Distribution List vs Shared Mailboxes: Which is The Best Option in 2024?

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Managing emails may feel like juggling at times, especially when you're trying to keep everyone in the loop. That is when distribution lists and shared mailboxes come in handy to rescue the situation! These useful instruments may seem complex, but don't worry – we're here to break it down for you in layman's terms.

Breaking Down the Basics of Distribution Lists

With the help of a distribution list, sending emails to individuals or a group is easier and faster.
With the help of a distribution list, sending emails to individuals or a group is easier and faster

The distribution list (also known as a distribution group or contact group) serves as an email communication powerhouse. It allows a user to maintain a list of email addresses and send messages to everyone in their address book all at once.

Picture this: you have an announcement or update that has to be distributed to a dozen, a hundred, or perhaps thousands of people in your business or your team members. Instead of typing out each email address one by one, a distribution list or distribution group allows you to click send once and your message will be delivered to all of the recipients’ inboxes.

It’s like having a magic button for mass communication that ensures everyone in the new contact group is kept up to date with no effort.

So if you have a group called “Customer Service Team” with a dozen unique email addresses for each member: ““, ““, ““, and so on. When an email is sent to the “Customer Service Team” group, Emma, Jack, Lucy, and the rest of the team immediately get it in their individual mailboxes.

However, while recipients can receive the message, replying directly from the distribution list is not viable; comments must be made to the members’ individual email accounts.

Is a Distribution List the Right Tool for Your Job?

Manage individuals, group members, a team member or other users with a distribution list
Manage individuals, group members, a team member or other users with a distribution list

Well, it’s essential to understand that distribution lists are best suited for situations in which you’re primarily sharing information with your team members or clients without expecting instant reaction or cooperation.

Distribution lists, whether used for company-wide announcements, department updates, newsletters, or email marketing make it easier to reach a big audience with minimum effort while keeping track of multiple users' email addresses in a single location. They play a crucial role in internal communication, especially for disseminating internal announcements and updates through distribution lists.

To choose wisely, it is essential to have a good understanding of its advantages and limitations too. So let's have a look at that.

Benefits of Using a Distribution List

An email distribution list can help you quickly add new members, and add recipients in one place for your emails.
An email distribution list can help you quickly add new members, and add recipients in one place for your emails

Communication made easier: Sending an email to multiple recipients can be done with just one email, eliminating the need to enter individual addresses.

Consistency: Ensure that everyone receives the same message at the same time, minimizing the possibility of mistakes or inconsistencies.

Increased Efficiency: Minimize the time dedicated to manual data entry and repetitive tasks, enabling you to concentrate on critical aspects of your business and enhancing overall efficiency.

Minimizing mistakes: The chance of mistakes decreases by sending messages to approved lists, guaranteeing accuracy and uniformity in communication with recipients.

Limitations of Distribution lists

Save a sweat by understanding limitations of a distribution list
Save a sweat by understanding limitations of a distribution list

Inefficiency in Cooperation: The structure of the distribution list leads to inefficiencies in cooperation efforts. Because each user must respond to messages via their personal inbox, there is no centralized platform for cooperation.

Limited Two-Way Communication: A distribution list does not enable a significant two-way conversation. This limitation reduces the effectiveness of talks and collaboration.

Unsuitable for defining duties: It's unclear who should take charge when too many individuals receive the same message at once. It can happen that no one responds to these kinds of communications because they believe their peers would. Consequently, the company's professional image can take a hit.

When is using distribution groups your best option?

Distribution lists are handy for sending emails to multiple people without anticipating a back-and-forth conversation. such cases are :

  1. Sending company wide announcements
  2. Reporting service outages or System alerts
  3. Notifying Subscribers of Special Offers or Promotions
  4. Team Updates and Meetings
  5. Project Updates and Status Reports

How To Create Distribution Lists

The process for creating a distribution list varies depending on the email client program being used. In general, users will need to create a new contact group within their email client address book and add the email addresses of the people they want to include in the distribution list. Specifically, when using Outlook, it's important to select 'From Outlook Contacts' to populate your group efficiently with Outlook contacts.

  1. Go to the admin center at
  2. Click on “Teams and groups“ then select “Active teams and groups“ and choose “Distribution lists.
  3. Click on “Add a distribution list.
  4. Enter a name, description, and click “Next.”
  5. On the next screen, select 'From Outlook Contacts' to choose members for your distribution list directly from your Outlook contacts.
  6. Select “Assign owners,” choose a user, and click “Add.” Then, click “Next.”
  7. Create a group email address and decide if people outside your organization can send emails to the group. Click “Next.”
  8. Review your group information and click “Create group.”

What is a shared mailbox?

With a shared mailbox, you can email recipients in a more efficient manner.
With a shared mailbox, you can email recipients in a more efficient manner

Shared mailboxes, unlike distribution lists, allow for mutual communication. Shared mailboxes allow users to respond to messages and have anybody with access to the mailbox view those comments.

Shared mailboxes enable collaborative email management by allowing team members to view, send, and receive messages together. With tools such as a shared calendar, teams may effortlessly plan schedules and manage vacation or work shifts.

For the support team, this means full visibility into incoming messages, enabling them to collaborate and respond to emails as a group, and assign queries to respective teams for timely and accurate assistance. Similarly, for teams that work across time zones, a shared mailbox can enable two team members to pick up where another left off, ensuring clear delegation and seamless communication.

These collaborative tools are especially helpful for businesses that need a general email address that can be used by several employees. Customer service teams, for example, sometimes use shared inboxes with addresses like ““ or ““

Team members utilizing a shared mailbox have the option of responding directly from the shared address or on behalf of a single user, providing additional communication freedom. This adaptability means that communications may be adjusted to the recipient’s expectations, resulting in stronger customer-business interactions.

When is A Shared Inbox The Most Effective For You?

Wondering when setting up a shared inbox is a great idea? Here are a few reasons to help you decide.

Giving priority in Customer Services Tasks

Provide the best service to customers
Provide the best service to customers

Shared mailboxes present a simple but efficient remedy for organizing tasks within customer service teams. Teams can organize incoming emails by inquiry type or priority level through the use of tags and folders. This allows agents to swiftly recognize and rank tasks, ensuring effective management of customer requests and inquiries.

Address for General Information

Provide an alternative for people or potential users to connect with you
Provide an alternative for people or potential users to connect with you

Certain companies use shared mailboxes as common contact addresses for questions, opinions, or demands. This method is especially beneficial in cases where there aren't designated email addresses for certain types of queries, or when a complete summary of all brand communications is needed in one inbox.

Customer Service and Support

Shared mailbox helps in catering to customer queries aptly on a regular basis
Shared mailbox helps in catering to customer queries aptly on a regular basis 

Having a shared mailbox allows team members to access and reply to customer emails together, removing the requirement for manual distribution. Yet, a downside of this method is the restricted ability to establish personalized relationships with clients.

Simply put, shared mailboxes offer a centralized space for collaborative customer service, effective task management, and efficient brand messaging. Now, let's explore some downsides of shared mailboxes.

Limitations of Shared mailbox

While a shared mailbox clearly improves corporate transparency and facilitates efficient communication both inside and outside, it does have several limitations:

  • Minimal Individualization: Email responses coming from a common address could not have the same level of individuality that makes for interesting consumer interactions. Furthermore, assigning ownership or accountability for specific emails or tasks becomes difficult when numerous team members use the same inbox.
  • Advanced Collaboration Tools: While Outlook's shared mailbox is good for emailing, it does not have the advanced collaboration tools found in specialized platforms for collaboration. Functionality like task management, file sharing, and real-time chat are not easily available in a shared mailbox setting.
  • Management Complexity: As the number of team members that use a shared mailbox increases, so does the complexity of managing emails within it. Without sufficient coordination, redundant or opposing responses may occur, causing confusion while resolving consumer requests.

Best Practices for Shared Mailbox Management

Diving into the management of shared mailboxes requires a keen eye for detail and a sprinkle of organization magic.

First up, setting the stage with clear roles and permissions ensures that everyone knows their part in this digital ensemble, avoiding any toe-stepping. It's like handing out scripts in a play—everyone should know their lines.

Next, envision your mailbox as a library. By organizing emails into well-labeled folders, you create a Dewey Decimal system for your digital messages, making it easy to find any email.

Regularly check in with your team to share insights, updates, and maybe a laugh or two about the quirkiest spam you've received.

This not only keeps the inbox tidy but also fosters a sense of camaraderie. By following these practices, your shared mailbox will not only be a hub of efficiency but also a testament to your team's collaboration prowess.

The Difference Between a Shared Mailbox And a Distribution List

Distribution lists and shared mailboxes are both useful tools, and the decision between the two is determined by your customer support team's individual requirements.

While distribution lists deliver emails to a set of recipients, shared mailboxes are more collaborative, allowing several people to access and administer a single email account, which is frequently used for customer support or project management.

If your customer service staff predominantly handles incoming client requests and wants a single platform to properly store and reply to these messages, a shared mailbox is a good choice. On the other hand, a distribution list, as the name implies, is excellent for delivering outgoing communications.

The Distribution list stores and archives emails in each recipient's inbox. Archiving is done individually. On the contrary, with a shared mailbox or central storage, when emails are archived or deleted, the changes are reflected for all users.

Distribution List vs Shared Mailbox: Which is The Right Option for Your Team?

Determine which option suits you best
Determine which option suits you best

In our analysis we saw that Both of these tools offer valuable use cases for streamlining communication within organizations. But this choice of which is the best for you hinges on your specific business needs

While distribution lists are good for quickly sending messages to a large audience, shared mailboxes excel at real-time collaboration, ensuring that teams work together and customers receive consistent replies.

One thing is certain - these tools for managing emails can significantly improve team connectivity and productivity. Say goodbye to email disorder and welcome smooth communication. Utilizing distribution lists and shared mailboxes will only make you more efficient but be sure to give your team useful training and onboarding advice to make sure everyone is on the same page.

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