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. Additionally, numerous brands are already launching trials of RCS Business Messaging to improve the customer experience and enable consumers to communicate directly with brands in a more engaging and direct manner. GSMA Intelligence estimates that there are currently 159 million active monthly RCS users, which is expected to double to 350 million by Q4 2018 and then double again the following year. There are also upwards of three billion users who could be upgraded from SMS to RCS, so the potential is immense.
It is easy to see why RCS is gaining momentum: it’s an upgrade from SMS and lets subscribers enjoy enhanced messaging services such as group chat, video, gifs, file and location sharing without needing to download an app. It also works natively on a smartphone, meaning subscribers can use these services with all of their contacts instantly.
The GSMA has been working with the industry on RCS for some time – starting with the introduction of the GSMA’s Universal Profile, which helped to align the industry behind a consistent, global messaging experience, so it’s been particularly rewarding to see this work take off substantially around the globe. Last month we conducted a global study, interviewing over 2,000 consumers in Mexico, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States to gain their perspectives on RCS before it became more widely available in their respective markets.
The results were positive, with the majority of respondents viewing RCS as a natural progression from SMS and keen for it to be made even more broadly available. The results also highlighted consumer demand for simplicity, with the majority of respondents claiming that they would like to organise their lives on their phones, using functions built into the phone, rather than using multiple downloaded apps (59 per cent). Many would also prefer to have fewer apps (45 per cent) and disliked switching between different apps to contact different brands for different activities (42 per cent). Consumers also expressed interest in being able to send and receive more visual messages, which would help them to express their emotions and feelings more clearly.
RCS also opens up a number of new opportunites for the operator community and wider industry. One of these is called RCS Business Messaging, which allows consumers to engage directly with multiple brands from a messaging platform in a more interactive and engaging way, allowing them to make restaurant reservations, book train tickets or retail purchases without having to juggle numerous apps. From a brand perspective, it opens up a new channel to reach and engage with customers and that can be used for a variety of different customer experiences, such as advertising or customer care. Crucially, RCS Business Messaging doesn’t require investment in a standalone app as it is incorporated into the messaging platform itself.
It has huge potential, with GSMA Intelligence estimating that the RCS Business Messaging market will be worth over $74 billion by 2021. The power of RCS Business Messaging for brands is that it can improve the customer experience and result in higher conversion rates, creating brand loyalty.
Further, with in-built analytics, brands could continue to improve the experience by learning how customers are actually interacting with the message. The research on this was particularly positive, highlighting that 70 per cent of respondents would be more likely to communicate with a brand using RCS Business Messaging. Consumers also expressed interest in having a personalised experience when interacting with a company (64 per cent), with many thinking brands generally lacked a personal touch that would engage consumers more strongly. Many respondents also found it easier to communicate with an organisation over SMS or IM (52 per cent) rather than email, with most opening an SMS or IM as soon as they received it (62 per cent). Crucially, the research highlighted that over half would stop using other messaging apps if SMS offered the same functionality (51 per cent).
As we move in to 2018, RCS is poised for explosive growth, with operators, vendors and brands all making positive strides in adopting the service and consumers receptive and ready to start using it. The GSMA is working to accelerate the growth of RCS, through initiatives such as the GSMA RCS Business Messaging Labs, which bring operators, marketing companies, messaging aggregators and brands together to work together on key topics such as customer experience, specifications, monetisation, privacy, security and trust and interconnection.
For further information please go to: www.gsma.com/futurenetworks.