The Future Networks programme instigated an initiative called the GSMA RCS Business Messaging Labs last year that was designed to bring leading stakeholders in the messaging industry together such as mobile operators, aggregators and brands to discuss the operational and commercial requirements that will enable RCS to become an industry-leading messaging platform. Global adoption of Rich Communications Services (RCS) is accelerating quickly around the world with over 50 network launches, as well as network interconnections in the Americas and Europe. There are also numerous brands launching trials of RCS Business Messaging to improve the customer experience and enable consumers to communicate directly with them in a more engaging and direct manner. Indeed, GSMA Intelligence estimates that there are currently 165 million active monthly RCS users, which is expected to double to 350 million by Q4 2018 and then double again the following year. So, it was against this backdrop that the GSMA’s Future Network programme hosted the tenth Labs meeting at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona – sponsored by 3Cinteractive, with guest speakers from Google, Samsung, Vodafone, WIT amongst many others.
David O’Byrne, Project Director at the GSMA, opened the session and outlined the progress, momentum and adoption in the market to date, highlighting the importance of the Universal Profile in helping 55 live RCS networks to launch and the GSMA’s additional work to support a further 90 with their preparations. He also highlighted the huge potential with 3 billion subscribers in the world who could potentially be upgraded from SMS to RCS. For O’Byrne, the clear opportunity for both operators and brands is in RCS Business Messaging and he warned of the threat of OTT players in targeting this space by encouraging the industry to accelerate its adoption now. RCS Business Messaging is a huge industry opportunity and much of the session covered the topic in detail. It is easy to see the attraction of RCS Business Messaging to operators, brands and consumers. It allows subscribers to engage directly with multiple brands from one messaging platform in a more interactive and engaging way so that they can make restaurant reservations, book train tickets or make purchases without having to juggle between numerous apps. From a brand perspective, it opens up a new channel to reach and engage with customers that can be used for a variety of different customer experiences, such as advertising or customer care, driving higher conversion rates and brand loyalty. GSMA Intelligence estimates that the market will be worth over $74 billion by 2021.
3Cinteractive’s VP Client Strategy, Jeff Michaud discussed the transformative effect RCS Business Messaging would have on the industry citing the example of “53% of teens aged 13 to 17 mostly use smartphones to make purchases online” today who will take these habits with them into adulthood. Tasso Roumeliotis, Founder and CEO at NumberAI also highlighted the changing landscape of business communications arguing that “85% of U.S consumers prefer to text a business than call/email” and that “63% of phone calls to businesses are NOT answered. Consumers hate calling. Businesses hate answering.” Samsung’s Product and Service Innovation Director, Val Zinchenko highlighted that six out of the world’s most popular apps were messaging apps but also that SMS was still going strong and ranked as highly as number five. He discussed the changing landscape of messaging and heightened consumer expectations where new features and experiences were expected to be added. Ultimately, he argued that the native experience was key for wider adoption.
Vodafone Group discussed how the Vodafone RCS Business Messaging platform was ready for business and that it was available for live campaigns today. They also discussed market scale and how they planned to cover 100% of their Android base with the service. Samsung highlighted its commitment to RCS by installing it natively in all of its devices – numbering the hundreds of millions – which it aims to complete by 2019. They also highlighted their complete end-to-end RCS solution including Message as a Platform support, chat-bot monetization and a fast RCS interconnection Hub. Gavin Webster, SVP Sales at WIT discussed their proposition for MaaP and Chatbots and demonstrated how easy it was to design and deploy A2P campaigns including the use of AI and 3D Avatars.
Live Demos of RCS Services
The final part of the session focused on live demonstrations of RCS Business Messaging. ITV, FC Bayern Munich and Subway provided in-depth demos that showcased how it is enhancing their customer experience for consumers. ITV is using RCS for its TV based competitions and viewer voting which have been running for over 25 years. The experience allows viewers to makes choices about what they want to vote for with options for further content. Subway is using RCS to promote meal deals, make transactions and drive traffic to their restaurants and FC Bayern is using it to let fans sell or resell tickets as well as purchase merchandise and watch match clips. Alex Cambell, VP Enterprise Sales at Marketing aggregators, IMImobile presented a number of live demos of brands they are working with including Hermes, Barclays, Pizza Hut and Foxtons.
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