Welcome to the Twenty-First Century, the age of communication and digital industry.  Here, if you want something, then you don’t even need to leave the warm comfort of your lounge pants to get it.  Everything from your sprouts to your Unicorn Onesie (I have a young daughter – honest) can be found online.  A couple of clicks and they are on their way.  Shopping achieved.  And, you don’t even know what the weather is like yet.

This is the new commercial centre.  The remote shopping mall, without crowds or queues.  The rise of e-commerce and the online shopping experience shows no sign of slowing down.  In fact, as Tricia Hussung points out, the online experience might be responsible for up to $20bn loss in revenue for US stores alone.  Even the brick and mortar stores are moving online and closing down a lot of flagship stores.  Sales and marketing have taken to hyperspace where tools email marketing has been waiting for forty years.

You’re joking.  40 Years?

Oh yes, I am not joking.  The first marketing email was sent in 1978.

With more products sought digitally, email marketing has taken a pivotal place within the marketing departments of most companies now.  It still offers the best ROI, and is more effective than our beloved cousin ‘Social Media’.  So we should be getting pretty good at the old email marketing malarkey by now.  Yet there is something still continues.  A practice so ridiculous, I can’t believe this is still a topic that needs raising.

Why – oh why – are people still using no-reply email addresses?

It shouldn’t even be a divisive issue any more.  The explanations doing the rounds that argue for the use of ‘no-reply’ do not seem near as compelling as these 4 reasons not to.

Customers should be both seen and heard

The most important reason to avoid the no-reply email address, is the subliminal message that it sends to your recipients.  In short, and at its most base level, it is simply rude.  Arrogant.  Belittling.  Pick your adjective.

It is the online equivalent of talking to someone, and then walking away with your fingers in your ears before they have a chance to respond to you.  The question is, why would you want to cut your customer out of the conversation in the first place?

If you were in a retail outlet and a member of staff shows you a product, and you may have a specific, or technical question – you are going to ask the person before you modelling the product.  During that time, they are not going to either, tell you to stop talking as they aren’t listening to your question, or send you off to ask someone else in the store.  We would consider these both, discourteous and unprofessional.  So why are we letting our emails represent our companies in this manner?

By using a genuine email address, even a role-based email address, you are inviting conversation, allowing your customers to direct polite enquiries to you, and this is far more likely to convert into a sale than completely shutting them out will.


Out of office meets no-reply

When asking people why they use a no-reply email address, the ‘Out-of-office’ response is by far the most common reason.  Nobody wants their inbox filled with various messages telling us that Jane is not back in the office until Thursday, or that Derek is currently on annual leave.  I can understand the marketer not wanting to mix their human enquiries with robots reporting various automatic responses. But to stop them completely?  The marketer is forgetting two things.

a) The settings of many ESPs can be setup to move such responses to their own folder if you wished.

b) An ‘out-of-office’ email can tell you so much.

For instance – some out-of-office emails are from people who have permanently left the company, or contacts on maternity leave who might not be back for at least six months.  In these cases there is no point sending any marketing.  It will improve your open rate if you can remove these contacts from your lists.  Oh…and that is one less ‘Out-of-office’ you have to deal with in future.


Responses help deliverability

Ros Hodgekiss, in 2011 published some important information about Gmail.  Hodgekiss cited a research paper which stated: “Importance ground truth is based on how the user interacts with a mail after delivery”, before eloquently translating it to point out that if customers reply, or respond in a positive way to your email, then Gmail will consider it important.

It might be an irritating technical question that takes up five minutes of your time researching, but a customer has been able to show an interest in your product and simultaneously contribute to an improved deliverability.


Increased spam complaints.

Believe it or not, not everyone looks for the unsubscribe link in your emails.  Some of them will reply to your email, and ask directly that they be removed from your list.  If you have a no-reply email address, do you trust them then to open your email and look for the unsubscribe link?  As Michael Linthorst, points out they are going to reach for the “report spam” button.

To risk damaging the deliverability of your brand, or even risk blacklisting your IP address seems a steep price to pay for not receiving ‘Out-of-office’ responses after every send.  To be able to get the most out of your email marketing, your email reputation should be of utmost importance to your marketing department, and the company as a whole.  The ‘no-reply’ email puts this in jeopardy – damaging current and future sales.


Wrapping up

There probably will always be the people who continue to use this anti-social technique when emailing, and that is their decision.  I can’t literally reach through hyperspace and wring their necks for them, as tempting as it might get on a Monday afternoon.  But what I can do – and what many people are already doing – is completely ignore those who don’t want me to talk to them.

But that’s another part of the problem isn’t it?  Nobody adds ‘no-reply’ emails to their address book.  Nobody goes back through their inbox looking for the ‘no-reply’ email.  By not allowing for a response, the brand have almost made themselves instantly forgettable.