About 78% of U.S. consumers say that texting is the primary activity they do on their phones in a given day, a higher percentage than other daily activities such as checking social media, consuming content, using email, and making phone calls. However, a poorly timed text message from a brand they love may not only disrupt their day, it may also result in them no longer wanting to hear from that brand again.
At Vibes, not only do we help our customers grow the number of consumers they acquire into an SMS marketing list but we also help them effectively engage with and retain these consumers. A key way we achieve the latter is by tracking and evaluating click-thru rates (CTR) and SMS subscriber opt-out rates.
When we work to help our customers increase their SMS message CTRs and SMS subscriber retention rates, one of the first things we take a look at is send times.
We conducted this research to try to find out if there is a universally perfect time of the day for brands to send SMS messages. Here’s what we found.
Does Send-Time Actually Matter?
Yes, it does. By not evaluating send times and how they correlate with the success of your SMS marketing messages you leave a lot of money on the table. In doing this research we found that:
An estimated single percentage point increase in click-thru rates for a single text message is worth $0.30 per SMS subscriber.1
- What does this mean? For example, if you send 1 text message to a database of 500,000 SMS subscribers the CTR increase of 1 percentage point amounts to an increase of $150,000 attributed to that sent text message.
Through a recent revenue analysis we found that a single SMS subscriber is worth $33.2
- What does this mean? For example, if you were to see a higher-than-average opt-out rate of 0.30% from a list of 500,000 subscribers that equates to $49,500 in lost revenue per a single text message sent to your entire SMS subscriber list.
Best Time to Send SMS Messages
This research concluded that 5pm and 6pm were the best times-of-sends for improving click-thru rates and decreasing opt-outs. The performance of these times was likely driven by SMS subscribers most interested in checking their texts after their workday.
Now let’s dive further into our findings and the methodology for how we came to this conclusion.
Initially, we looked at all text messages sent by Vibes customers over the last 2 years to see what the click-thru rates and opt-out rates were for each hour on each day of the week. However, we noticed that certain send-times were dominated by bigger customers who have a significantly large subscriber base - and significantly higher message volume as a result - which watered down the results of the remaining customers, reducing the representativeness of our dataset.
This is what drove our decision to instead sample every Vibes customer equally, taking a random 1 million messages sent during the last 2 years from each company and once again looking at click-thru rates and opt out rates for each hour on each day of the week for these messages.
The time zone of each recipient was taken into account to ensure that the numbers we got accurately reflected the receptiveness of SMS subscribers receiving text messages at those times.
These are a few of our key takeaways from our research.
The first thing we looked at was how often text messages were sent at each time on each day (see Figure 1). With a large portion of our customer portfolio being retailers it was no surprise to us that there was a trend of sending messages in the morning hours, with 9am - 11am being the most popular send-times.
It makes logical sense from a business perspective: the earlier in the day a consumer learns about an offer or promotion from a brand they love, the more hours they have left in the day to act on it.
But we also saw a concentration of text messages sent between 6pm - 7pm, leading us to believe some of our customers expect their SMS subscribers to be more receptive to their text messages after the workday.
Figure 2 below charts click-thru rate performance for each hour of each day of the week. The results are color coded for easier readability. Green indicates stronger CTR and red indicate weaker CTR.
Out of the most popular send-time hours of 9am - 11am, 10am proved to be the most popular. However, it was 5pm and 6pm send-times that performed the best, with 6pm beating 10am by almost 6% and 5pm beating 10am by a solid 18%.
The results in Figure 3 below are color-coded for easier readability. Green indicates opt-out rates that were either average or slightly-lower-than average.
The lowest opt-out rates occurred for send times at 9am, 6pm, and 7pm. You’ll also see that despite performing well in click-thru rate measurement, 10am also had one of the higher opt-out rates.
*CTR from 12pm Tuesday excluded from calculation because of a single customer that had a large volume send that improperly skewed the average.
How to Decide the Best Time to Send Text Messages
While this research can certainly educate you and provide you with some general guidance, there are elements unique to you and your consumer base that should inform when it’s the best time to send text messages for your brand.
To take a step back: a mobile phone is a mission-driven device that users rely on in order to take action on something. Similarly, SMS is a mission-driven channel. There are 3 key questions you can ask yourself:
1. Who Are You Targeting?
A Millennial, for example, will be targeted much differently than, say, parents of Millennials.
This is why getting to know your SMS subscribers is essential. At Vibes we’ve architected a sophisticated Analytics & Insights suite so that our customers can easily understand message performance tied to every subscriber, in order to determine what content is most engaging - and with whom - in their subscriber audience.
We also have CTR benchmarks that are industry-specific as well as based on the age of the customers' SMS programs. This gives them more precise metrics to measure their program’s performance and how much they might be able to improve their SMS engagement rates.
2. Where Are Your Customers Located?
Nothing feels more personal than being clued in about something you care about that you may not have known otherwise. And on the flip side, nothing is more frustrating than missing out on an opportunity because you were told too late.
Targeting by location can ensure your customers are only being sent relevant information at the correct time. Through Vibes’ segmentation and targeting features, customers often filter down their messages by zip code in order to target their messages by qualifiers such as proximity to a nearby store and events happening in their area.
3. Is This Message Content Urgent?
How urgent is the message you want to send? Is there a limited-time sale with limited inventory that could sell out fast? What about an alert about fraudulent activity detected on an account? Considering what you want your customers to do in response to the message will help you determine the best timeframe for engaging with them.
If you’re messaging with intention then timing matters. A lot. So timeliness and deliverability of your text messages is essential. Sometimes just a couple minutes delay can mean the difference between a good customer experience and a quick response to opt out of your SMS program.
It is very possible that for certain messages the time doesn’t really matter, which enables you to be more nimble with your message sends (all while continuing to keep SMS compliance guidelines in mind and only send within commercial texting times, which are 8am to 9pm based on the recipient’s time zone).
However, if you only think the time does not matter, your data could tell you otherwise. That’s why we recommend that all of our customers use their subscriber engagement data to determine the most ideal times of send for their subscribers.
Executing SMS Send-Time Strategies With Industry Expertise
It’s not lost on us that analyzing and understanding data can take a lot of work. This is why all of Vibes’ customers receive continuous strategic guidance from a dedicated Customer Strategy team who work to provide data-backed recommendations tailored to each of our customers for improving the outcomes of their unique mobile marketing programs (starting with optimizing send-times).
By guiding our customers to experiment with various send times until they found what was working best for their SMS subscriber audience, we’ve seen them improve their average click-thru rates by up to 50%, and improve their SMS subscriber retention rates by an average 20%.
Since we know this space is always evolving, we are constantly crunching the numbers to ensure we’re providing the best and most current recommendations to our customers on an ongoing basis.
Identifying 6pm as the best-performing send-time for improving click-thru and retention rates is not a prescriptive recommendation for when to start sending text messages going forward. Rather it offers a great starting point for experimenting and learning, especially for those who are new to SMS marketing and don’t have any historical data to refer to when making send-time decisions.
Companies should make it a priority to experiment with send times to find the one that yields the best results for them. With different businesses come different audiences that likely check their phones at different times of the day. The key is reaching them at the times they’re more likely to be engaged instead of irritated.
To learn more or if you’re ready to see what it means to take your SMS marketing to the next level, contact us today and we’ll be in touch with you in a relevant and timely manner.
1$0.30/subscriber derived from linear regression analysis of Vibes customers that found a CTR increase of 1 percentage point correlated with an increase of $0.30 in revenue that was attributed to a single SMS message sent to the customers' SMS subscribers
2$33 subscriber lifetime value based on an average 12-month subscriber tenure in an SMS program and revenue attributed to the same 12-month period