Is RCS Messaging The New SMS? What You Should Know About The Communication Platform

Should you be implementing RCS non your digital strategy?


It’s no secret that technology is expanding and proliferating at an unprecedented rate. Jetsons-esque solutions that we only dreamed possible a mere five years ago are now becoming realities and today’s hot trend could easily become tomorrow’s cast-off if careful steps are not put into place to reserve it. As we prepare to close out the first quarter of 2018, it appears that mobile messaging capabilities are one of the first platforms to undergo a major shift.

In recent years, SMS messaging has exploded in popularity as a means for brands to instantly connect with their audience base. The way the system works is relatively simple. Consumers can opt-in to receive text alerts from their favorite or most frequented stores and by doing so, they’re placed on a mass text list that allows administrators to send exclusive deals, discounts and updates to a batch of customers all at once. Standing for short message service, SMS messaging is an inventive use of the smartphone texting platform.

Yet, despite their convenience, SMS messages are still fairly basic. They appear to users as any traditional text would, and leave little room for design creativity on the part of the brand. Still, they’re digital marketing mainstays for good reason. Recent studies reveal that a staggering nine out of 10 people prefer to receive updates and notifications from their favorite brands and companies via text. Thus, despite the rudimentary appearance of these messages, strategies centered on them have continued to be rolled out.

There’s a new form of mobile text messaging that’s about to change all of that. Known as Rich Communication Services (RCS), this platform allows both brands and companies to reap the benefits of a more feature-rich communication system. Let’s take a closer look.

Key Features of RCS Messaging

If you’ve ever received an SMS message with the “Do Not Reply” message tacked on at the end, you know that for the most part, those communications work one way. Some companies, such as healthcare providers sending appointment reminders, might allow you to text back a short code to confirm, but the process is entirely automated and lacks a human interface.

RCS messaging, on the other hand, affords a more personalized interaction and dynamic display capabilities. Featured by Google at Mobile World Congress 2017, the platform is being labeled as text messaging 2.0. Whereas you might receive an SMS message reminding you of your upcoming hotel stay a few days before you’re set to travel, you can receive an RCS message after you simply express interest in staying at a hotel chain. The RCS message could then display a calendar of dates and show you images of available rooms, allowing you to begin the reservation process right then.

The takeaway? Company branding is given a chance to shine here, whereas it was difficult to express any corporate personality via SMS messaging. The addition of high-quality images, a more responsive and intuitive two-way communication system, and a sleeker, more colorful overall look and feel encourage personalization. As an added bonus, clearer branding also helps customers identify senders more quickly, adding to their level of security and peace of mind.

RCS messaging also shines for its use of what experts call “chip lists.” Put simply, these are systems that break down even the most complicated task into simple clickable steps. While features such as these benefit the consumer, they also help the brands out as well.

Marketers reveal that RCS messaging will enable them to have a more interactive and informative dialogue with their clients, helping them extract actionable data they can use to power stronger future communications.

SMS vs. RCS: Usage Data and Forecasts

Worldwide predictions estimate that there will be 9 billion mobile subscriptions by 2022. While most of those subscriptions have been centered on traditional, SMS-based messaging, consumers are making room for RCS capabilities. In fact, a recent report revealed that 80% of users believe that RCS is appealing and 74% say they’d be more likely to communicate with a brand that employed an RCS messaging strategy.

Currently, major carriers including T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint have all made strides toward enabling RCS messaging, although Verizon is remaining silent on the issue. Forward-carriers adopting the capability early stand to cash in on an impressive lot of users who are already utilizing the technology. In fact, as of January 2018, there were 159 million active RCS users per month worldwide, comprising an audience served by about 50 mobile operators. Industry experts predict that by the beginning of 2019, that number will have jumped to 1.05 billion active users per month and more than 200 mobile operators.

Moving forward, it remains to be seen just how deeply RCS messaging will penetrate the SMS messaging market. If predictions hold true, however, we could be interacting with our favorite brands in an entirely new and innovative way in the near future. 

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