Cells need e-mail standards

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A lack of standards is holding back the development for e-mail marketing on the mobile device in the United States, according to a new study by e-mail marketing firm Exact Target.

In the report, titled "Mobile Email Wars: Are You Ready to Rumble," Exact Target and CNET Networks found that while the mobile Internet population in the U.S. reached almost 35 million users by the middle of 2006 and smart phone sales are growing faster than mobile phones, the mobile channel has yet to sustain e-commerce on a wide scale. One reason is there are too many operating systems and devices.

"As we see this channel emerging, we just need to figure out how to deal with it," said Morgan Stewart, director of strategic services at Exact Target, Indianapolis. "We are dealing with thousands of combinations of what will show up in an e-mail on a mobile device. The rendering quest is even more complicated than usual when dealing with mobile devices."

According to the study, there are more than 3,780 combinations depending on the smartphone manufacturer, the Internet service provider, the mobile data provider and the mobile operating system.

The study also found that consumers are using their mobile devices on a regular basis to hear from colleagues and friends but not to buy products and services.

"People are using mobile messages to stay informed about urgent messages," Mr. Stewart said. "It is not about staying in touch with marketers for their latest promotions. This is not the place to be doing commerce."

However, marketers should still pay attention to how e-mails will show up in a mobile message. According to the study, only 20 percent of users said that they would read e-mail on a mobile device that they would read on a desktop computer. This suggests that many consumers flag important e-mails on the mobile device and respond to these messages when they get back to their computers.

"Mobile may not be the right time to do commerce, but people will flag the messages to return to," Mr. Stewart said.

According to the study, the industry needs to be focusing on standards and prepare for the evolution of mobile technology.

"We need to be adopting standards for a new mobile world," Mr. Stewart. "And things will change as technology develops and devices evolve."

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