RCS Driving Digital Transformation with Twenty Times the Conversion Rate Compared to SMS

To watch the full recording of the Digital Transformation 2.0 for the Consumer track session at Mobile World Congress 2018, please click here.


One of the highlights of Mobile World Congress 2018 was a conference session titled ‘Digital Transformation for the Consumer 2.0’ that examined how brands are looking beyond transactions to ongoing, personal conversations with their consumers. The session was opened by Rimma Perelmuter, CEO and Global Board Director at Mobile Ecosystem Forum, who outlined the challenge many brands faced in dealing with numerous channels to communicate with their customers. This included emails, SMS and social media amongst others but was set to change with the introduction of RCS and conversational commerce. She argued that advances in chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) was supporting consumers with useful, actionable conversations claiming “RCS offers consumers a single touch point to engage with multiple brands that cuts through the noise.” Perelmuter also discussed how RCS can support consumer demand for useful, convenient and more personalised conversations or ‘frictionless engagement’ as well as privacy and control over personal data. This, she argued, is the challenge for retailers and brands in the future: how can they build a single point of engagement with consumers which is relevant, reactive and reliable?

Anil Sabharwal, VP Product Management, Google picked up the theme highlighting how how SMS was still a capable way for brands to engage with customers but was limited and unengaging and didn’t “create an environment where brands can truly interact with their customers”. The power of RCS Business Messaging was that it would improve the experience, resulting in higher conversion rates, creating brand loyalty and with in-built analytics brands could further improve the experience by finding out how customers are actually interacting with the message. The new platform would also be an opportunity to launch new products and services. GSMA Intelligence estimates that there is currently around 159 million active monthly users of RCS, which is expected to double to approximately 350 million by Q4 2018 and then double again in 2019.

In a panel discussion, Stefano Parisee, Consumer Services Director at Vodafone discussed how “SMS is evolving and has been successful for brands but RCS makes it much more engaging for the customer.” Vodafone has installed RCS natively into all of their devices as well as those in the open market and have completed five RCS Business Messaging trials resulting in over twenty times the conversion rate compared to SMS. He highlighted the opportunity for the whole ecosystem from brand to customer to operator, arguing that it was a level playing field for brands as it offers an opportunity for everybody to compete equally. Universal reach is the most important element, “if you want to reach customers directly then this is the tool to do it,” he said. Parisee also highlighted the importance of having one open and interoperable ecosystem built on the GSMA’s Universal Profile which is currently supported by over 70 leading operators, vendors and OS providers. Yves Maitre, Executive Vice President, Orange also urged the industry to speed up the process through effective partnerships with the ecosystem: “we can super speed this whole platform forward,” he said.

The panel also included two brands, ITV and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Ann Cook, Director of Interactive, ITV talked about the success of SMS for them for TV voting where they typically push about 40 million messages a year to viewers. The prospect of RCS was an exciting opportunity for them: “SMS is like black and white tv, whereas RCS is more vivid like colour television – it’s so exciting to see how rich it is. It’s a huge future play and we’re excited to build the next-gen of this service.” Marco Trecroce, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts discussed the challenge of building brand loyalty on a global scale across all of their hotels and properties around the world. Their guests want to speak to them through SMS and through a variety of different channels such as Whatsapp, WeChat and Facebook and want to continue those conversations through workflows with partners for different departments such as Concierge. For Trecroce “the difference between SMS and RCS is night and day,” and has given them the opportunity to enhance the experience of their guests by making suggestions for things to do during their stay. They saw a huge increase in guest satisfaction scores which rose over 20 percent after trialling RCS. Trecroce sees RCS as a major part of Four Seasons’ future, “our vision is that we can connect with our guests in a personal way and RCS is just so powerful that it will explode and people will become more intimate with us.” Cook agrees, “the fluidity and richness will catapult RCS.”

Security and privacy was another area where RCS had a number of advantages to brands. Cook commented “every brand is foolish if they don’t consider their customers privacy,  consumers have a right to know where their data is held and how it is used, it is a sensitive topic.” Trecroce commented that “privacy is paramount to our guests and all our messaging is built to stay within the platform itself”. RCS is also an opportunity to gather analytics and data about the consumer, whereas with SMS you don’t know whether the message has been read, with RCS you can understand whether consumers are reading it and interacting with it.

The GSMA’s Future Network programme has worked with the industry to accelerate the adoption of RCS services in an incredibly short space of time. There has already been over 50 operator launches as well as a number of network interconnections across Europe and Americas that are helping to scale a rapidly growing base of global users. The GSMA has also been working closely with the industry to ensure RCS becomes a leading messaging platform through the creation of the GSMA RCS Business Messaging Labs.  These Labs convene the ecosystem of operators, marketing companies, messaging aggregators and brands to work together on key topics such as customer experience, specifications, monetisation, privacy, security and trust and interconnection.


To watch the full recording of the Digital Transformation 2.0 for the Consumer track session at Mobile World Congress 2018, please click here.

For further information please go to: www.gsma.com/futurenetworks.