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RCS: ready for take off

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RCS is slowly growing its user base and telcos and brands are starting to take note. Paul Skeldon takes a look at where the SMS-killer is at in 2022 and how its business case is developing

There are expected to be some 1.2 billion active RCS users globally by the end of 2022, generating around $233m – a small figure relative to other MNO revenues, but one that is set to grow by around 200% per annum to hit $4.6bn by 2026. 

But how is it going to get there? The key lies in getting brands and enterprises to use it at scale, which in turn is dependent on MNOs getting fully behind the messaging technology and getting it out there.

“Brands need to get behind RCS because it offers significant ROI uplift as it extends customer lifetime, it’s as simple as that,” says Tiago Martins, head of global customers at Link Mobility. “Engagement on RCS is around three minutes on average, while SMS it is measured in seconds.”

This has been demonstrated in many pilots, with Link Mobility reporting that in various uses – typically loyalty plays, promotional marketing and virtual shopping – it already shows clear advantages over SMS.

Martins explains: “Loyalty card and mobile wallet RCS see a 77% open rate, 23.5% click through rate increase over SMS and lead to 62% more downloads than SMS; promotional marketing sees a 78.5% RCS open rate and a 77% increase in conversation rate over SMS; and virtual shopping has a 78% open rate, sees 74% start engagement through carousels and is four times more engaging than SMS. Brand exposure comes out at three minutes for RCS against five seconds for SMS.”

Brands get going

Increasingly, brands are starting to see the reach and power of RCS – even if it is, currently, limited to Android devices – and there are already some success stories emerging around how brands are starting to see results with putative RCS experiments.

One exciting example is that of SMARTY, a UK SIM-only mobile network, which, using RCS as part of a wider CPaaS play with imimobile, generated more than a 100% increase in engagement versus email.

“As we continue to grow our customer base, it was becoming apparent that we needed to change the way in which we interact with customers,” says Sayed Hajamaideen, Head of Marketing & Propositions at SMARTY. “Our ethos is simple, honest mobile and we found that imimobile aligned very strongly to this with its easy, straightforward, and intelligent technology. SMARTY is in an extremely competitive industry, and we are an ambitious company – we were looking for a highly personalised, automated customer experience solution that would keep pace with the speed at which we are moving. imimobile has helped overhaul our entire approach to customer communications through its CPaaS platform and multi-channel capabilities to ensure a frictionless experience for our growing customer base.”

MNO buy in

While RCS has been slow to get going because its Android-only format has held it back, MNOs haven’t helped either. They have expressed only cool interest in the technology and, as a result, haven’t seen much brand buy in. 

But this is changing. UK carrier BT has recently started to invest more heavily in RCS and is encouraging other operators to do so too, to build the interoperability and cross-network reach the platform needs to succeed.

“RCS is so much more than messaging,” says Catherine Maguire, head of future messaging at BT. “We see RCS as a way to future proof our messaging channel as rich messaging is what consumers want, especially as ecommerce becomes predominantly mobile between now and 2025.”

In fact, Maguire predicts that by 2025, 30% of P2A messaging is going to be RCS, driven in no small part by the pandemic. Here, there was a 27% increase in A2P traffic and brands know this. 

Equally, by 2024, 18% of messaging spend will move to channels other than SMS and, says Maguire, “BT wants to ensure that as much as possible of this moves to RCS”.

For RCS to reach these heights though requires all MNOs to work together. To this end BT is has done a lot of work behind the scenes in the UK to get MNOs to agree to align their commercial models on RCS and streamline the onboarding of brands. 

There has also been much work done by BT and the other operators to help create unified and compelling case study and business case material for RCS. 

So, with all that in play, RCS is set to grow this year and next and, as brands get on board, it is hoped that so too will iOS – and they things will really take off. 

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