RCS Set to Take Over SMS as Primary Marketing Tool in 2018

As carriers shift to the new Rich Communications Services (RCS) standard, new functionalities and ways to engage consumers will emerge, opening up a whole world of marketing opportunities.  

Even last year, RCS began to emerge as a significant advance for mobile marketing.  At that point, there were about 137 million RCS users, according to David O’Byrne, RCS lead at the GSMA. He was quoted in an MSN reportreferring to that baseline, saying he anticipates users to reach 350 million this year, topping a billion next year.

On the basis of those predictions, combined with the number of people already using SMS, RCS is poised to become a key component of communication in the very near future.  That’s the view of Andy Shirey, Senior Product Marketing Manager at OpenMarket. 

Given that “some of the giants in the space like Samsung” are producing RCS enabled devices now and the likelihood of Apple getting on board in the near future, Shirey is confident that it will become a mainstream standard soon. Having an RCS enabled devices is what customers need to progress from SMS to RCS because there is “no need to download and learn” anything new. As it is “very intuitive,” there is virtually “no learning curve involved for those already used to SMS.  

Asked about his outlook for this year, Shirey said, “What we’ll see is a lot of movement on the mobile operator side of things.” Initially, much of this would be for P2P (Peer-to-Peer) use, but A2P (Application-to-Person) would soon follow.  OpenMarket believes “that marketing will be a significant use case,” though RCS also offers other use cases for businesses that are to be showcased this February in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress. 

OpenMarket has been working with a number of the companies that will showcase RCS use cases there, offering their own program to businesses who wish to learn about how it could be used and where they should start. Part of the challenge for businesses, he explained, is that the “RCS world is somewhat fragmented.”

“Many carriers are wary of partnering with some of the suppliers in the space,” he said. As a result different carriers selected “different ways to deploy RCS” and may not play with others. For example, “Google doesn’t work with Vodafone,” he said, which is why OpenMarket set up “a direct connection with them.”

As they connect with the various carriers, OpenMarket can facilitate navigation for businesses, offering the convenience of a “single API” that can transmit SMS or RCS to consumers, no matter what carrier they use. In the case of connecting Virgin Train via Sprint, they could use Google, as they do work together. But for the individuals who use Vodafone, OpenMarket has to send out directly to Vodafone.

RCS offers benefits from both the perspective of the consumer and the business.  On the consumer end, 79% of people surveyed  consider interacting with a business that includes company identification from the sender safer than responding to just a text linked to a number alone.  As RCS messages are encrypted, the messages coming through cannot be spoofed the way they can on SMS.

On the business end, RCS ID branding opens more opportunity for imprinting “the brand name of the company, the logo, and even brand colors within the message,” Shirey said. That makes it a double win in gaining trust and raising more brand awareness.

While companies can achieve that with apps, those require investing in development for both IoS and Android, as well as incentives for customers to download.  App adoption of just 5-10 percent of customers is considered quite good, he pointed out. In contrast, RCS “could literally touch every single one of your customers.”  

Its potential for rapid, mass adoption combined with its app-like abilities to deliver a range of content and engage customers with a number of interactive possibilities is what makes RCS such a formidable marketing tool.

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