How Long do People Take to Respond to a Business Email?

Brandon Foo

1.87 hours -- that’s median length of time it takes for someone to respond to an email, and for every hour that goes by where you don’t receive a response, the chances of getting a reply drop quickly.

In a perfect world, everyone would open your emails immediately and reply within seconds. Unfortunately, real life has a tendency to get in the way. We recently published a post on email follow ups and provided some great cold email templates for B2B sales reps to use. However, your subject line and email content is only one part of getting someone to open your email and respond -- timing is another crucial factor when it comes to getting your email opened. You don’t want to over do it with email follow ups and drive prospects away, at the same time, you need to stay on their radar.

We wanted to get a better understanding of how fast people respond to business email, and how much less likely you are to receive a reply as the more time goes by. To get our answers, we turned to the Polymail database.

A bit of background: Polymail is a desktop and mobile email platform built for productive sales communication. It’s not used to send email newsletters or other forms of mass communication, making it the perfect data source to analyze B2B email behavior.

Calculating Average Email Response Time

Note: In our analysis, we only recorded the messages’ timestamps, and did not have visibility into the content, sender, or recipients of any messages.

At first, we considered looking at millions of messages to get this data - every reply ever sent to someone using Polymail. After digging through the numbers, we found that a huge chunk of emails are answered right away - almost instantly - we suspect a big portion of these emails are from auto-responders. On the other end of the spectrum, some recipients replied to emails months after they were sent. Both the instant answers and the late replies were skewing the data when we looked at the aggregate. To get a better idea of when people actually reply to email, we removed every response from the data set that was answered in under five minutes (since you generally aren’t wondering, “why haven’t they replied?” in the first five minutes) and we removed any response that took longer than two weeks -- leaving us with 691,000 email responses to analyze.

All this data gives us a pretty good idea of how quickly people respond to emails that don’t get answered right away. Here’s what we found:

Average Response Time for a Business Email

The average response duration for an email that isn’t answered in under five minutes is 16.83 hours. However, the average can be misleading. A small portion of emails that were answered one week or later skewed the results and bloated the average email response time:

Median Response Time for a Business Email

Looking at the median response duration gives us a much better idea of when an email response is most likely to occur, which is 1.78 hours…. just shy of 107 minutes. That means the majority of emails are answered an hour and a half after they’re sent.

Polymail 107 minutes image.png

Interesting fact: 209 days is the longest it’s ever taken anyone to respond to an email that Polymail has tracked. Puts that email you waited until the end of day to send into perspective doesn’t it?

If your emails aren’t getting answered in under an hour and a half, there’s a lot you can do to improve your email response rates.

Tips to Improve Your Email Response Times from Prospects

  1. Be Aware of Their Schedule

This might seem obvious, but don’t send emails to people when they are out of the office or on vacation. Getting a response on a Friday afternoon is much more unlikely than getting one on a Wednesday morning. Be respectful of your prospects personal time, and don’t expect people to rearrange their schedule to respond to you.

  1. Your Subject Line is Everything

If your emails aren’t getting opened, they won't get responded to. A clear and specific subject line is the most important factor when it comes to getting your email opened. Be clear and concise with the offering or the ask in your email. Authentic personalization in a subject line can also go a long way toward getting an email opened. Everyone wants to feel special, and being on the receiving end of an obvious mail merge outbound email campaign has the opposite effect.

  1. Offer to Solve a Problem

If you’re providing a solution to a problem or a pain point for a prospect, make it clear in the subject line. If it’s time sensitive, all the better. For example; “Are You Prepared for New OSHA Regulations?” is substantially more compelling than, “Let Us Help You With Your HR Needs.”

  1. Provide Value

If you can provide information that a prospect can use to better do their job, you can get their attention. By offering to provide prospects with new data, outlooks, and insights, you can earn their interest and boost your reply rate. This has the added benefit of positioning you as a knowledgeable expert and can help with building trust.

  1. Be Direct

Long winded introductions can turn prospects off instead of establish your credibility. Get to the point as quickly as possible.

  1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T your Prospects

Never underestimate the value of politeness. Being respectful of someone’s time will raise their opinion of you, and requires no additional effort. People are more inclined to respond to a gracious email rather than one that comes across as curt or abrupt.

You will have to adjust your outreach strategy to fit your industry and ideal customer profile, but the fundamental rules of B2B email are always relevant. You have valuable information to offer, so state it quickly, professionally, and politely, and people are far more likely to respond.

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