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What should I consider when testing the best time to send my e-mail newsletter?

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While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of best time to send e-mail, there is some compelling new information available to help marketers understand what they should look for in a test.

Research from Ball State University provides a new perspective on the time of day question. BSU has a field research team that follows consumers for a full day and records what media participants are using, where they use it and for how long. Through this day-in-the life view of consumer behavior, they have provided insights on the different ways consumers interact with e-mail throughout the day.

Their research found working adults tend to log in to e-mail first thing in the morning and have the longest period of uninterrupted time in their inbox. As the day progresses, time in the inbox becomes more fragmented. This suggests that people are most likely to read your e-mail newsletter in the morning (between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.), whereas later in the day may be better for invitations to attend a seminar or download a white paper when people are in “quick-hit” mode.

The bottom line still comes down to evaluation of traditional metrics such as open and click-through rates to identify which time drive the most responses. That said, e-mail marketers should keep an eye on new metrics that provide additional insights. For example, Pivotal Veracity just introduced two new metrics to the industry, one of which measures the amount of time that transpires between when the message is deployed and when it is first seen by recipients in their e-mail client.

Testing is still imperative because times vary by mailer, but combining these new insights with traditional measurement tools will help determine the best time for your e-mail newsletter.

Morgan Stewart is director of research and strategy for ExactTarget (www.exacttarget.com), a provider of software, services and integrated solutions for e-mail communications.

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