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Interesting Findings Regarding the From Address

A client has asked us about changing the FROM address in their emails so they can provide a more descriptive text to help with subscriber recognition. We thought about this question for a while and decided to run a couple of tests to see what would be the impact of changing the FROM address.

Now before we begin the FROM address field in an email can comprise of two parts:

The senders email address such as "Newsletters@mobilizemail.com",

A text part such as "Mobilize Mail". The text part if provided is sometimes displayed instead of the email address.

So for a FROM address you could have: "Mobilize Mail <newsletters@mobilizemail.com>".

In most modern email clients this would be displayed as:

If you did not have a text part in the FROM address then the email would be displayed like this:

When you click the reply button your email client is normally smart enough to use the email address that was supplied within the FROM address.

Best Practices for the FROM Address

The most common best practice around the content of the FROM address is to provide something that will spark some form of recognition with the subscribers such as your business name or your full name.

In the example above the FROM contains "Mobilize Mail" which alerts the subscriber instantly to who sent the email. The subject line also provides a good indication of the intent of the email.

Now, what happens if after a while you decide to change the FROM address to something else?

For example:

That should not be a problem should it?

Well there are a number of considerations to think about before you make the leap. For example what if the subscriber added a rule in their email client that located your emails based on the FROM content?

Below we can see a subscriber has created a mailbox rule for any email that contains "Mobilize Mail" in the FROM field.

By changing your FROM address you may in fact be damaging your existing relationship with the subscribers by making their existing mailbox rules redundant or worse causing your emails to be deleted or moved to the trash folder.

How did the email clients like the change?

One thing that we were interested in was how an email client would deal with a change in the FROM address if there was a current address book entry.

For example below is an Entourage address book entry for "Mobilize Mail".

When an email is sent to the client this is how the FROM address currently appears:

Now lets change the address book entry for Mobilize Mail to "Joe Bloggs" as below.

We then send the same email again to this subscriber with the same FROM address which is "Mobilize Mail <newsletters@mobilizemail.com>".

Below is how Entourage now displays the FROM address. Entourage completely ignored the FROM address in the email!

We can see from this example that Entourage will display the details within the address book for the sender not what has been added to the emails FROM address.

This could be a pain for some email marketers who frequently send out emails using the same email address but change part of the FROM address.

In order to see how some of the more popular email clients dealt with changes to the FROM address with an existing address book entry we created the following simple test:

  1. Create an email campaign with the following FROM address "Mobilize Mail <newsletters@mobilizemail.com>" and send to the test email lab.
  2. Once the email arrived add the senders details (in the FROM address) to each email clients address book including the text part which is "Mobilize Mail".
  3. Send the second email campaign and change the FROM address to "Mobilize Mail Newsletter Service <newsletters@mobilizemail.com>".
  4. Finally send the third email campaign but only have "newsletters@mobilizemail.com" in the FROM address (no text part).

What we are looking for is if the address book entry overruled the change in the FROM address of the email. The findings are below:

Apple Mail:

No problems with Apple Mail.


Entourage:

Bummer! The Entourage address book controls the FROM address!


Eudora:


Gmail:

Interesting. All 3 emails are grouped by the "Mobilize Mail" contacts entry which works like an address book. When the email group is clicked all 3 emails are expanded – see below.


Lotus Notes:

Lotus Notes is happy.


Outlook 2007:

All good here.


Thunderbird:

Changes showed up in Thunderbird.


Windows Live:


Yahoo! Mail:


Our testing identified only one email client namely Entourage that refused to display the emails correct FROM address if there was an existing entry in the address book for the recipient.

Gmail grouped the emails together based on the "Contact" entry which is not great but at least the correct FROM address details are displayed when you click on the email group.

Our Tips for the FROM Address

Even though only one of the email clients refused to display the emails FROM address (namely Entourage) and instead displayed the address book details you should still seriously think before you change your FROM address text or email address.

Subscribers these days create rules to help them manage their email which includes rules using the content of the FROM address.

We recommend that caution should be taken to any decision to change the FROM address details. If you do need to change the details then warn the subscriber in at least one email prior to the change so any changes they need to make can be done at their end.

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