When it comes to talking about Rich Communication Services (RCS), the same features are often emphasized. RCS is secure – it is both encrypted in transit, and A2P/P2A and P2P traffic are separated by default, making it resistant to the threats of spam and grey routes that currently plague MNOs.
RCS offers rich content, improving the overall user experience, and feedback and event reporting provide brands using RCS Business Messaging (RBM) improved metrics for tracking KPIs.
However, what we think is the real key to RCS – what will bring all that monetizable traffic; what will be the backbone that delivers that richer content – is the overall experience. The ability to send images and content pales in comparison with the additional interactivity that RCS brings to A2P messaging and P2A messaging.
Active engagement may be the defining feature of RCS technology. What we are potentially looking at is not simply another channel, or an alternative to apps, but a completely new experience. Look at any of the available demos available: RBM use cases make the customer experience inherently interactive.
RCS moves us away from traditional business-to-consumer messaging pushes to essentially create a mobile-native browsing experience. Rather than scrolling through scaled-down versions of websites, end users can access RCS to reach out, explore, and even buy.
Tools like rich cards, carousels, suggested actions, and chatbots better structure these interactions, making a messaging session more like navigating a website. Instead of searching for information or products on a site, the user can interrogate a chatbot, which will display cards relevant to their query.
What we should be emphasizing, therefore, is the level of customer interaction (particularly that initiated by the customer themselves) and how these interactions are natively secured.
While not as glamorous as rich content, RCS RBM’s verified sender system both safeguards users, while relieving the problems that afflict the whole SMS ecosystem – from enterprises, to MNOs, to subscribers – things like fraud and SMiShing. Furthermore, when a user reaches out to a verified account, they know the bot they are communicating with has been vetted and links to a legitimate business.
Fully matured, RCS could become the “weapon of choice” for enterprises, supporting core business functions, conversational commerce, and customer care. In turn, enterprise adoption will drive corresponding growth in traffic for MNOs. However, there remain challenges. Mostly these are old news, though some gain an added dimension or urgency when we consider this shift in emphasis.
Obviously, there is still much unevenness when it comes to MNO rollouts. Some operators, especially smaller ones, are lagging behind and Google itself needs to be more supportive in certain markets. This means that RCS still lacks the ubiquity of SMS, which was supposed to be one aspect of its appeal over OTT messaging apps. The time and financial investments involved can be addressed by partially- or fully-hosted solutions, but awareness and availability of RCS are still quite poor in some markets.
The challenge for RBM may, therefore, be getting sufficient traction and interoperability before the OTTs have worked out their B2C offering. This is one of the areas where enablers, like GMS, will play a key role: decreasing operators’ time to market while building awareness of the unique features of RCS among enterprises and brands.
Even so, as with all open standards where many stakeholders are involved, there is a risk for RCS that new features and evolutions will be slowed down due to endless negotiations between parties. OTTs are very flexible and continually adding new features/capabilities, and RCS will need to ensure that it can catch-up – or even lead the way – when it comes to innovation.
Also, of course, we must consider billing and commercial models. At the very least, session-based billing must be a part of this, to properly support the interactivity of RCS at a price point that makes sense to the enterprise. A hybrid model – one supporting transactional and session billing as needed by the use case, and including a revenue share once payment options are fully implemented – will best suit RCS messaging as we see it: a trusted, interactive experience, fully optimized for mobile.
By envisaging what RCS and RBM might become, the industry can better prepare the groundwork and adopt facilitative approaches from the start. Such steps will accelerate the development and spread of RCS and its most fruitful use scenarios.
At GMS, we think this means acknowledging the complexity of brand-consumer interactions the format will enable. Find out more about GMS’ RCS services for Operators.