Why ‘Open Time’ Beats ‘Send Time’ and How to Use It to Send Better Email

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As an email marketer, you want your messages to show up when subscribers will see them first – at the top of the inbox instead of buried under a mountain of competing messages. Figuring out when to send emails so subscribers will see them is a starting point for email optimization. But if you stop there, you’ll miss a huge opportunity to use this data for greater segmentation and personalization. 

That’s what will make your email break through cluttered inboxes and attract attention and engagement.

Aren’t send time and open time the same?

Not quite. Send-time data uses message opens as a proxy for checking email and suggests general sending times when subscribers are most likely to see them. But this method could mislead you into basing important decisions on faulty data:

  • Email opens are notoriously inaccurate. An email message will register an open only if the subscriber enables images, either automatically or manually. That activates a tracking pixel in that calls back to the server to register the open. 

If the subscriber doesn’t enable images, the email won’t send the ping, and the open won’t get recorded. You could end up missing a big chunk of data if a sizable number of subscribers seldom or never enable images.

  • Send time doesn’t measure email performance. People check email all day long, and often on multiple platforms – mobile, desktop, tablet, smart watch. If people are in their inboxes all day long, how do you decide which of the five or 10 times they check email will be the best for engagement, and is that true every time?

That’s why you need to factor in “moment of open” data. It detects and reports opens based on proprietary elements within the email that get activated when a subscriber opens the message. 

How open-time data can optimize for accuracy and engagement

Send time tells you when someone opens your email. (See the note above about inaccuracy and under-reporting). Open-time data, integrated with dynamic content, opens the door to deeper segmentation and personalization that can drive the results you want – more clicks that lead to purchases, registrations or whatever action your email should deliver.

You can use open-time data in many ways to drive greater insight and engagement, but these three use cases illustrate how it works:

1. Make email personalization more personal and urgency more urgent.

Adding a first name to the subject line or message copy barely moves the needle these days for engagement. What does? A dynamic content module that changes time-of-day greetings (from “Good morning, Jacinta” for someone who opens an email at 9 a.m. to “Good evening, Jacinta” at 9 p.m.) 

Open-time data also helps you get customers moving by using temporal terms (“today,” “tonight,” “tomorrow”) instead of expiration dates, which can be more abstract in the imagination.

2. Test to find the highest engagement time. 

Many people check their email first thing in the morning, even before they stumble out of bed. But is that when they’re buying?

Suppose you send a juicy upgrade offer for a mobile phone service. People might see and open your email at 9 a.m. but not be prepared to act on it.

If you set up sending times using open-time data, you might learn your email gets more traction when your recipients are on their lunch hours or in the early evening, when they have time to consider it seriously.  

3. Keep customers updated on key developments.

This can be a game-changer this holiday season, especially if expert predictions come true about a surge in online ordering, home delivery or curbside/in-store pickup. 

Suppose you send a shipping notice at 3 a.m., based on STO, and your customer opens it at 2 p.m. In the intervening team, the package got delayed at noon. That 3 a.m. email is out of date, but your customer won’t know it based on your email.

Using open-time info, the customer who opens the email at 2 p.m. will see the updated content showing the revised delivery date. 

Making this data work for you

We’re making it easier and more effective to access and tap into this data for your email campaigns and journeys with our new tool, Insights. Want to learn more? Request a personalized demo!

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Brittany is a digital marketer with experience building an online presence for both B2B and B2C brands. As the S. Content Marketing Manager for Liveclicker, Brittany plans and produces effective communication across channels, creating valuable content that helps clients and prospects harness the power of moment-of-open personalization.

Brittany King
Author

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