Sarah Taylor
Sarah Taylor 19 April 2018

How time-based email marketing can significantly improve customer engagement

It is now more important than ever before for marketers and brands to ensure they are GDPR compliant, with the deadline for implementation fast approaching. After 25th May 2018, companies can only engage with customers who have given their explicit permission for organisations to engage with them. However, this permission will not be easily granted either, as brands will have to provide “legitimate reasons” for requiring consumer data.

GDPR isn’t reinventing the wheel as such, but rather, changing how we use the wheel. Essentially, the power balance between brand and consumer will now be in favour of the consumer, opening up a new set of challenges for brands whose reservoirs of customer data may be rendered obsolete. As a result, marketers are likely to face a shrinkage in their database as consumers use the opportunity to deny explicit consent to remain on these databases.

Therefore, brands now need to focus on avoiding unsubscribes and the time remaining will be crucial in determining how many customers these brands will be able to maintain. This new reality means completely upending the established mass-email digital marketing campaigns, in favour of more targeted and engaging approaches, sent at the right time.

Gone are the days when personalised content was all a marketer needed to win their customers over. Today, the emphasis is on getting the right content to the right person at the right time to maintain and increase brand affinity and customer engagement.

Don’t let your work go to waste

Statistically, more than 70 per cent of first interactions with a brand are also the last, but the GDPR can be seen as an opportunity to change this. By analysing the optimum time at which consumers open and engage with email marketing and the times when they are most likely to hit unsubscribe, marketers can tailor their email marketing to increase engagement with their customers and maintain a valuable database.

SmartFocus analysed 1.4 billion marketing emails sent to customers in 2016 and 2017 and identified the best times for brands to communicate with consumers measured against the number of unsubscribes, and the level of engagement from customers.

When the time is right

The research revealed that consumers are most receptive to marketing communications at the beginning of the working week, with peak engagement on Tuesdays. However, this doesn’t apply throughout the day, with specific time periods at which consumers will be more receptive to their incoming emails. Constant email traffic throughout the day doesn’t equate to constant engagement.

To minimise unsubscribes, the worst time of day to send emails is between 11:00am and 12:15pm. Customers were least receptive during this late morning/early lunch time period, and the number of unsubscribes from marketing communication peaked during this time.

On the other hand, the research revealed that the best time of day to send marketing messages was between 5pm and 6.30pm. Not only did this time bracket lead to fewer unsubscribes, but it also benefitted from a “long tail” of evening engagement.

Reaching demographics

To achieve truly personalised content that maintains engagement, it is important to consider the age, region and gender of your audience and how these factors influence the engagement rate of consumers with your brand. When drilling into these, it becomes apparent that there is a marked difference.

When looking at email engagement between women and men, there is a definite trend towards immediate engagement with men. The best time to engage with men is between 4pm and 5.30pm. Conversely, women tend to engage with their emails later after receiving them, typically between 8pm and 9.30pm.

Talking bout’ my generation

Unsurprisingly, when analysing age ranges more widely, there is an evident generational difference between millennials (defined as 18-30 year olds) and other generations, possibly relating to the difference in lifestyles. For working millennials, the youngest demographic analysed in this research, the ideal time to engage with them is the mornings and late afternoons, up until 12:30pm. On the contrary, older consumers in their seventies and eighties, favour the daytime, specifically between 11am-12pm and 2pm-3pm.

Get to know your customer

The GDPR is an ideal opportunity for marketers and brands to re-strategise their marketing campaigns. Now that the power has gone to the consumer, it is vital to understand them, and go that step further to providing them with content which is not only personalised to their preferences but suits their email habits. In this way, brands are more likely to get the most out of their time and marketing efforts by having a more engaged customer base, which will reduce the risk of unsubscribes ahead of the GDPR.

Personalisation is vital, but timing of email marketing communications is also increasingly crucial for successful campaigns. Tailored content sent at the right time will prove that a brand truly understands the customer, and in the long term this means that for well-prepared brands, the GDPR will be more of a customer relations opportunity, than a drawback.

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