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Smart Marketing with Send Time Optimization

Salesforce Marketing Cloud is known for the canvas it provides on which nearly infinite custom solutions are possible. But many of these can take considerable development time, and sometimes you just need a quick win — Or wins. It is easy to get so hyper-focused on the complex solutions that you begin to lose sight of the low-hanging fruit.

This is where the Salesforce Marketing Cloud Einstein suite comes in. The majority of these tools are quite literally click-to-activate, and require little manual intervention to use. And among this suite of tools, Send Time Optimization (STO) is often the simplest to begin using and the quickest to see results with. STO utilizes the previous 90 days of engagement for each subscriber in order to determine the optimal send time. This timing is influenced by a number of factors of various weights which are used to assign a score for each individual subscriber to each of the 168 hours in a week.

Getting Started

A crawl-walk-run approach is best to get started with testing, beginning with a simple audit of campaigns you currently have running in Journey Builder. Take note of how timely these emails need to be. Do you have existing Journeys that do not necessarily need to be delivered to the inbox immediately after the records enter the flow?

Send Time Optimization does its magic by holding the deployment of each record back on a 1:1 basis until each individual’s optimal send time. This results in individuals receiving their email when they are most likely to be checking their inbox and are most likely to engage. But this requires introducing a delay in the deployment. The upper limit of this delay can be customized, but is not suited for urgent campaigns that must be deployed immediately, such as an appointment confirmation email.

The next consideration is the audience. Send Time Optimization relies on having adequate engagement data for the target audience in order to establish the optimal send time for each recipient. It is possible to specify how STO should handle records that lack sufficient recent engagement and therefore lack a personalized send-time; but this tool would be of limited use for campaigns that target primarily new users, such as a Welcome journey.

Don’t worry if you don’t have any pre-existing journeys that fit this criteria! You can still start quickly leveraging Send Time Optimization, but first you will need to migrate an existing campaign into Journey Builder, or create a net-new campaign.

Every Good Test Needs a Good Control

Once you have identified which journeys are good candidates for Send Time Optimization, or created new campaigns, you can begin layering in the STO activities.

But most marketers want to not only lift engagement, but also be able to measure the lift attributed to the change. This is where randomized send times come in. With a simple checkbox selection, Einstein STO allows you to create a separate path with randomized send times to compare your STO sends against. While it is certainly possible to test your STO deployment against a single static deployment time, the randomized test has the advantage of comparing the effectiveness of STO against the full range of deployment times. 


Beware the Bias

Consider the scenario of a company that sends only a weekly newsletter to their entire subscriber base every Friday at 12pm ET, and then begins exploring Send Time Optimization. Given that the hour immediately following send time typically accounts for the greatest concentration of opens, the initial STO results will skew towards that day and time. This bias would slowly dissipate as Send Time Optimization is used more frequently and send times for individual records begin to disperse.

This bias is important to keep in mind when reviewing analytics for Send Time Optimization, but can be more quickly mitigated by utilizing the Random Testing Option above to ensure subscribers are sent to at a variety of times.

Using Einstein's Send Time Optimization can be an easy solution to get quick results. To learn more best practices and ways to get more out of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, join Ben along with other marketing experts at  Ultraviolet conference. 

About the Author

Ben is Senior Manager of Solution Architects at Lev and a Salesforce Marketing Cloud Champion. He is a 4x Salesforce Marketing Certified Developer, Consultant, Administrator, and Email Specialist. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.