What's In a Name? Alternative Senders in Email Marketing

EJ McGowan
by EJ McGowan 02 Feb, 2017

Anyone who receives emails from brands can confirm there is a new trend on the rise: alternative sending - when umbrella email senders deliver emails to recipients with various, specific "From" addresses.

While the use of alternative senders can offer multiple benefits to email marketers, it's important for them to follow certain best practices and be aware of some caveats to leverage this concept to the fullest - rather than starting to send emails from every department or employee.

The Rise of Alternative Sending

As mentioned, alternative sending is when brands communicate with email recipients through various "From" addresses (e.g., Smith's Customer Service Department rather than Smith Insurance); it is a relatively new concept, but one that is rather simple for marketers to execute.

An additional attribute of segmentation, alternative senders are simply an extension of the main brand's email marketing efforts. Made possible by the increasing flexibility of marketing platforms to support multiple "From" addresses, alternative sending is the product of savvy email marketers' creativity.

Alternative Advantages

Alternative sending can result in higher email engagement rates for a couple of reasons. First, much like the all-too-important subject line, recipients set their eyes on the sender's address as they skim through the inbox, so this field allows marketers a second chance to catch a contact's attention early.

Secondly, when a contact receives an email from a sender that seems customized to their needs or preferences, they are more likely to feel a brand is in tune with their interests. This sense of selectivity helps build a deeper customer-brand connection.

Additionally, the use of alternative sending can assist brands in building credibility, especially for smaller companies. For instance, if a company has just one employee running both sales and customer service, the use of both "Heather's Homeware Customer Service" and "Heather's Homeware Sales Department" as sender addresses from the same individual can give the illusion that the company has a larger, more supportive internal structure. Likewise, a larger company sending from a specific person (e.g., the CEO) can make a message feel more personal.

Actualizing Alternative Senders

Businesses can only expect to see such benefits if they're utilizing alternative senders effectively, and there are key best practices that marketers should follow. An important one to keep in mind, for example, is to choose sender addresses that best suit the content and goals of the email. Make sure that the alternative senders map back to the general business goals of the email campaigns.

For instance, if a brand regularly asks contacts to participate in surveys, a "From" address that contains a keyword like "Surveys" in the name would be ideal for these emails; this step adds transparency between the brand and customer, and encourages opens from contacts who normally take such surveys. Or, if a campaign goal is to drive foot traffic into a store, it may be best to use the store name alone as the "From" address rather than a specific store department.

From the recipient's perspective, a sender's address needs to serve as useful information that helps them decide to engage with messages. Once contacts begin to lump all the content from one umbrella sender, despite the specific addresses, they are no longer able to make a positive value judgement based on the information at hand and the alternative sender is rendered useless.

Finally, it's vital that email marketers utilize A/B testing when developing alternative senders; this helps determine which addresses are most likely to get certain segments of contacts opening the emails and can identify once a brand has reached its threshold of senders for engagement.

Overall, alternative sending is a rather new and sophisticated feature in email marketing that savvy businesses should certainly keep in their arsenals. Marketers will want to consider the best practices above and partner with a platform that will let them create and test on various alternative senders to help drive email engagement.

EJ McGowan, general manager of Campaigner, has more than 25 years' experience in the software industry with expertise in building highly available, scalable SaaS-based solutions.