From cosmetics to holiday snaps, enhanced messaging has the answer

Retail giant Walgreens demonstrates how RCS powered messaging can learn customer’s preferences and make informed recommendations.

Any mobile operator, brand or organisation that needs to solve its communications headaches or freshen up its public face should visit Walgreens in the GSMA Innovation Hall. US retail giant Walgreens is the one stop for everything from cosmetics to holiday snaps. With millions of shoppers and thousands of outlets, it has, by necessity, become adept at addressing mass audiences.

Walgreens is one of the first global brands to investigate how to use Rich Communications Services (RCS). At MWC 2017, it is demonstrating how it has used RCS as a platform on which to develop a variety of sophisticated channels of communication which can speak to people in their own terms. It achieves this through intelligent, self-learning systems which can detect the context of each customer conversation and steer them in a direction unique to each individual. The effect is a highly personalised level of service.

The starting point was a relatively simple messaging app, which allowed shoppers to send pictures from their mobile phones to be printed off at a Walgreens store. The retailer’s system then engaged the customer in conversation, prompting them with questions. Each query, such as how many copies of a photo the customer wants, in what size and from which store they’d like to collect, helped cement the relationship with the customer. It does this by the simple expedient of making it easier for them to get their pictures printed – but at the same time it is familiarising the customer with the concept of communicating with a machine.

Walgreens sees the next stage of its digital relationship with customers involving more intimate levels of conversation. The latest messaging system being created by the retailer and its development partner 3C Interactive allows customers to send a selfie to the Walgreens application. The messaging application, knowing from previous engagements that the customer is interested in beauty products, then responds with insightful questions. In one response highlighted in the Walgreens MWC demo the customer is prompted with questions about what they mightlike to buy: “Foundation? Concealer? Lipgloss?” the application asks, as a more in-depth and personal level of questioning begins.

Google’s Android handset designers and app developer 3C Interactive have been working closely for nearly five years. They have both been committed to working with the GSMA for over a year in order to take full advantage of the potential springboard created by Universal Profile and RCS. From the foundation of universal standards, all parties involved – Google, 3C Interactive and Walgreens – aim to push the boundaries of possibilities further in the near future, with conveniences such as operator billing and Android pay systems being distinct possibilities.

Experience the Walgreens RCS demo for yourself in the GSMA Innovation city in Hall 4.