Messaging, chatbots, and third-party apps such as WhatsApp have brought new routes for brands and businesses to interact with customers and clients, respectively.
A whole new messaging standard, however, known as Rich Communication Services (RCS), is currently entering the market, says Mathias Muehlfelder, senior product management director at Syniverse.
RCS will allow brands to share multimedia content (like high-quality videos and images, maps, payment functions, and chatbots) to create truly engaging conversations on any mobile device. Importantly, it will allow users to perform a wide array of operations within the same conversation thread, without having to jump to an external website or app. Such ease of use will avoid the pitfalls of having a multi-application journey.
Companies should approach RCS as a powerful addition to the existing marketing arsenal, one especially useful in the case of different target groups, each with their preferences on how they want to be contacted.
Where RCS adds value
The RCS protocol has been in development for the past decade, but only recently has it truly started to gain traction, and there’s plenty of reason for companies to be excited about RCS:
- Tracking a delivery: Instead of visiting a website and entering the tracking number, customers can send a text directly to the company; their phone number is paired with the parcel and they automatically receive an update on its delivery status. Additional functions can be installed, such as the option to redirect the parcel to a new address, or inserting notes and directions for the driver.
- Receiving assistance: Companies can create a quick and convenient channel for straightforward customer queries, by using a chatbot to automatically provide assistance via text messages. This takes the pressure off the call centres, allowing human agents to focus on resolving more complex issues.
- Making a purchase: RCS can support payment functions, allowing customer to purchase goods and services with a quick text message. This can be applied, for example, to physical retail stores where users can self-checkout by scanning a product QR code, instead of queuing at a till.
- Personalised marketing: Combined with back-end analytics, RCS can drive the loyalty so integral to successful marketing through a truly personalised model. A retailer can reward its most dependable client with discounts on their next purchase or a sneak-peek at a new collection. Burst promotions with a limited timeframe will ensure swift responses, all enabled through the simplicity of replying to a text. Payment, delivery, receipts are all handled in one transaction. Making it easier for brands to reach out with offers, and more immediate for customers to redeem them, using the best experience possible will put RCS at the centre of the marketing mix.
- New product announcements: Thanks to the ability of RCS to support high-quality multimedia content, brands can showcase products in a more engaging way. Fashion designers could text their existing clients with a catalogue of their upcoming collection, while a software company might share a video-guide to their latest application.
- Combining for success: As an example of how these can integrate together, movie-goers could send a text to their local cinema to check what’s on; a chatbot can reply with the list of movies and their showing time; customers can watch a trailer of a film; and then have the option to buy tickets in the same conversation. Vouchers for popcorn included.
The future is bright
Since the technology is still in its early stages, companies have time to prepare to use RCS to its full potential. The most crucial element of this preparation is designing a comprehensive, omni-channel communication strategy. RCS can be adapted to multiple functions, and companies should take the time to study their target audience’s needs and what matters to them. Once this is determined, the business can examine where RCS should be implemented to deliver the best value.
However, there is still a lot of work to do before the standard is widely adopted. For example, RCS will need a new pricing model. Traditionally, when a consumer creates a text message, it is sent to a mobile operator’s network, who then delivers the message to the recipient’s mobile device for a fee. Text messaging is set as back-and-forth one-way interactions, and it’s priced as such; in contrast, RCS will be more complex and conversational.
Mobile operators and businesses are exploring different solutions and, while there’s no clear answer yet, it’s expected that a lot of major industry players will be weighing in on this decision throughout the next year.
RCS will add a conversational, instantaneous type of communication to the marketing mix, enriching the existing interactions and producing deeper engagement and advocacy. Businesses who are prepared for its arrival will be in the best position to unlock the full potential of RCS. By integrating it into their communication strategy, they will be better positioned to meet customer needs, ultimately improving customer retention and gaining an advantage over their competitors.
The author is Mathias Muehlfelder, senior product management director at Syniverse.
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