Send Time Optimization: A simple guide for email marketers
Written by
Jasmine Handa

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Send Time Optimization: A simple guide for email marketers

Published : March 6, 2023

In email marketing, as in life, timing is everything.

The average person receives close to 120 emails a day, and you can be sure that they don’t open every one of them.

The average open rate, across emails sent by 20+ industries, is just about 16%. In other words, 84% of the emails go unopened.

A major factor determining which emails are opened is the time that they are sent. For example, if someone generally doesn’t check their emails before noon, an email sent at 10 a.m. will get ‘buried’ in the onslaught of emails that land later and appear at the top of the inbox.

An ill-timed email won’t even be noticed, let alone opened. Mails sent at the wrong time lead to lower open and click-through rates.

The solution? Send Time Optimization, widely known as STO.

STO is about sending the same email to different users at different time slots, depending on when they are most likely to open them. Staggering the send time over 24 hours also ensures that the email gets placed as close as possible to the top of the inbox.

In this article, we explain the basics of STO,  the takeaways, and how you will be able to incorporate this highly effective practice into your email marketing campaigns.

How does STO work?

STO seeks to identify the best time to send marketing emails. Of course, the time differs based on customer location/time zone demographic, industry, habits, and lifestyle.

Generally, STO is undertaken with a marketing tool, such as Netcore Cloud’s AI-powered STO engine. You could research best practices and manually set up emails to be sent at certain times, but it would turn out to be tedious and mostly ineffective. Nobody understands your industry and customers the way an integrated STO tool does, with access to your customers’ interactions and behavior patterns. However, you would need to have at least 30 days of email campaign history of opens before deploying STO. It works based on the historical behavior data to determine the right send time.

Even though STO was considered a somewhat niche practice until a few years ago, it has grown to be widely adopted by email marketers across businesses and industries. A few findings from “Netcore’s Email Benchmark Report 2022  – a study of 100 billion emails” will establish this beyond doubt:

  • In 2021, we saw our clients from ten different industries use our STO feature compared to just one in 2020. Optimizing send time has become a focal point for companies to time their emails to perfection.
  • We witnessed double the open rates with STO for the IT services and travel companies.
  • The banking and media over-the-top (OTT) sectors have also benefited from an uplift in their open rates due to the use of STO.
  • The STO algorithms are being adjusted with other performance signals – like clicks – for more accuracy in reporting in a post-privacy world.

Factors affecting email send time

  • Demography: Your customers/users/subscribers’ age, gender, ethnicity, and demographic aspects influence when they will check emails. For example, younger people are likely to stay up late and check emails at night, as opposed to those above 40 years.
  • Time zone: Emails must be optimized to hit a user’s inbox in the ideal slot in their time zone. For example, if someone is in India, they must receive your email during their appropriate local time. This time would be different for someone checking emails in Belarus. The STO engine would ensure this . 
  • Customers’ industry/occupation: If someone works as a school teacher, they probably won’t check their emails until their lunch break or until they return home in the evening. STO considers user’s occupation when determining the optimal time to send campaign emails.
  • General habits: Some people like checking their emails in the morning, while others can’t imagine doing so until evening. STO observes and considers such behavioral patterns when deciding the best times to send emails.

AI-powered STO with Netcore Cloud

Driven by our in-house AI engine Raman, Netcore Cloud’s STO algorithms send your campaign emails at the apt moment – when individual users/recipients are most likely to be active and checking their inbox. The entire optimization process is managed and implemented automatically without human intervention.

The AI engine learns more about customer/recipient preferences from the beginning and throughout every new campaign. Using this wealth of deep data, it adjusts sending times so that the emails hit inboxes when they are most likely to be opened.

The engine also identifies the most active email openers and prioritizes sending emails to them first. This reduces the chances of emails landing in the Spam folders and keeps your spam score as low as possible.

Our STO mechanisms have a long history of helping companies like Myntra, airasia, GCash, R&B Fashion, ShippingCart, and Lamudi boost customer engagement, achieve desired responses, and improve the ROI of their email campaigns.

To know more, look at how airasia rewards achieved outstanding user engagement by leveraging Netcore Cloud’s email automation. They reached a 36% uplift in open rate and a 30% uplift in monthly active users.

Additionally, if you’re curious about the internal mechanics of our STO engine, you can read more technical details here: How Netcore Cloud developed the STO feature.

Summing up

The dual benefits of STO – gradually raising engagement and increasing brand equity within the user’s inbox – make it one of the most powerful tools in the marketer’s toolkit. By adjusting send times with each user’s habits and patterns, you get the best chance of getting your message through to people at the right time and without being obtrusive.

Netcore Cloud can supercharge your campaign ROI by honing email send times into a science. Give your emails the AI-driven leverage they need to get outstanding results.

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