Mobile Marketing Insights

What Is RCS Messaging? What Every Marketer Should Know

RCS is coming - here's more on its potential and how Vibes will be ready.

Alex Campbell
Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer
what is RCS messaging graphic
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Let’s face it: messaging has become the preeminent way we interact with friends, acquaintances and the businesses we patronize. Particularly SMS - a channel that once started out as a place for quick notes among friends or peers, and has now catapulted itself into the most powerful way for brands and businesses to engage consumers in the hyper-personalized way they expect.

Its power is derived from being a mobile channel, because mobile is a mission-driven channel - meaning you take your phone out when you have a mission to accomplish, such as getting a ride or checking the weather. Marketing on the phone needs to help support the end user’s mission. Bad mobile marketing is marketing that stands in the way of accomplishing that mission.

Rich Communication Services (RCS) has long held the promise of supercharging the functionality of SMS, and the hype has only been growing since Apple announced they’re officially joining Google and Samsung who already support RCS.

However, we don’t quite know what Apple’s acceptance of RCS means yet, since Apple has not stated exactly what they will be allowing, nor have they declared a specific timeline. It’s also important to note that Apple’s announcement to support RCS means that they’re likely to support peer-to-peer messaging to start. There’s currently no clear timeline on when they’ll support RCS for business messaging (RBM), which is what brands will need to begin using this exciting channel as a true marketing tool. My best guess is around late Q3 or Q4 2024.

By the end of the year I predict about 40M handsets in the US will support RCS. This is still pretty low when it comes to SMS marketing, so RCS is probably going to be a 2025 strategy. Things can change though.

As we at Vibes continue to keep a pulse on what the realities of RCS will be, we definitely can see there are going to be a lot of very useful strategies brands will be able to augment with RCS. Here are just a few examples, and why they’re a big deal for marketers.

What is RCS Messaging?

RCS Messaging enhances the SMS/MMS messaging experience by the bringing enriched, interactive experiences you’d typically find in an app or with a messaging app like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, directly into your native messaging app. If being able to send/receive silly GIFs and videos via text was your idea of messaging 2.0, then RCS can be considered your messaging 3.0.

For Apple users, think about how the launch of iMessage changed your lives: the quality of pictures and videos you could send and receive improved drastically; you can drop pins to share a your precise location, and can you even imagine a future world where you cannot see a message bubble with 3 dots, indicating someone in progress of texting you back? That’s the type of impact RCS can bring to SMS marketing.

How Does RCS Messaging Work?

Through the power of machine learning data models, RCS messaging is a medium for conversational interactions to occur between brands and their customers, giving brands the opportunity to hyper-personalize each customer’s individual journey — all within the native messaging app the consumer is using. In other words, instead of being redirected to your phone’s internet browser, it feels like the internet browser has come to you within your text message conversation.

From making personalized product or service recommendations to elevating the post-purchase experience or offering more tailored customer support, RCS enables brands to greatly enhance the customer experience.

Since RCS is not a separate messaging app one needs to download to their device, it is fairly simple to use for anybody whose mobile device and wireless carrier support the feature.

In August of 2023, Google enabled RCS by default for all existing and new Messages users. The only additional step in “activating” RCS today is some users may still be prompted to agree to terms & conditions provided by their specific carrier.

RCS Messaging Examples 

Here are a few examples of what RCS could look like (and why this should excite you if you’re a marketer).

1. Online Ordering for Restaurants

Let’s start with this example of what the online ordering process could look like for restaurants:

2. Cart Abandonment for Retailers

Similarly, this is what the buying process could look like for retailers who use cart abandonment as part of their digital communication strategy:

So why is this a big deal? It’s more interaction with less clicks, and less toggling between a messaging app and web browser - all of which eliminates steps in the buying process, helping to decrease drop off. It helps shoppers complete their buying mission faster and easier which helps marketers drive more revenue.

These are just a couple of examples that show how RCS will better guide a consumer to information, options and decisions that matter most - making those decisions as easy as possible for them to make.

And if you’re not convinced that there’s power in a simpler buyer experience, consider these stats: 

  • 76% of consumers shop on mobile devices because it’s easy and saves them time, however, only 12% find shopping on the mobile web convenient.
  • 52% of consumers say they’re less likely to re-engage with a brand when they’ve had a bad mobile experience.

3. Adding a Mobile Wallet Pass

Another example of an experience that RCS will improve that feels very near and dear to Vibes: adding a pass to your Mobile Wallet.

So why is this a big deal? Any time you ask a consumer to do something on their phone you’ll see drop-off in completion. By combining the ‘view’ and ‘save’ steps of mobile wallet into one, RCS will help eliminate the barrier when drop-off typically occurs.

What We’re Doing at Vibes

Vibes was an early access partner with Google at the initial launch of RCS, so we are well versed on the RCS API’s and technology.

Today, our most important job is to continue to watch it closely until it reaches an addressable market size — like we said, it is still going to take some time for this emerging channel to gain serious momentum.

With RCS being a carrier-based technology at its core, we’ll be following much of their lead. If and when we reach that tipping point of an addressable market size, being a reliable Tier 1 messaging aggregator with strong relationships with the wireless carriers will ensure that our customers will be in the best of hands in helping them achieve new levels of messaging engagement success.

If you'd like to hear more about our latest predictions on RCS, let's talk.

The Bottom Line

As we continue to keep a pulse on what the realities of RCS will be, we definitely can see there are going to be a lot of very innovative and useful ways brands will be able to activate it.

We're excited to see what's around the corner with this emerging messaging channel, and with 20+ years of mobile marketing expertise under our belt, we'll be sure to tell you more about what it means for you and your business.

Learn more about how we help our customers use the power of other impactful messaging channels today, including SMS, MMS and Mobile Wallet.

Alex Campbell
Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer
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