences of young professionals and older retirees in their golden years.

The study revealed that for the older category (defined as 70 and over), sending emails out between 11am-noon and 2pm-3pm will result in the most engagement. There is also a dip in engagement from emails sent out in the evening, which continues throughout the night until the early morning.

This long tail of engagement is shared with millennials (defined as between 18-30) who, surprisingly, prefer the mornings up until 12.30pm. After this time, click-through rates for young consumers dip, with the least optimum time being after 2pm.

The differences in gender

The survey also revealed that there are distinct differences in email habits between men and women. Whilst men read and engage with their marketing messages soon after they open them, women read their messages later in the day or evening. Brands should consider these differences in their marketing strategies, sending their emails to women between 8pm and 9.30pm, and men between 4pm and 5.30pm.

 Time is of the essence

The ramifications at stake for brands who are not in keeping with the regulation requirements will face fines of up to four per cent of their global turnover, or £20 million, whichever is highest. Evidently, this will affect companies of all sizes, but for smaller companies in particular, this could be extremely detrimental. However, compliance is just one aspect that brands must keep front of mind as we approach the GDPR deadline date.

Avoiding unsubscribes is equally as important, and a definite determining factor for brands who will succeed post-GDPR. In order to reach customers at their most responsive time of the day, brands must think deeper and more strategically about when they are sending their marketing communications. By sending content which is personalised to their retail preferences, as well as their email preferences, brands will reap the rewards of receiving more engagements, appreciative customers, and most importantly, less unsubscribes.



By Sarah Taylor, CMO, SmartFocus

European Data Protection Summit will take place on June 3rd in Central London and will play host to 800 DPO’s, Security Professionals and senior business decision makers looking for; information, updates, clarity, advice and solutions. For more information, visit the website.