By Filip Filković
As Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms such as WhatsApp, Viber and Telegram continue to gain popularity, SMS messaging still has its purpose and works well for certain types of messaging as a Person-To-Person (P2P) communication channel. But with the growing demand for an upgrade in SMS experiences to accommodate Rich Conversational Messaging (RCS) capabilities, branding, security and trust, RCS is gradually taking root, leaving Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) with few means to fight back in this segment. At the same time, OTT channels are also becoming dominant in the enterprise communication space, given their prevalence and rich media capabilities, as well as large-scale P2P adoption.
However, Rich Communication Services (RCS) may provide a solution for MNOs to compete with OTT players and claw back some of the revenue they have been missing out on in both the P2P and the lucrative Application-To-Person (A2P) messaging space. RCS is a rich media-capable communication protocol that is an evolution of SMS as a native messaging channel, provided by Google in collaboration with MNOs.
With RCS, mobile operators are able to provide their subscribers, as well as enterprises, with a messaging system that has the capability of sharing and receiving content such as images or videos without the need to download a separate messaging app. With many enterprise-focused features such as chatbots or carousels (content slideshows), brands are able to provide a convenient customer engagement channel for various use cases, ranging from tech support to purchases, as part of the conversational commerce paradigm.
Engaging communication experience
Since its launch in 2018, it took a while for telcos to adopt RCS and for enterprises to embrace it as a means of creating a more engaging customer communication experience. However, it is safe to say that RCS is now an established business communication channel.
At the same time, while OTT messaging apps have become the norm in P2P communication, RCS’s rich media capabilities can provide a foothold for MNOs not only in the business communication space but also in the P2P market where OTT players currently dominate. Therefore, RCS is fast becoming an important part of telcos’ enterprise digital portfolio.
With that said, RCS still lacks wide P2P acceptance, as it is far from being the top choice for P2P communication. Yet, promoting RCS as a channel for P2P communication can add to the efficiency of A2P campaigns by the mere fact that more people would be using the channel and are more likely to respond, further growing already robust engagement stats.
A good first step for MNOs would be to start using RCS as a communication channel for their subscribers, providing tech support, sending statements and invoices, responding to purchase inquiries and other use cases to familiarise users with the channel and its features, while also allowing them to get hands-on experience with it.
No installation needed
A distinct advantage for MNOs is that their customers do not need to install any additional apps, as the messaging app that is native to most Android platforms just needs to be enabled for RCS. The adoption of smartphones and greater internet penetration in recent years means that RCS is likely to gain greater traction among P2P users. This means that the sooner MNOs start using the channel to communicate with their subscribers, the sooner it is likely to see widespread adoption.
Establishing partnerships with Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) providers can go a long way to driving RCS adoption, as CPaaS providers have been at the forefront of bringing RCS to enterprises in conjunction with MNOs, and have a range of tools for crafting customer journeys and managing channels. As such, telcos can avoid the complexities of developing CPaaS-level tools and services by partnering with CPaaS players, and instead focus on their core strengths – that of building an RCS element into their networks.
The future of business messaging lies with RCS messaging – it is what consumers want, it is what enterprises will need to provide, and will ultimately benefit from it as the engagement it offers is superior to that of any other digital channel.
Filip Filković, Regional OP Manager, West Africa at Infobip