Why Your Send Time Optimization Doesn’t Work (and What To Do About It)

The ugly truth is that most Send Time Optimization is overly simplistic and easily fooled.

Does your STO seem suspiciously accurate? Do you send out a blast, and 3-5 seconds later, your contacts have opened it? "Boy, we’re really nailing this," you think.

Well, not exactly.

Chances are your Send Time Optimization is more style than substance.  Most STO models look like it’s doing something when it’s actually not. 

Why Your STO Doesn't Work


1. Polluted open data. The dirty secret of email marketing is that a lot of open data is polluted. If your STO just relies on the open signal from the Email Service Provider, that may not be accurate. Some ESPs are automatically opening and scanning all incoming emails when they arrive. This is especially true at the enterprise level. The more contacts you have at large enterprises, the higher percentage of your data is fake.

This problem is about to get much, much worse. Apple’s recent announcement of its Mail Privacy Protection, rolling out on iOS and macOS this fall, will skew up to 50% MORE of your open data, depending on your contacts’ demographics. Apple will open and scan every email it receives, sending back false open signals and anonymizing the recipients’ IP addresses.

That data won’t just be polluted; that’s bury-it-in-the-desert-level toxicity.

Conversely, some ESPs never send the open signals back to the sender. Even for emails that are opened and clicked by the recipients. What could be a solid lead is just a blank void in your data.

Motiva's Send Time AI goes deeper than just the open signals. It also looks at past click behavior for contacts that have been run through another Motiva step, such as our multivariate Message Testing or Simple email blast. The more times Motiva has seen the contact and their behavior, the more accurate the predictions.

2. Poor modeling. Let’s say that you have high-quality open data. That’s great! But if the STO’s modeling is weak (or, in most cases, non-existent), then you aren’t getting the most out of that quality data.

For instance, one common STO “model” is to log the last open signal received for your contact and assume that’s the best time to send. Even if it’s an accurate open signal at the time, another harsh truth is that your contacts’ open behavior is constantly changing. Do you open your email at the same time every day?

Motiva's Send Time AI knows that humans change. One minute your work-from-home contact checks email at 2 am; the next, they're back in the office reading emails at 9 am. Our AI collects all these (anonymized) behaviors and uses them to predict the best send time for each of your contacts individually.

3. Using Segment Averages. It’s certainly possible that your contacts at organizations of similar sizes all open their emails more or less at the same time.  But it’s much more likely that those organizations have similar configurations in their email servers, sending back false open data.

Averaging sacrifices accuracy for convenience. Even if they aren’t all identically configured, there is certainly enough pollution in those open signals to ensure that any attempt at segment averaging will be wrong.

Motiva Send Time AI analyzes data on a per-contact level. As a result, the optimized send time is based on that contact's individual behavior, not their industry, company size, or job title.

4. Too short of an evaluation time period. It's tempting to want to cut corners and make assumptions. Surely no one reads emails outside of business hours, right? Or you really just need to get this email blast going, and you're short on time.

But the point of STO is to get your message in front of your contact when it's most convenient for them. Restricting send times to certain days of the week or times of the day means you're running a real risk of missing your contact's best time. It defeats the purpose of STO.

The overarching goal of marketing optimization is to wow your contact. You want to send them messages that resonate and at a time that's best for them. You want them to see your email arrive in their inbox and their response to be, "How do they know me so well?" You won't achieve that goal with just any STO platform. You need Motiva's Send Time AI.

Check out this article to learn more about our per-contact Send Time AI.

Want to take a deeper dive into Motiva's Send Time AI? Download our Ultimate Guide to Send Time AI

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