Mobile has become one of the most important channels for brands to communicate with customers. Research by Google indicated that people today have 2x more interactions with brands on mobile than anywhere else, tv and in-store included. In fact, 84% of Australians conduct pre-purchase research on smartphones, meaning your customers will be more likely than not to have stumbled on your brand via their mobile device.
So how have retailers been utilising mobile to connect with customers? Currently we see retailers moving from responsive websites (i.e. a site that is resized to be easier to view on a mobile) to mobile-first websites (developed with the mobile user experience as the priority); SMS has been added as a communication channel; more shops are starting to accept payments from smartphone or smartwatch.
One of the common themes of the above though, is that they all attempt to close the gap between consumers’ and retailers’ behaviour, where retailers are simply following changes in consumers’ behaviour and adapting to their needs. But if there’s one thing that’s worth retailers jumping in and leading the change, RCS (Rich Communication Services) would be it.
RCS is often referred as the next generation of SMS. It supports rich contents like images, videos, calendar and interactive maps; brands are able to tailor messages with their brand logo, colours and fonts; real-time feedback and interactions are also available within RCS.
While some of these functions are already available in IP messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, what’s special about RCS is that it is anticipated to be the native app or function on all Android phones just like how SMS is functioning now. That means there will be no download or installation required, and everyone will have the same application by default.
And unlike other messaging apps where business uses follow behind the principle purpose of personal messaging, RCS has business use cases set up at the very early stage, with functions that are tailored and optimised for businesses.
For instance, brands will go through a verification process and be identified as a ‘verified sender’ so that consumers can easily distinguish them from scammers. They are able to showcase a carousel of new products, present personalised suggested items and take payment all within the messaging app. There’s also the capability to integrate AI or chat bots with RCS, meaning that brands can have conversations with their customers without worrying about if they’re active users of Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
There’s so much more RCS can do and as more businesses adopt the technology in the US and Europe where RCS has already been partially rolled out. We will see more real life examples on how different brands use this technology to engage their customers.
How can retailers prepare for RCS?
In Australia we are still awaiting plans from all the telcos to fully adopt and launch RCS, but for retailers it’s time to start thinking about how and what this technology could be leveraged:
Which parts of the customer journey would RCS come in?
How can you utilise this technology to enhance your customer experience at different stages of their journey?
What kind of content or media would add value?
What internal systems need to be integrated in order to provide customers with a seamless journey from the store to the website to messaging app?
How and where should the data be fed back to the internal system? And what will you be doing with this data?
These are not easy questions to answer and will require careful planning, testing and experimenting. However, using products like SMS Landing Pages for instance, enable brands to test different rich media content and call-to-action buttons to find out the optimal combination that brings in the best results for different segments of customers or in different stages of the customer journey.
RCS is intended to eventually replace SMS and is going to fundamentally change the way brands communicate with customers, and when it is fully launched it will take ‘mobile-first’ to a completely different level. But to achieve its full potential, brands will need to start planning now.
About the Author
Mark Van Zuylekom is the General Manager of Esendex Australia, a global mobile business communication provider utilising SMS, RCS, email and mobile web apps to build communication solutions for businesses of all sizes. He is experienced in helping businesses and organisations within a wide range of industry to plan and implement communication solutions that streamline business processes and improve engagement with customers and staff.
Mark will facilitate an interactive discussion on RCS and its impact on brands’ Mobile First Strategy at New Retail’19.