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What is RCS messaging? The future of mobile communication

Illustration depicts RCS messaging in action
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While billions of people send texts each year, there are other messaging channels that offer a lot more, including RCS messaging. But what is RCS messaging and how does it work? 

RCS (Rich Communication Services) is a messaging protocol that was built as a replacement for SMS and MMS. It allows Android users to enjoy many of the same features as those using Apple’s iMessage system. While RCS was first conceived 15 years ago, its widespread adoption has grown more recently. At their IO conference in May 2022, Google announced that there are 650 million monthly users and that they expect to hit a billion before the end of 2023. Google’s data also suggests that people are 35% more likely to read RCS than email, and 74% more likely to engage with brands using RCS.

How is this good for your business? Let’s walk through how you can use RCS for better engagement and sales, and more customer trust. 

What is RCS messaging for Android and why is it important?

RCS messaging gives Google/Android users features that are similar or superior to Apple messaging protocol. It allows businesses to create an app-like experience within its native messaging app.

While more people than ever are using SMS, it’s an old system (the first text was sent in 1992!) that has its limitations. In 2006, a group set out to create the next step or evolution of SMS — RCS. 

RCS was designed to upgrade SMS for modern systems and needs. That means more options, images, videos, and better security. 

Sinch’s Robert Gerstmann said that one of the potential powers of RCS is that it can replace apps altogether. While that may sound radical, it is possible. Many of the most common uses of apps (checking balances, placing orders) could be handled with rich messaging. Plus, the security required for a company to get verified builds consumer trust, making them more likely to engage on that channel.  

Exciting rich communication services features

Illustration highlights the best features of RCS messaging

What does RCS do better than SMS texting? Well, just about everything!  

  • Better security, better branding — Fully verified sender IDs means that mobile subscribers always know exactly who they’re talking to. Secure, branded messages build trust and drive better engagement.
  • Higher text limits — Instead of 160 characters, RCS allows you to send 250,000 characters at once.
  • High-resolution images and videos — Grab attention with gorgeous photos, captivating videos, carousels, and other dynamic features right in the native messaging app.
  • Larger files — Send files up to 10MB in size.
  • Cross-app connectivity — Send messages that open in browsers, maps, and other applications.
  • Group chat — Connect securely with friends, family, and team members without requiring another chat app. 

Why RCS is a game-changer for your company and your customers

Illustration shows what businesses can do to unlock the power of RCS messaging

RCS lets you build more engaging content and provide a better CX for those with RCS-enabled devices. Time and time again, RCS has been proven to lead to higher cart values, more conversions, and higher engagement than any other type of mobile messaging.

User-focused features 

What does RCS mean for users? A better customer experience, more options, and increased security when messaging. 

  • Verified senders — Users won’t have to worry about whether or not a message is legit when it’s sent through RCS.
  • No extra downloads — Since the Android update Lollipop v5.1 in 2015, all new Android devices have built-in RCS. That means that messages from verified businesses can go to the native messaging inbox instead of needing a separate app.
  • Message reactions, read receipts, and typing indicators — These features were once only found in Apple’s iMessage ecosystem, but now they’re available on Android, too. 
  • Larger file sharing — Sending different kinds of files is easier when you don’t have to use email or send it through another system.

Verification builds trust

To be able to send RCS messages, businesses have to be verified. This process reduces spam and increases trust in verified senders. Recently, Google announced that RCS Business Messaging will replace Verified SMS in another step towards making RCS the new standard. 

For your customers, when they know that you’ve been verified, they can trust the messages that they get from you. 

More features means better engagement 

Interactive and personalized features (as well as multimedia assets) mean better engagement. Instead of sending a link to a product on your site or directing a customer to your online booking portal, you can do it right in the message. 

When you make things as easy and fast as checking your texts, people will take advantage of what you offer them. For example, you can send RCS messages that contain elements like buttons with suggested actions. This saves time and helps direct customers towards actions that will solve their problems. 

It’s also possible to send carousels of images, each of which have their own unique CTAs. If you’re helping a customer find a product they want or assisting them with booking an appointment, this is a huge time saver that they’ll appreciate.

Better reporting 

Thanks to built-in analytics, you’ll be able to see who’s reading your messages and who isn’t. Handset delivery receipts give you more in-depth information about the status of messages. Knowing when, where, and if your messages are being delivered will help you keep tabs on the performance of your messages.

Another benefit of better reporting is more data to use — which means better campaigns. Using the data from multiple campaigns, you can analyze them to see which parts of the message customers reacted to. Having these data points allows for better, more focused A/B testing opportunities.

Personalized UX 

Personalizing your messages for individual users isn’t just a dream anymore. By using chat histories, analytics, and other data, you can design better customer profiles. With better profiles, crafting compelling messages for automated responses or designing better marketing materials suddenly gets much easier. 

Reliable fallbacks 

What happens if someone doesn’t have strong enough service or connection to wifi when you send them an RCS message? The messages will then be delivered through a fallback protocol or another app, including SMS, MMS, or WhatsApp. In short, your messages will always get to your customers, one way or another.

How to use RCS to grow your business

Illustration details how businesses can grow using RCS messaging

Like most other kinds of marketing and support, the ability to grow your business using RCS is really only limited by your imagination and your budget. It’s good to remember just how powerful these messages can be — do you know any other form of outreach that’s as big a part of your customers’ daily routine as their text inbox? Neither do we.

Promotions and specials 

Provide up-to-the-minute information on sales and promotions tailored to a customer’s tastes. With the added functionality of RCS, you can send them to your website, or give them directions to your location. You can even have them choose what they want and order it right from your message!

Real-time updates 

RCS allows your customers to engage with a conversational service (including live support or AI chatbots), for instance, to schedule or change appointments. You can also provide directions, sports scores, and shipping updates as they happen. 

Account alerts 

One of the most powerful ways to use RCS is to send account alerts. While many of these alerts have been limited to SMS or apps in the past, now you can send fraud alerts, payment posting messages, and service reminders right to your customers’ message inbox, with links and options for how to proceed.

Personalized recommendations 

Personalization is one of the most important parts of any communication or marketing strategy. Rich messages built around unique customer profiles lead to better engagement and sales. Create a profile for your customers based on past purchases and behavior to provide relevant, helpful recommendations. 

Here’s a real-world RCS messaging example at work: Nissan wanted better ways to connect with customers after more traditional marketing efforts started falling flat. In addition to getting more people into the dealerships to test-drive new cars, they wanted to simplify appointment bookings for routine maintenance. 

By combining the information from their CRM with Sinch’s technology, they were able to push out rich messages reminding vehicle owners of upcoming services and new product launches. The result? An 80% conversion rate with these messages! 

3 tips to build a great RCS strategy

A good RCS strategy is similar to SMS, push notification, and messaging app strategies. But it’s also different because it combines a lot of the features found in other channels into one.

Know what problems you’re solving or what you’re trying to communicate

Don’t send RCS messages without a specific purpose. Whether you’re giving access to a sale or sending an account alert, you need to make every message actionable. Luckily, the advanced features of RCS lets you create powerful CTAs. Segmenting messages by type is a good place to start:

  • Informational messages — These can be fraud alerts, account balances, 2FA messages, or any other communication that provides information customers have asked for or need to be aware of.
  • Marketing or transactional messages — With these messages, you can invite customers to a sale, follow up on an abandoned cart, or help them with a purchase or return. 

Take cues from successful past campaigns and add new features and interactivity

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. But there’s nothing that says you can’t (or shouldn’t) make your relevant, useful messages look and work better. That’s a good way to think of an RCS campaign — a souped-up version of an SMS or email campaign that takes full advantage of new, rich features. 

Make use of the customer data you have 

Combine CRM data, chat and order histories, and the results of customer surveys to build profiles that paint a fuller picture of who your customers are. From there, your team can devise and implement marketing and support strategies.

Getting started with RCS

What’s the best way to start out strong with this exciting new channel? 

  1. Research how others in your field are using RCS. If your competitors aren’t using the channel, take the plunge and get in on the ground floor of what’s almost guaranteed to become one of the most powerful tools in the upcoming years.
  2. Find an API that connects your platforms. Unifying all of your communication channels into a single omnichannel system doesn’t have to be complicated. Sinch’s Conversation API lets you add other channels and scale as needed — which is exactly what you’ll need as your RCS strategy could mean directing customer communication across channels.
  3. Build a strategy. Use your data and previous messaging use cases to build better support, marketing, and sales processes. Sinch makes it easy! Automate customer care and conversations with Chatlayer for improved efficiency and better CX. And with Sinch for Marketing, you’ll get all of the marketing tools you need to increase sales. Plus, you’ll see a 300% higher return rate compared to email. 
  4. A/B test your strategies. Once you’ve implemented new strategies, test them out. Start with a small group to iron out any major headaches and then expand out. Capture as much data as you can to inform future decisions.
  5. Roll them out and refine them. Keep improving your strategies as you gain more experience and let customers tell you directly what they’d like to see in your messages. 

Because Android has more than 70% of the global market share, engaging Android users with the best, most interactive messaging available is a smart move. As RCS chat continues to gain ground, you can make great strides with this new channel. Check out our RCS E-book to learn more about how powerful our conversational RCS actually is.