What is an Autoresponder?

An autoresponder is an email automatically sent after an action has been taken. Originally, only emails that automatically responded to an email sent to an inbox – such as an out-of-office email or a bounce message – were considered autoresponders.

Current-day autoresponders in email marketing

Autoresponders can range from very simple to quite complex. As an email marketing tool, autoresponders can provide immediate information to (prospective) customers. Autoresponders can exist outside the inbox as well; they can be triggered by someone filling in a form on a website or by a database field being changed.

Examples of event-triggered autoresponders:

There are different types of autoresponders, also known as triggered emails, examples include:

  • Welcome messages
  • Alerts
  • Requested information, such as a whitepaper or a quote
  • Confirmation emails
  • Thank-you emails

What does your email tool’s autoresponder look like?

Autoresponders oftentimes are a feature of email newsletter software. However, how the autoresponder functionality is implemented can vary from one email service provider to another. Some ESPs have a maximum number of autoresponders you can set up or limit the selection of groups to whom you can send them.

Others will not send the autoresponder message immediately, but periodically (hourly or daily). Note: Some ESPs do not include the autoresponder functionality in the base product and will tack on an additional fee if you want to deploy autoresponder emails as a part of their event driven campaign functionality.

Another way autoresponders are sent is via a email relay service or by sending it directly through the ESPs API.

Terms related to autoresponder

The terms “event-driven email”, “drip campaigns” and “triggered email” are all related to the concept of email marketing automation and sending emails in a predetermined fashion. The term “autoresponder,” however, usually (with exceptions, of course) refers to a single email sent and has a connotation of less sophistication than the other terms.

About Jordie van Rijn

Jordie van Rijn is an independent email marketing consultant and analyst. He is the founder of Email Vendor Selection and specializes in smart email marketing, online marketing strategy, software selection, campaign management, optimisation and RFP / vendor selection. He tested, reviewed, and wrote about 100+ business software including email marketing services, CRMs, ecommerce platforms, and online course creators. Published in-depth email marketing guides for financial service, ecommerce, travel, restaurant, and fashion industries.
Named one of "50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch" by Entrepreneur magazine. Companies like Scania, KLM, Unilever, AEGON, CZ, FNV, NRC Media have asked me for advice.

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