Timing is Everything: Schedule Your SMS Campaigns for Maximum Response

Timing is Everything: Schedule Your SMS Campaigns for Maximum Response

Timing is Everything: Schedule Your SMS Campaigns for Maximum Response

Improve marketing results by delivering the right message at the perfect moment. Read on for our guide to mastering the art of SMS timing.

Your customers are busy people. They’re juggling jobs, kids, errands, appointments, cooking, cleaning, and so much more.

That’s what your business is up against when sending SMS messages. Forget about the other brands competing for your customer’s attention: your marketing has to break through the white noise of their daily lives.

On the surface, it may seem like an impossible goal. No amount of marketing foresight can prevent a single SMS message from reaching a particular customer at the worst moment possible. But SMS campaign numbers don’t lie, and they reveal a consistent trend: the timing of your SMS blasts has a direct impact on your messaging ROI.

SMS open windows, on the other hand, are super short. Less than 20% of marketing emails are opened within the first hour of delivery. Compare that to SMS, which can achieve a 70% open rate within the first five minutes of delivery. 

With the ability to schedule message delivery down to the very minute, your SMS marketing can test different timing strategies and develop internal best practices to maximize SMS response and ROI.

Here’s how.

Best practices for timing SMS delivery

The ideal approach to SMS timing will be specific to your business and your audience. Each message’s performance across different time windows will vary depending on your:

  • Industry

  • Audience demographics

  • Campaign geography

  • Message content

When one of these variables changes—such as the CTA of your message or the audience segment you’re targeting—the ideal timing of that campaign is also subject to change.

But the road to mastering this timing is long. A period of trial and error is inevitable. One way to speed up these test-and-refine cycles, though, is to create a campaign starting point based on widely accepted best practices for timing SMS messages.

Meanwhile, these best practices will help you squeeze more value out of SMS campaigns right out of the gate. Here’s what your business needs to do:

1. Identify the best time windows for SMS delivery

Let the past performance of other business SMS campaigns be your guide. One of the biggest trends in SMS timing is delivering messages in the afternoon. Across the board, it’s working well.

One study suggests that text messages sent between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. can generate a 33% lift in revenue. Based on these numbers alone, a similar delivery window might be worth testing for your business—assuming you adjust the delivery schedule for local time zones. 

The success of afternoon marketing could be the product of several different factors. In general, consumers seem more inclined to engage with brands across channels in the afternoon, resulting in better ROI for this messaging. 

But your industry might make a big difference: since consumers are most engaged with online shopping during the evening hours, e-commerce SMS might be more effective when scheduled for prime-time delivery.

Your audience also matters. A text message sent in the morning hours might earn decent engagement from adults keeping a traditional schedule, but that same message could severely underperform if targeted at younger consumers who are inclined to sleep late. Take all sweeping SMS timing recommendations with a grain of salt, and choose a delivery strategy that makes sense for your business.

2. Restrict message delivery during “off-limits” hours

Certain times of day are no-fly zones for your SMS marketing. It’s not only a matter of respect to your subscribers; in many cases, these off-limits hours are a matter of compliance.

These legal requirements become far more complex when delivering messages to a global audience. In addition to time zone differences, each country sets its own rules, dictating when business SMS messaging is prohibited, and your campaigns need to consistently account for these differences.

In the United States, for example, text messages from businesses are prohibited between 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. But more than a dozen states have enacted their own SMS regulations, some of which are stricter than federal guidelines. In Florida, Oklahoma, and Washington, for example, quiet hours for SMS messaging begin at 8:00 p.m., and other states plan to follow their lead.

The timing considerations continue to mount as you move abroad. France doesn’t allow business SMS messages on Sundays. South Africa only permits SMS on Saturdays between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. The list goes on—and it can quickly complicate your efforts to develop a consistent approach to SMS timing.

Beyond these regulations, you’ll also need to account for cultural differences, including religious and cultural holidays where certain segments of your audience may not appreciate receiving a branded SMS message. 

Pro tip: Use an SMS messaging platform like Bird to keep track of these time considerations for you and keep your campaigns time-compliant.

3. Set up a system for A/B testing delivery times

If you’re sending a branded SMS message to more than one person, you have the opportunity to experiment. You can find out if your customers prefer morning or afternoon messages, engagement on weekdays or weekends, and even whether different types of messaging achieve better results when targeted to specific delivery windows.

These insights can only be achieved when you’ve created a reliable, repeatable process for A/B testing your SMS. To conduct an A/B test, you will create two identical versions of your SMS message and deliver them to similar audiences at different times of day, or even different days altogether. 

When one message outperforms the other, your business might be able to glean a valuable insight to optimize its message timing for future campaigns. 

Here are three requirements to create a successful A/B testing process:

  • Isolate one element in A/B tests. If you want to optimize your timing strategy, keep all other elements of your SMS the same. Changing the message content, delivering to dissimilar audiences, or changing other elements will invalidate your insights because you don’t know whether variances in performance should be attributed to SMS timing or other message differences.

  • Split your audience into two random groups. Use an SMS messaging platform to randomize and divide your audience. The larger your audience, the better. For businesses still building up their SMS lists, smaller audience sample sizes may be unavoidable until you can increase your subscriber count.

  • Identify the metrics used to evaluate performance. Whether you’re focused on open rates, click-throughs, conversions, or other metrics, choose metrics that reflect the desired marketing outcome of each message you send.

4. Analyze performance and implement changes

After each A/B test is complete, review performance metrics and make note of any significant differences between the two delivery times.

In some cases, you might not identify any noteworthy changes. When the two message versions achieve different results, though, ask the following questions:

  • Are there any variables outside of delivery time that could account for this variance?

  • Do these insights make sense given our past timing tests?

  • How can we use this information to refine our approach and schedule another A/B test?

Advanced strategies to optimize SMS timing

Once you’ve established a process for testing and refining your message delivery times, your business should focus on more specialized tactics for optimizing delivery times and maximizing customer engagement.

An emphasis on audience segmentation, personalized content, and automated SMS tools can help you develop a more sophisticated strategy for timing your brand messages—and build a more complete understanding of the relationship between delivery times and message ROI.

Start with these advanced strategies:

A. Segment audiences and tailor your messaging

As your SMS audience grows, one-size-fits-all A/B testing won’t tell the full story of how your customers are engaging with your messages. Instead, create different audience segments to separate the unique customer groups your business serves.

Segmentation by age, for example, can help you deliver more relevant messaging content to that audience, which can change SMS engagement rates. Likewise, different consumer groups may have different daily routines that are better served through a tailored approach to timing. 

By running A/B tests across these audience segments, you can learn more about your target audience and boost the overall customer engagement achieved through SMS.

B. Outsource time zone management and global compliance to your SMS platform

Time zone-adjusted scheduling is essential. It also gets very complicated very quickly. On top of that, SMS compliance requirements are nothing to sniff at: a violation of the U.S. Telephone Consumer Protection Act, for example, can net a hefty fine of $500 for each message delivered to a subscriber.

No business can keep up with managing this web of regulations. Instead, your business should find an SMS platform that offers built-in compliance controls for global SMS messaging. Invest in a platform that streamlines time zone-adjusted scheduling so your business can focus on crafting compelling messages and refining your SMS timing strategy.

C. Account for context in your SMS strategy

The more you understand your target audience, the better your messaging can account for outside context beyond local compliance. Cultural holidays, daily routines, religious observances, social norms, and other contextual information could be important to account for not only in the timing of your messages but the content of them as well.

Mistakes are an inevitable part of the test-and-refine process. If you make a mistake that leads to poor performance or customer blowback, document the incident and develop a strategy for accounting for that context in the future.

D. Diversify and personalize message content

The content of your message should play a major role in the timing of your SMS delivery. As you test and refine your strategy, you might find that certain types of message content are particularly well-suited to specific delivery windows during the day.

Use this deeper understanding of SMS timing to strike a better balance in the types of messaging you deliver. Balance promotional messages with educational content that enriches the customer experience. Develop a timing strategy for personalized offers and recommendations, identifying the best delivery windows and the ideal frequency of messages.

A more diverse messaging strategy also increases the different types of A/B tests your business can run concurrently. As your SMS strategy takes off, your ability to iterate and optimize could enjoy exponential growth.

E. Never take A/B testing for granted

There’s no such thing as “one last A/B test.” The insights you generate from A/B testing are compounding. The more tests you run, the smarter and more refined your SMS strategy becomes.

No matter how strong your SMS performance may be, there’s always an opportunity to learn and grow. Think beyond times of day and days of the week and evaluate the performance of different messaging content and marketing goals across different times of day. 

Put message sentiment under the microscope: is positive messaging more valuable at certain times than others? As your subscriber base grows or simply gets older, does your timing strategy need to adapt to changing life patterns or stages? 

By investing in A/B testing as an integral process, your SMS timing will stay flexible to the evolving needs of both your business and your customers.

Get time on your side with Bird

When you control message delivery, you control your SMS fate. Businesses that run their SMS marketing through Bird can optimize every aspect of SMS campaigns to deliver the best customer experience possible.

From drafting your message to timing its delivery, Bird’s platform gives your business the tools it needs to build custom audiences, schedule SMS deliveries and A/B test your strategy—all while accounting for time zone changes and global compliance requirements.

There’s no such thing as the perfect time to send a branded text. But there’s always a way to make your SMS strategy a little bit better. That’s what we do best.

Harness Bird's capabilities today to supercharge your SMS campaigns.

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Your new standard in Marketing, Payments & Sales. It's Bird

The right message -> to the right person -> at the right time.

By clicking "See Bird" you agree to Bird's Privacy Notice.