• Best Practices

The Best Time to Send Holiday Emails - Investigated

Natalie Hays
5 min read

In the email marketing space, you'll hear a lot about the best time to send emails around cyber Monday, Black Friday, Christmas, and any other important date during the holiday season. For something that sounds so simple, it appears to be an elusive white whale for email marketers. So how do you crack the code for your email marketing campaigns to get the best open rates and click rates this holiday season? 

First off, there is no one size fits all solution to the best time to send holiday emails. A lot of your email sending success is going to hinge on the composition of your email list. Even then, you can't send an email to an entire email list that will land at the top of the inbox for everyone.

But before we dive into this, let's first go over the ideal time frames to send any promotional holiday emails. While there might not be a best time for email campaigns, there is an ideal time frame. 

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It's not about a day; it's about a time frame

Think about your typical holiday, be it Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas - how many emails are in your inbox by the end of that day? The average user gets around 200 email messages a day, and that's just your typical day. During the holidays, you're competing with dozens, if not hundreds of other brands trying to be top of mind for potential customers.

A snappy subject line only goes so far in the way of getting someone to open your promotional emails, and if it's sent on a holiday when everyone else is sending - recipients might not even see it. That being said, the days leading up to or after a given holiday can be more easily won than the holiday itself. 

 At that point, look towards your current email marketing sending strategies - which day of the week is your marketing emails opened and engaged with the most? If it happens to fall several days before or after the holiday, schedule your email sending for that day over the holiday itself.

Should the holiday fall on your best day, consider if your email could be sent out the week prior. Sending emails the week after can lose some potential customers, so try to keep post-holiday campaigns within the first two days after a holiday if possible.

What about the best time of day to send email?

Optimizing for what time of the day you should send your emails is tricky. Considering that most e-commerce retailers are working with customers in multiple time zones, old-fashioned email blasts that are sent out all at the same time just don't cut it anymore.

An email newsletter sent on Christmas eve about holiday shopping could easily be sent Christmas day for some of your recipients, leaving any timely messaging sounding off. Ideally, you want to be sending email during the time of day your recipients are most likely checking their email.

Sending by timezones is a well known best practice at this point for senders, and if you aren't doing so already, now is a great time to start. However, sending at the right time is more complicated than time-zone based sending. 

Sending at the right time for the recipient, not the email list

While time frames and time zones are great for email sending, there is only so much you can do to try and reach most of the recipients in a given email list at any time. Unfortunately, some time frames aren't ideal for every person on your list, so your black Friday email can end up going unnoticed, leading to fewer opens and a lower click-through rate. 

That's where a tool like Send Time Optimization comes in. 

Send Time Optimization uses machine learning to analyze your recipients' email engagement data to determine the optimal time to send them an email. From there, Mailgun sends your email at the optimal time for each recipient. That places your emails at the top of the inbox, so you're always top of mind. You get to enjoy higher open rates, while your recipients get to enjoy never missing an email. If you're interested in trying it out, you can sign up for early access now

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Last updated on December 23, 2019

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