SMS marketing can get incredibly expensive, so it's important that every message is adding value.
To that end, we took all the “best practices” we could find online for 'the best times and days to send SMS marketing messages for an e-commerce app,' and compared it to actual data for an actual app with over 3 million actual users.
How do you think they’ll do?
*Note: We're only using data from a single app here in order to keep the illustration simple, but we've seen these same patterns across all of our customers, which represent hundreds of millions of users across dozens of countries.
Ready? Let's go.
What are the best days and times to send SMS marketing messages for an eCommerce app?
Well, it depends on who you ask.
Here’s a super quick table I built showing the 'best times to send SMS marketing messages for an eCommerce app' from all of these different tools and vendors:
…and here’s a table showing what they recommended as the 'best days to send SMS marketing messages for eCommerce apps':
Why don't these match? How did they come up with this data?
You would think that data coming from 10 different sources would show some recurring trends, but if you look at the “best times” table in particular, you would be wrong. With ten different sources saying ten different things, how do you know which one to trust?
…and where did they get this data from, anyway?
Well, they all pretty much tell you how they figured it out —
They look at historically observed data and then position messages around times that have worked well in the past. For example, Vibes says they “looked at all text messages sent our customers over the last two years to see what the click-thru rates and opt-out rates were for each hour on each day of the week.”
*Note: We’ve found that using historical user behavior is actually a horrible way to drive incremental revenue from SMS marketing messaging…and this has been confirmed to us by many apps who’ve tried it.
Think of it this way: if your user habitually visits your app on Tuesday evening, sending them a message on Tuesday late afternoon won’t actually drive incremental activity. This user was likely to visit anyway. Your historical data showed you that.
Most SMS engagement platforms just pick this method because it’s easy and it makes their metrics look good. 😉
So, how do these SMS marketing timing recommendations map to our specific app?
Pretty crappy, actually.
Here’s a map showing the number of “engagement events” on our app on a representative week. Notice that our app in question saw the most activity around 9:00 pm to midnight every night:
For the record, yes, we are aware that there are laws in many countries prohibiting sending SMS marketing at certain times of day, (thank heavens), and yes, that is going to be reflected in the data for the best times of day to send SMS marketing messages (maybe a push notification would be a better option?).
With that said, it seems textedly came the closest to identifying the right time (they listed 5 to 9 p.m. as some of the best times for sending SMS marketing messages), but even that data is suspect.
Because textedly also lists 9 am - 12 pm as the best times to send SMS marketing. So, which is it? There are still a couple of major flaws with this approach:
1. Engagement Time ≠ Revenue Time
Here’s a chart of the actual revenue generated during each of those same time windows.
Now notice that while most people enjoy doom-scrolling through products at night, serious buying decisions most often occur much earlier in the day:
Perhaps this helps us understand textedly’s data a bit more. Sending SMS marketing messages in the evening might bring us more window shoppers, but sending messages earlier in the day has the potential to bring us more actual revenue.
2. The “best time” < All the times
Even if this app were to pivot and focus its SMS messaging on its most profitable time slot (Monday at noon), the value of the entire table is worth $3,937,933 more than the measly $200k from purchases on Monday at noon.
Translation: This app would be missing out on almost $4 MILLION DOLLARS if they only optimized their messages for a single “best time."
In fact, even if they managed to hit their best revenue timeslot for each day, they would still miss out on over $3,350,000 in potential revenue.
Okay, but what if you managed to find the absolute ideal time that will maximize revenue for every one of your individual users?
You win, right?
…again, not so fast.
In actuality, these preferences are really just a snapshot in time — what worked one week won’t work the next — and this is driven by a number of factors ranging from the changing of the seasons to new users constantly joining your app to external world events that we can’t control.
- 11 pm might be a great time to send SMS messages…until the back-to-school season starts back up.
- Monday morning might be a great time to send SMS marketing messages…until there’s a holiday break.
- Tuesday evenings might be an amazing time to send SMS messages…until little Timmy is done with his Tuesday evening soccer games, so Dad has to make dinner instead of just sitting in the bleachers playing on his phone.
Indeed, here’s a snapshot of what the ideal timing data looks like for our app in question for four consecutive weeks:
How to read these graphs:
- The columns represent different timeslots in 3-hour increments each day
- Reading across each horizontal row reflects the timing preference of a particular cohort.
- The bigger the dot (the higher the row), the more users resonate with that particular timeslot.
So the largest cohort of users in the graph from the week of 17 July 2023 are most receptive to SMS messages on Fridays (across all times), while the largest cohort of users in the graph from 24 July 2023 are most receptive to messages on Saturdays (across all times).
SMS Marketing timing preferences change from week to week:
- Some weeks, Thursdays are completely dead. On other weeks, Thursdays are a decent option.
- The largest cohort completely shifts preferred days (From Friday to Saturday to a combo of Friday and Saturday to Wednesday)
- Fridays are usually best…but not always.
…and if this is just the swing across four weeks, just imagine what this same table will look like in six months.
Oh wait, I have that too. 😅
Here’s the same table for the same app but from December 2022:
Notice how Fridays were pretty dead back in December. Users were much more receptive to receiving SMS messages on Tuesdays that week.
So, not only do we have to know the best time for each user last week, but we have to also predict when that best time will be next week (because they’re rarely the same).
So, what have we learned?
Well, for starters, we learned that, just like every other article says, finding the best time to send SMS marketing messages can result in a positive increase in revenue, but, unlike every other article says, the answer is not to “test to find the optimal time for your app.”
Twilio and others suggest using A/B testing methods, but you can’t just test every possible time (...and even if you could, your answers would have expired by the time you got them).
The real answer is to use a system that’s already been designed to find these ideal times — per user — and then act on them.
The real answer is Aampe.
Cover image by pikisuperstar on Freepik