Why you should not use 'no-reply@domain.com'

We've all seen it in our inbox…the From: field that says 'no-reply@domain.com' 

"But," you say, "I would love to continue the conversation."

As a consumer, wouldn't it be nice to know that there is a human at the other end of the interwebs? Someone with whom you could share thoughts and ask questions, in a two-way conversation?

All too often companies send transactional and bulk email messages and fail to provide an easy way for the recipient to complete the communication loop. Due to the prevalence of this practice, it may seem acceptable – and in some very unique cases, it may even be necessary. However, this approach can lead to missed opportunities in customer engagement and retention and should be avoided if possible. 


By prohibiting your customers' replies, you forfeit the opportunity to engage in a rich, ongoing discussion with your user – a discussion that could lead to improved product development, happier customers, and ultimately higher revenues.


The 'no-reply' habit can also prevent you from achieving optimal email deliverability. ISP's such as Yahoo and Gmail take into consideration their users' reply habits within their spam-detection algorithms. If a user actively replies to a specific address often enough, it will automatically be added to their trusted contacts list.  In most cases, messages from senders that exist on a user's contacts list won’t be marked as spam, and will happily reach the inbox!

Breaking the habit

A great way to get started down the path of "do-reply" is to allow newly registered users to confirm their email address and/or activate their account by replying to your confirmation email. This can be offered as the preferred option, in addition to providing a confirmation/activation link.

Email is an ideal way to maintain a continued conversation, because, as a ubiquitous electronic communication medium, it's easy for the customer. Admittedly though, it can be difficult to handle hundreds or thousands of incoming customer emails through a manual process. Fortunately, with some advanced software, management of all of those incoming messages can be highly automated and quite efficient.

Consider the use of email at WordPress, Posterous, Intense Debate, and Facebook. WordPress and Posterous allow users to write and publish blog posts by simply sending an email to a specified address.  In the same manner, Facebook and Intense Debate allow users to reply to wall and blog comments via a quick email reply.

These same ideas can be applied to your use case – just carefully examine your specific needs and get creative! Also, don't forget to do your homework – there are often services out there that have already done at least some of the work for you. ;) 


Tim Falls

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The "Community Guy" for SendGrid and Boulder Beta.

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9 Responses to “Why you should not use 'no-reply@domain.com'”

  1. adamo
    April 11, 2011 at 7:19 am #

    Equally annoying, insulting to the reader sometimes, is the “This message is sent from an unattended mailbox. Please use [alternate method] to contact us”.
    If the marketeers themselves are stating that they are not going to read my email reply, why should I read their email in the first place? And why should I also consider it as honest communication and not spam?

  2. Chris
    April 11, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    Good article and a fair point, we incorporated this concept into one of our features on FollowUp.cc (when people set public FollowUp reminders)
    Just so you know, FollowUp.cc lets you set reminders on emails via the Cc or Bcc field by specifying when you want to be reminded as an email address. Really simple and extremely useful.
    Our sign up does let you get started via email, but you have to click a link to confirm your account because a reply is not truly indicative that there’s a real person on the other end (at least in our case). What you said will work in many other cases.
    Good article, thanks.

  3. Tim Falls
    April 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Thanks to both for reading and joining the conversation. All points are well taken.
    This is something that many don’t consider until it’s explicitly pointed out to them, or they have to make the call within their own communications program.
    Of course, the “right” decision is different for every company. So, as long as you consider your options carefully and keep in mind the perspective of the end recipient, you should be just fine!
    Thanks again,

  4. Terry Lee
    April 17, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    We absolutely agree with this topic. It amazes me as an email marketer that companies still use a do-not-reply@domain.com email address and tell users they they shouldn’t reply to an email since it’s not monitored.
    I brought up this topic on a blog post at EmailMarketingIQ.com where I addressed this subject but also interjected some additional comments. It’s 2011 and companies are asking users to be more social utilizing Facebook and Twitter and to tell users that they can’t reply to an email is just ironic.
    I took a screenshot of companies who send email messages who still employ this tactic and a few of them included Target, Chick-Fil-A, Bed Bath and Beyond and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Those are some pretty big organizations that need to address this topic!

  5. Tim Falls
    April 17, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    Terry -
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the link to your related post. Before writing this blog post, I looked back at the original post our then-CEO and [still] co-founder, Isaac Saldana, wrote at blog.sendgrid.com, in addition to several other expert blogs. I was happy to see that we weren’t alone in this belief. The more people recognize this idea and address it within their own organizations, the closer we get to shifting the tide toward a new level of customer care and engagement.
    Thanks again for participating in the discussion.

  6. Pros
    April 19, 2011 at 1:38 am #

    I feel so this is a killer feature. Already have great plans for what to do with email response parsing. In the meantime will get some of the USV portfolio companies that are already using this to check this out.

  7. powermta
    September 12, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    I have seen some ISPs blacklisting the sender just because they are using a noreply@ from address.


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