Should you schedule email campaigns for the top of the hour or later?

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If you’ve ever scheduled an email campaign, you’ve probably noticed that most platforms will default the minute of your scheduled message to “:00”. The result, as we found a few years ago, was more campaigns being sent at the top of the hour than later. But what effect does this have on open rates? Here’s what we’re seeing.

The Goods
To find our answer we looked at over 20,000 email campaigns sent to a combined 800,000,000 recipients during the last couple years by U.S. hotels, resorts, and attractions. Each campaign was sent to at least 5,000 recipients. We grouped these campaigns in 10-minute increments and found the open rate (left axis, blue bars) and volume as a percentage of total sends (right axis, gray bars).

As expected, volume peaked during the first ten minutes of the hour (e.g., between 9:00 and 9:09) before staying consistently distributed throughout the remaining 50 minutes. Open rates showed an inverse correlation. After starting low during the first ten minutes, open rates quickly rose to their highest point in the following ten minutes before dropping steadily for the remaining 50.

What This Means
This is an interesting result but not quite what we expected. On the one hand, yes, it makes sense that fewer emails in the inbox would correlate to higher attention for each one. But why would performance then drop while that volume remains fairly constant? Perhaps there’s a human behavior around time and hours that we’re not accounting for

But even if the consistency of the decline is nothing but a fluke, we can have a bit of confidence in the response to the question we started with. Specifically, instead of scheduling emails for the top of the hour, change that “00” to a “10” or “15” and see what happens. Even better, do a split test and let us know how it goes.

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