2019 Will See RCS Transform Digital Marketing
Over the course of 2018, Rich Communications Services (RCS) proved its capacity not only to work as promised, but to make the brands using it some serious returns on investment. RCS Business Messaging has now been established as the natural successor to SMS marketing: allowing users to interact with brands in far more engaging ways, with the use of multiple new dynamic and visual features, while offering greater guarantees of their privacy and security while doing so.
The sandwich chain Subway, for instance, quickly attracted more than 5 million users to their RCS campaign – which enjoyed an 85% retention rate, and more than double the conversions achieved on their most successful SMS campaign. “I don’t know what there is not to like about RCS,” reflects Subway’s Chief Digital Officer Carissa Ganelli. “We saw 146% lift, and a between 50% and 60% rise in conversion rates – not just open rates, not just retention rates, but actual sales. The consumers are there – they’re waiting for it, and they’re already using it.” Clothing retailers Express, too, have seen the lowest opt-out rates of any marketing campaign to date – all, as the world’s first clothing retailer to use RCS, on an essentially blank canvas.
A further tranche of launches across Asia, Europe and the Americas brought the total number of operators offering RCS to 74, in 55 different countries, by the close of 2018. Crucial to this momentum has been the GSMA’s RCS Business Messaging Labs. For any ecosystem to develop, its constituent parts must find time and space to convene, and these are the place to do so worldwide. So far 20 Labs have been held – more than half of which took place over the course of last year – bringing together more than 1800 attendees from participating operators, brands, developers and marketers. These include Awareness Labs, designed for companies new to the promise of RCS; Innovators Labs, for those already making strides in contributing to the future of business messaging; and Thought Leaders Labs, for those at the cutting edge and in a position to set the strategic agenda for the ecosystem as a whole.
The single most significant development of 2018, however, was undoubtedly the release of Universal Profile 2.2, the latest industry-agreed set of technical standards and features which guides the process of RCS’ development. This latest version brought in key advances in AI chatbots, an essential ingredient to the commercial viability of RCS’ capacity to scale. Key among these were verification of chatbots – so that users can establish at a stroke from a third party that the feature is operating legitimately – and anonymisation of the user themselves while they use chatbots. As users become increasingly conscious of their online data security, following a series of high-profile breaches over the last year, this marked an important proof-point of the seriousness with which the mobile industry takes consumer privacy. Improvements were also made to the speed with which common inquiries can be made, to avoid RCS becoming too heavily dependent on extensive typing.
The Universal Profile’s essential task is to enable RCS to grow, and delivery of that goal is now well on its way. At the heart of the Universal Profile’s purpose is interoperability; the importance of this is difficult to overstate, as it allows users to communicate and switch between their different devices seamlessly. The announcement in Q3 2018 that Samsung and Google would collaborate to ensure their respective business messaging clients would work on each other’s devices underscored the commitment of the industry’s largest players to the common standards Universal Profile provides, which is naturally crucial to its success.
So what’s next? Put simply, 2019 will be the year in which conversation turns from the merits of RCS Business Messaging as an exciting new prospect, to how best it can be deployed at scale. Monthly active users have already well surpassed 215 million, and are expected to more than double over the coming years; the total market value of RCS services is forecast to reach 74 billion by 2021. Those seeking either to lead the process of making good on the promise of RCS, or join anew, don’t have long to wait: the next Thought Leaders Lab will take place in Florida on 24th January, and on 24th February, the day before Mobile World Congress kicks off in Barcelona, our next Awareness Lab will induct the next generation of those offering the increasingly extensive and integrated services 2019 will bring in RCS Business Messaging. They will have a busy year.
How to get involved in RCS in 2019: