SMS has been around for 27 years and in that time, it’s evolved to become one of the most valuable go-to marketing channels available. Marketers choose to keep using SMS to interact with their customers because it’s reliable, cost-effective, and easy to use. In fact, SMS has a noticeably higher open rate than email. However, technology keeps evolving. Since SMS was first introduced, it hasn’t evolved at all to keep up with changing customer expectations and business marketing needs — messages are still text-based. This is where Rich Communication Services (RCS) messages come in.
Rich Communication Services is a new and exciting option with messages that look better than SMS and offer more customer engagement opportunities. You can send interactive messages like forms, images, and video that aren’t supported by SMS.
Think of Rich Communication Services as SMS 2.0, where messages are still tied to a user’s mobile number instead of an app like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. RCS is still in the early stages of development and has a few issues to be resolved. However, the advantages rich communication offers far exceed the current capabilities of SMS.
Here’s a look at what you need to know about RCS and why it’s poised to become a mobile messaging game-changer.
Rich Communication Services is a protocol between mobile operators and phones. The overall objective of RCS is to replace SMS and limit the number of restrictions users experience with basic text messaging.
[Source] You can see how limited customers are with their response options.
RCS was first developed and promoted by the GSMA in 2008, and now Google is currently adopting it as an Android alternative to Apple’s iMessage service. RCS will become a means of communication between customers and will eventually replace SMS and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) messages people send to each other. From a business perspective, RCS promises to ease friction at all stages of the digital customer journey. Amir Sarhangi, former head of RCS at Google, explains it this way: “RCS will upgrade today’s business messaging experience by enabling brands to send more useful and interactive messages.”
[Source] Instead of plain-text messages, RCS lets brands and customers alike send graphics like images, GIFs, and videos.
Messages are meant to make it easier for companies to get their customers to stay engaged. Amir explains that “RCS will upgrade today’s business messaging experience by enabling brands to send more useful and interactive messages. For example, a message from your airline reminding you to check in for a flight can now take advantage of rich media and interactivity to provide a full check-in experience, complete with boarding pass, visual flight updates, and terminal maps on demand, all directly within the messaging experience.” He continues, “Businesses can also have a branded messaging experience with information about the business and the ability to share content like images, video clips and GIFs.”
Rich communication can make it easier for you to help customers:
The features mentioned above make it possible to send customized campaigns and improve the customer experience at the same time. In addition to these types of messages, there are a number of features that come with Rich Communication Services that aren’t offered by SMS, including:
You can see how rich communication will change B2C interactions to be more user-friendly. But RCS is new, and there are still issues that need to be resolved before it replaces SMS. Let’s take a closer look at these issues and what’s being done to resolve them.
More mobile operators are signing up to offer RCS capabilities. According to the GSMA, there are currently 55 operators and 11 phone manufacturers that support RCS. For example, in the UK, Vodafone is an operator that supports rich communication:
While there’s some interest from operators and manufacturers, your addressable market is very small. Plus, since only two device types are capable of supporting RCS — Android and Windows phones — the available audience to market to gets even smaller.
For now, Google has emerged as a leader in the RCS space — in 2015, Google acquired Jibe Mobile to help it adopt RCS Universal Protocol — with its goal being to help boost usage rates and make company-to-customer communication easier. It plans to work with mobile operators to help them adopt rich communication standards. However, RCS implementation is up to individual operators and phone manufacturers to manage. It’s this free-for-all that’s partially the reason for the slow uptake and disjointed adoption.
Even though RCS offers breakthrough features and functions, there are a few more limitations:
Google is doing its best to resolve these issues. For example, its RCS option — called Chat — is opt-in based. When you send RCS messages to customers and they open the Android messaging app, customers can decide whether or not to receive RCS messages. This opt-in feature is currently only available in the UK and France. A timeline for roll-out to other countries isn’t available yet.
Now that we’ve established that Rich Communication Services is a new service that still needs a lot of development, if you want to send more engaging messages, what do you do? What’s currently available?
Rich Media Messaging (RMM) is the RCS fallback solution. These messages provide the same look and feel in terms of branding and messaging, but what’s even better is the additional functionality that RMM offers — like shopping or making payments from within a message:
[Source] An example of a sale promotion sent using rich media messaging
Read more about RCS Messaging in: What’s Your RCS Fallback? Choose Rich Media Messaging (RMM)
RMM lets you create compelling, immersive, and engaging rich communication messages. With RMM, you harness the benefits of RCS and gain important customer experience advantages over your competitors. RMM has a further benefit over Rich Communication Services in that it doesn’t have a requirement for costly in-house development. RMM is also available on all smartphones, regions, and network providers.
Some additional RMM features that enhance your communications campaigns include:
Just like sending an email campaign, RMM is simple to create, deploy, and report. You can send rich media messaging campaigns in minutes. The set-up and user experience are entirely customizable. Incorporate intuitive CTAs and personalize messages with imagery, maps, videos, downloadable files – anything you would include in an app, email, or landing page. With a workflow creator, set up chat-bot conversations via a series of questions and pre-defined response options.
To learn more about RMM and how it can substitute for RCS, schedule a demo.
Until Rich Communication Services is adopted by more mobile carriers and its many issues resolved, take some time to learn more about alternative options available to you. As we’ve discussed, RMM is a strong stand-in if you’re ready to embrace interactive mobile messaging.
In the meantime, prepare for the inevitable rise of RCS messaging. Begin or redouble your efforts to get customers to opt-in to SMS. This way, they’ll be able to receive mobile text messages from you. A growing number of customers are happy to share their phone numbers if it means getting relevant promotional offers.
Also, start sending SMS campaigns if you haven’t already done so. Or develop the complexity of existing SMS campaigns. Explore the use of different trigger types for campaigns, including a subscription or account being closed, proximity-based messaging via Bluetooth, password reset request, payment verification, and more.
When it comes to mobile messaging, the sky’s the limit. Start testing your options now and by the time rich communication is fully available, you’ll be ahead of the curve.
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