The case FOR do not reply email addresses

I’m in the midst of a project. Not a project for Bredemarket clients, but a project for Bredemarket itself. I’m taking a brief break from the project to share some thoughts on “do not reply” email addresses.

Have you ever received an email and noticed that the sender’s email address includes some form of “do not reply”?

In effect, this means that the sender can transmit an email to you, but you cannot transmit an email back to the sender.

By Jacksoncolvett – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21231033

Because these “do not reply” email addresses are used so often, I figured that there was a good reason to do so. There HAS to be, if so many companies are using them; right?

While searching for good reasons to use “do not reply” email addresses, I instead found a bunch of reasons why you SHOULDN’T use this type of address.

Example articles that explain why NOT to use a “do not reply” email address.

Reasons to use a “do not reply” email address

After modifying my search, however, I found a Zendesk article that listed both the pros and the cons of “do not reply” emails. So there MUST be pros. Finally, a justification for this practice!

Pro: Reduce your team’s workload

From https://www.zendesk.com/blog/reply-emails-pros-cons-best-practices/

That is…it.

After additional searching, I found a ClickZ article that attempted to find some justification for the practice.

To be honest, it’s hard to find a good reason to ever use no-reply emails. There are emails which brands can send which don’t necessarily need a reply, such as:

Transactional emails – emails confirming a purchase, or sending invoice details.

Newsletters. No need to reply, just read the articles.

Marketing emails. Brands obviously want a response here, but not by replying to the email.

The problem with no reply is that, even when no response is needed, it doesn’t look good.

From https://www.clickz.com/should-brands-ever-use-do-not-reply-email-addresses/101887/

And even in the first two instances, I’m sure that ClickZ would agree that while these don’t necessarily need a reply, it would be nice to allow a reply.

  • Maybe after reading that transactional email, someone wants to add to the initial purchase. (You want to receive that reply.)
  • Maybe someone is so excited about a newsletter article that the person wants to respond. (You want to receive that reply.)

So smart people never use “do not reply” email addresses.

Unless they do.

When you use a “do not reply” email address and don’t know it

I recently signed up for a newsletter. I know that this person who writes the newsletter would be happy to engage with her subscribers.

But her newsletter provider doesn’t know this.

When I signed up for the newsletter, the acknowledgement of my subscription came from a “do not reply” email address.

Now I didn’t attribute this faux pas to the person. She may not even know that her tool is so marketing-unfriendly. And there isn’t much she can do about it, other than switch to another subscription tool.

But what am I doing?

But that got me thinking: do my own online properties similarly alienate people?

  • If someone goes to the bottom of this post and subscribes to this blog via email, does WordPress send out a “do not reply” email address?
  • If someone subscribes to the separate Bredemarket mailing list, does Mailchimp send out a “do not reply” email address?

There was only one way to find out: subscribe to these services myself, using one of my alternate email addresses.

Testing WordPress

Test number one was to use email to subscribe to the Bredemarket blog. Most of my subscribers read my posts in the WordPress site or app itself, but there is an email subscription option that a few people use.

Using one of my alternate email addresses, I subscribed to test the process and see if I’m sending out messages with “do not reply” email addresses.

Back at my Bredemarket email address, I received notification of my new subscriber.

Back at the alternate email address, I waited for the promised email with “details of (my) subscription and an unsubscribe link.”

And waited.

And checked my spam folder.

And waited more.

And decided to conduct another test instead. Now that I was subscribed to the Bredemarket blog via email, I composed a test post to see what happened when email subscribers to the Bredemarket blog received test posts.

Now I received an email. While it didn’t provide details of my subscription, it did include an unsubscribe link.

And, most importantly, the email didn’t come from a “do not reply” address, but from the address “comment-reply@wordpress.com.”

Hmm…

So if I reply to this email, will the reply become a comment in the test post?

Actually it did become a comment, once I (putting my Bredemarket hat on again) approved the comment. Scroll to the bottom of the test post to see the comment.

Summary: while I ran into an issue with the subscription confirmation, emails generated by the WordPress email subscription itself do NOT come from a “do not reply” email address. And if you reply to the email, you can post a comment. Very functional two-way communication.

Good. Now for test number two, let’s check Mailchimp.

Testing Mailchimp

This will be a bit harder, because the “empoprises” email address already subscribes to Mailchimp. (I wanted to test out various email formats.) Luckily, I have more than two email addresses.

So I navigated through the Bredemarket website to the Mailchimp subscription page (still need to figure out how to embed that), and subscribed.

I’ve configured my Mailchimp to require a subscription confirmation, and here’s the subscription confirmation I received at my alternate alternate email address.

So if I reply to this message, the reply goes to the Bredemarket email address, not to a “do not reply” black hole.

Summary: emails generated by Mailchimp’s subscription function allow recipients to reply to…me.

One drawback of NOT using a “do not reply” email message

It turns out there’s only one teeny tiny problem with Mailchimp’s implementation, in which all emails appear to come from me.

After my alternate alternate email successfully confirmed a subscription to the Bredemarket mailing list, Mailchimp sent a message from the Bredemarket email address to the Bredemarket email address.

When I received it, there was a big yellow caution.

Be careful with this message

This may be a spoofed message. The message claims to have been sent from your account, but Bredemarket Mail couldn’t verify the actual source. Avoid clicking links or replying with sensitive information, unless you are sure you actually sent this message. (No need to reset your password, the real sender does not actually have access to your account!)

Well, it looked safe to me.

Conclusion

Now I may have forgotten some service somewhere that generates emails on Bredemarket’s behalf, but as far as I know at the moment, none of the Bredemarket properties is guilty of sending out emails with a “do not reply” email address.

Now if we could just eliminate these fake “addresses” on a universal basis. Maybe the EU or California or Illinois can ban them.

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