SMS was created in the early 90s. Despite its tremendous growth, SMS text messaging has not evolved much in these 25 years. So many powerful technologies in our pockets, — iPhones, chatbots, AI, the Internet of Things — and yet we are still restricted to a hard 160 character limit. Now it’s time to look to Rich Communication Services.
Let’s figure out what RCS is, why there’s a buzz around it, and how businesses can actually benefit from it.
What is RCS?
RCS Messaging is a communication protocol, aiming to replace SMS messages. It is designed to work on all phones and mobile operating systems, supporting app-like features like rich content, typing indicators, read receipts, and encryption. When implemented correctly, RCS messages can fallback to SMS, should the end-user’s device not support RCS. It is currently supported on most modern Android phones, and has the support of Google, Samsung, and the GSM Association.
RCS combines the effectiveness of SMS, the customer engagement of Viber, and the flexibility of mobile apps — wrapped up in a single built-in platform.
Currently, RCS features include:
- Sharing images, videos, GIFs
- Branding with name, logo, colour, font
- Video calls
- Smart reply buttons & Suggested replies
- Secure end-to-end payment
- Verified sender
- QR codes for referral marketing campaigns, tracking, tickets, loyalty programs
- Group chat features
- Location sharing
- Link preview
What’s in RCS?
People want to communicate with brands in a simple, quick, and intuitive way. RCS offers a similar kind of advanced functionality as Facebook Messenger, iMessage, and WhatsApp do, but it is a built-in technology. This means you don’t need to download a new messages app or switch between apps to contact different people or businesses.
People also want to feel a greater sense of control over their engagement. Branded and verified business messages give you confidence that you are engaging with a real company, allow you to see the subject of a call, and confirmation that your message has been received.
With RCS, brands can help customers take the next step with suggested smart replies and actions. This is a great option when you need specific feedback or have a time limit — with smart replies, users can respond with just a tap.
Mobile messaging today is no longer just SMS. Will RCS replace SMS? Don’t rule it out.
There are a variety of these non-SMS messaging channels, social/chat apps, that consumers are using. Many of them are regional and strictly person to person (P2P) and based on various social networking platforms. For example, WhatsApp has taken over P2P messaging in many markets: parts of the EU, India, and Latin America. WeChat is heavily used in China. Line is popular in Japan. There are also strong communities for Telegram, Viber, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Kik, and several other messaging apps.
The point here is that messaging apps are a fact of life that marketers can’t ignore. With one major problem though. All these social/chat apps are highly fragmented and mostly local. RCS promises a universal, global messaging experience.
Two-way texting remains essential, but at the same time, around 60% of consumers need more than just characters, both for utility and to hold their attention.
Customer engagement. The term that has captured the minds of many marketers. If customers want to engage seamlessly with your brand, you should think of creating environments to make it possible. And RCS is a great option, offering rich media and available via the default messaging app on most Android devices. Furthermore, RCS is a prime ground for chatbot development.
61% of consumers say they will engage with brands more if they get a better personalised service. RCS Business Messaging, particularly when combined with well-designed customer profiling, allows brands to provide their audiences with a more tailored customer experience.
Security and reliability
If you are worried that a third party can access your apps and misuse your personal data, you’re not alone — 66% of consumers share the same concern.
With RCS, a system could send a secure, fully-encrypted message to the user’s device with a request to validate a login or transaction with a simple Allow or Deny button.
RCS is also well positioned to address these security concerns, in particular when compared to third party apps. When it comes to RCS, an impressive 74% of consumers would trust mobile operators to provide the service.
With RCS, businesses have the chance to create fully-branded messaging experiences that customers trust. There is a ‘verified sender’ feature: after going through a verification process just once, a business will be able to send rich messages to their customers using its brand name, logo, colour, font. |
Customers can make transactions easy with end-to-end payment support. Among the many features retailers can add, are options to receive purchase, shipping, and delivery confirmations. The great example is Overstock.com, an American internet retailer, which asks customers to rate a purchase after delivery.
What is the size of the opportunity?
The GSMA predicts the A2P RCS market will reach $74 billion by 2021. By 2020, 86% of smartphones will be RCS-enabled.
Although currently only available to android users, Rich Communications Services is growing and rollouts are increasing. Industry experts and market researchers expect a significant number of consumers to be exposed to RCS Business Messaging in the next 2 to 4 years.
At the beginning of 2018, there were 159 million monthly active RCS users around the globe, served by 50 mobile operators. By 2019, it will rise to 200 mobile operators serving 1.05 billion monthly active users (assuming Apple upgrades its fallback experience from SMS to RCS by the end of this year). This implies more than 560% of users and RCS launches from 150 mobile operators during 2018.
And consumer research reinforces the projections — people are excited about what RCS has to offer. Nearly 80% of consumers find it appealing, and over 70% say they would like to communicate with a brand that sends RCS Business Messages.
RCS brings a big opportunity for mobile operators to participate in testing and join the pioneers pushing the technology globally. Companies deploying RCS will have the chance to help refine the GSMA RCS Universal Profile and partner with the largest industry players.
RCS goes beyond text messages, and RCS support is growing. Operators, manufacturers, aggregators, and platform providers have the technology in place, and leading brands are preparing to launch a range of innovative RCS-based activities.
Where do you see intelligent mobile messaging headed? Do you believe RCS will replace SMS? There are a lot of questions businesses should give thought to, and there is a bunch of awesome technologies to try. Whether it’s messaging services, interactives, location-based mobile ads, chatbots or specific software development, GMS has a wide range of tools to choose from. Explore our services for enterprises and let us enhance your communications strategy today.