Get Ready for Rich Communication Services for Messaging

Prepare to incorporate rich communication services into your messaging strategy.

As an early adopter of messaging services, Jon knew his way around popular messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, to communicate, transact business and get support. He long ago relegated SMS (aka text messaging) to simple, quick notes such as “Where are you?” with new friends who weren’t yet in his messenger app contact list. So he was thrilled to receive a boarding pass in his Android phone’s built-in messaging app for an upcoming train trip with Virgin Trains. Because the company had his mobile phone number it was able to make the check-in process and overall customer experience seamless and effortless.

“Marketers need to prepare themselves for yet another messaging medium to reach consumers,” says Charles Golvin, research director, Gartner for Marketers.

Mobile operators around the globe are launching an offering that exploits the advantages of SMS while also providing the experiential benefits of mobile messaging apps. Rich communication services (RCS) is mobile carriers’ alternative to mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and it enables brands to employ rich media and interactive elements to engage consumers.

Text messaging long represented a cash cow for mobile operators, initially in the form of person-to-person messages and subsequently as a mechanism for marketers to connect to customers. With smartphones, consumers graduated from SMS to messaging applications. As consumers moved to messaging apps, marketers attempted to follow them because many of these apps deliver a rich customer experience and better analytics on engagement.

Why are operators making this change? Because consumer shift to messaging applications meant lost revenue for carriers that now want to revive that source of revenue by providing brands with the unparalleled reach and single, common identifier (a customer’s phone number) inherent in RCS.

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Benefits of RCS

RCS messaging delivers four key improvements over SMS:

Verified sender
An RCS message displays the brand name a marketer wants to present, as opposed to an SMS message that identifies the sender by a 10-digit phone number or a five- or six-digit short code. This improves consumer trust and increases receptivity to a brand’s messages.

Customized branding
Marketers can employ a brand image within an RCS-threaded conversation next to their responses similar to how a personal conversation can contain a photo or other avatar icon. This reinforces the sense that the customer is engaged in an actual dialogue with the brand or its representative.

Rich media
RCS messages can interweave many forms of media, including still imagery, video and audio. Customers benefit because they can return to this content in the context in which they received it — their messaging application — rather than having to open yet another app or their browser. Jon’s Virgin Train ticket was delivered directly to his phone in a user-friendly form factor. Typical SMS messages require customers to manually add the confirmation quick response code to their native wallet application.

Suggested replies and actions
Responses in an RCS format can include suggested actions that are available with the tap of an icon. These actions go beyond a simple text response, and can include deep links into an associated app such as Google Maps or links into an app store to download a branded application.

When planning how to engage consumers across messaging platforms, develop creative assets with your entire suite of messaging experiences in mind to ensure consistency. Additionally, “design messaging experiences that take advantage of brand identity, rich media and interactive options but can gracefully fall back to basic text,” says Golvin.

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