According to Juniper Research, RCS is poised to become a key driver of conversational commerce – contributing some $27bn by 2025. The logic is pretty sound; RCS is an engaging messaging medium, designed specifically to help business monetise interactions.
However, RCS isn’t the only game in town when it comes to engaging consumers – and monetising them. Also this week, we learn that Sinch has rolled out new tools to make WhatsApp an ever more capable – and manageable – two-way messaging channel for business. In addition, both Infobip and Sinch have both added tools to their platforms to help brands and businesses also leverage Instagram for customer contact.
Together, these shows that there is a massive upswing in the way consumers want to interact with businesses, but it also – to my mind – makes RCS less of an attractive proposition.
The thing is, RCS is new. Instagram and WhatsApp are, in the minds and messaging habits of consumers at least, something old and familiar. While RCS aims to be SMS 2.0, to most users it isn’t: it is a strange new way to be contacted. And why would they adopt yet another channel?
Of course, in today’s seamless world, we are increasingly moving towards (my only personal) nirvana of a unified inbox for everything, regardless of channel, so I guess it won’t matter, but it is likely that Instagram, WhatsApp and SMS, iMessage, Messenger and more are all likely to eat a bigger part of the conversational commerce pie in the coming year than RCS can drum up from a standing start.
The real key will be just how much of the market RCS can grab in the coming five years as messaging and interaction – not to mention conversational commerce – move on and evolve. Increasingly, it looks like consumers want to come into interactions with businesses in a manner of their choosing and at a time of their choosing. This makes marketing, even through messaging channels, tough: they want to reach out, not be reached out to. RCS has the ability to be engaging and looks great, but is essentially and reach out channel (as far as I can tell), whereas Instagram and to some extent WhatsApp, are much more geared to consumers themselves sharing, reaching out and communicating with each other as well as brands.
While social media has become a morass of woke culture, humble bragging, virtue signalling and pictures of dogs, it has also become the main way in which (younger) consumers discover, discuss and then look to engage and buy across all retail areas. It is driven by them.
Sure, brands and retailers are helping to drive that, but I still believe much of it is UGC-led… and that doesn’t fit with RCS currently.
Additionally, things are moving on in other ways. Already half of consumers want to be able to video call businesses to interact, meaning a radical rethink of contact centres, as well as the platforms that are used. It could be that the winner in the war for consumer engagement will be the platform that allows that to happen.