Can You Guess my Birthday? Email Timing Insights

Last month, I celebrated my birthday. And from my inbox, it was evident that I love two things: food and travel (and a bit of shopping too). A view of my "birthday inbox" also provides some interesting insights about the timing (and the offers) of birthday email programs. Bonus content: There's also an exciting product enhancement in Inbox Insight showcased below that will be able to help you look at what time of day emails are deployed.

1. Deployment date matters. From the following images, you can see that there were definite spikes in my inbox based on my birthday. So not only were there more birthday emails in my inbox on these days, these emails compete with every other email in my inbox on those days. Consider testing your birthday emails on a date that makes your email stand out. Sending your birthday email on a date where you can brighten your subscriber's day but stand out from the noise might results in a lift in engagement and conversion.

2. Timing matters. On the two days that I received the majority of my birthday emails (May 22 and May 29), most companies sent these emails early in the day. While it might be nice to see several birthday wishes in my inbox right when I awake, they might get lost in the shuffle with regular emails. Consider testing the timing of your birthday emails as these emails are not your typical promotions and might actually perform better sent later in the day. Outside of birthday emails, getting a handle on what time of day your competition is sending their emails can help inform your testing strategy and deployment plans.

3. Make the offer special. Birthdays happen once a year so be sure to provide your subscribers with something that makes them feel special. A free coffee, free wings or shake, and a complimentary room with a view make me feel special. Receiving the same coupon I receive on a regular basis does not.  While a special birthday offer likely increases the brand loyalty of your subscribers, receiving an offer claiming to be special does not. Don't have your birthday emails be an email that are actually detrimental to the view of your brand. Use this triggered email to drive loyalty, brand affinity, and encourage conversion.

4. Give subscribers time to redeem your offer. From the chart below, you can see the offer expiration dates associated with my birthday offers. Most food venders gave me two weeks to redeem my offer. However, for other vendors, the expiration dates were all over the board. I received one offer that expired two weeks before I received the email and two companies sent me an email on May 29th with offers that expired on May 31st and June 1st.  When developing your birthday program, ensure your send dates align with your offer. If you offer is going to expire at the end of the month, deploy your emails with plenty of time for your subscribers to redeem the offer. In addition, be sure to understand how your subscribers interact with your brand. The hotels and Rent the Runway gave me more time to redeem my offer as these types of purchases aren't usually made quickly.

5. Use the subject line to your advantage. From the list above, you can see that the phrase "Happy Birthday" is definitely the go-to subject line. Once again, you need to stand out in the inbox and make sure the subject line entices your subscriber to open the email. Test the subject lines to see if subject lines that outline the exact offer  (e.g., "Happy Birthday to YOU! Take $10 off!") works better than a subject line that teases the offer ("A Birthday Gift For You"). 

6. Make it easy. With people reading their emails on the go, it is even more important to make the redemption of your offer easy. I was all excited to treat my kids after their baseball game. As I sat there taking in the riveting game looking for my coupon, I found out I had to print out the coupon to redeem the offer. Guess what? I didn't drive out of my way to treat the boys.

7. Test a reminder email. Rent the Runway was the only company to send a reminder email. And this email was the only email I received in the middle of the month - a time when no other senders sent me any emails related to my birthday. Consider sending a reminder email as part of your birthday email program - especially for purchases that might take a bit more encouragement.

8. Review your email program. Triggered programs are harder to originally deploy, but once they are up and running, they do the heavy lifting for you. However, it can be easy to ignore them. Don't forget to check in on your birthday programs regularly. Do the links still work? Is the offer still enticing? Do your recipients have enough time to actually redeem the offer?

9. Reward subscriber responses. On May 13th, I received an email from West Elm with the following subject line, "Did you sign up for your birthday surprise?" You can imagine that I thought this was likely an offer for my birthday! However, it was an email requesting information so they could send me a 15% off coupon during my birthday month. I, of course, filled out the form and received a confirmation email letting them know they received my information. Unfortunately, I'll have to wait until next May to receive my birthday offer. If possible, when rolling out a new birthday program, consider manually deploying the special offer to subscribers that may have birthdays you just missed with your new program.

10. What's my birthday? Can you guess from my birthday calendar?

Birthday emails aside, the inbox is a busy place. Not only do your emails compete for attention against your direct competition, your emails compete for subscriber attention against every email in your subscribers' inboxes.  And with subscriber email behavior changing due the proliferation of mobile devices, this makes the day of week and the timing of your email sends even more critical. To help battle this challenge, Return Path's Inbox Insight product can show the date and day of week your competition and other brands are sending email. Soon, Inbox Insight will be able to even better understand your competition's sending patterns by surfacing the time of day we first see the email arrive in a subscriber's inbox.  Stay tuned for an announcement of this exciting functionality and how you can use additional email intelligence to help you improve your email program strategy.