RCS Explained: How Rich Communication Services Can Revolutionize Your Marketing

Ian Donnelly
Ian Donnelly
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Text messaging is well known as one of the best-performing and most lucrative marketing tools. It’s the channel most likely to elicit an “open and read” action, achieves the highest click-through rates, and has an ROI that only continues to grow.

But even with all these positives, there are limitations to SMS. It’s an aging protocol that’s 30+ years old, and the demands of messaging apps have evolved in the decades since it was created. Thankfully, we’re on the cusp of a new age of messaging capabilities thanks to a protocol that promises to do everything that SMS and MMS can’t: Rich Communication Services.

What Is RCS?

Rich Communication Services (RCS) is a messaging protocol that allows for more advanced and interactive messaging experiences compared to traditional SMS and MMS. This next evolution of text messaging supports a more versatile user experience, allowing users to send rich media content — like longer texts with high-resolution images, videos, and interactive elements — and enables more engaging conversations between businesses and consumers. 

The feature capabilities of RCS

This protocol is not a brand new format, but there’s been growing buzz around RCS in the last year thanks to some interesting developments. 

It all centers around Google and Apple. Google is RCS’s strongest adopter — Android devices send all Android-to-Android messages over RCS, offering full RCS coverage worldwide. Apple, on the other hand, has historically not supported RCS on iOS, instead favoring its own iMessage protocol, which doesn’t mesh seamlessly with Android users (hence the green and blue text bubbles between the two different devices).

However, in November 2023, Apple announced that sometime in 2024 it will adopt the RCS messaging standard for iPhone — and this support could come as early as iOS 18.

Now RCS is positioned to elevate the SMS messaging experience to rival the innovative capabilities of downloadable over-the-top (OTT) apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, all available within a native phone messaging app. Users no longer need to use third-party apps to benefit from universal perks like message reactions, read receipts, and typing indicators. With RCS, these features are available to all users in their phone’s built-in messaging app, no matter which device they’re using. 

Plus, there’s no risk in adopting the RCS protocol if you use Bloomreach Engagement as your marketing platform. Our trusted partners Sinch and Infobip allow us to offer SMS and MMS as a reliable fallback in case any of your customers’ end devices don’t support RCS, guaranteeing that your campaigns will always be delivered, no matter the recipient. 

For businesses looking to reap the full benefits of text message marketing, this potential for better interoperability for cross-platform messages is a game changer. And with it comes incredible UI qualities that give brands a host of new ways to connect with their audience.

Why Should Brands Be Excited About RCS?

Time and time again, RCS has been proven to lead to higher cart values, more conversions, and higher engagement than any other type of mobile messaging. It promises a much richer and motivational way to communicate with customers, offering exciting new tools to create a meaningful customer experience that can guide shoppers to purchase entirely via text. 

For starters, RCS offers a verification protocol that can give your business a stamp of authenticity, validating your brand as a legitimate sender and not a phishing attempt or spammer. Once a business is verified, recipients will see their logo at the top of their message conversations (not the random short code numbers of SMS messaging) as well as a verified checkmark, assuring your audience that your messages come from a trusted source. This feature alone is a huge benefit for businesses that leverage text messaging as a marketing channel, establishing a trust that can be tough to build within the limits of SMS.

What’s more, RCS offers a much broader experience than SMS could ever hope to achieve. The protocol enables new media formats like carousels, CTAs, and interactive buttons that can seamlessly guide customers to a web browser, maps, and other apps, offering a range of new possibilities for showcasing products and crafting customer journeys. These expansive features open the door for more satisfying customer experiences and truly conversational interactions via text.

This is a monumental step up from the capabilities offered by SMS and MMS. With RCS, brands can do more than send their audience a single image or video with a link to “learn more.” 

For example, the RCS protocol gives businesses the ability to promote an array of products, invite customers to add them directly to their cart, and even purchase directly via chat. 

This level of personalized shopping is the ideal customer experience that ecommerce has always aimed to realize via text, and with RCS, it’s achievable.

How RCS Paves the Way for Conversational Commerce

The most compelling application for RCS’s widespread adoption — and the biggest incentive for brands — is the power it has to make true conversational commerce possible via texting. With the capacity to send such rich and interactive messages to consumers, RCS broadens the scope of what’s possible for two-way conversations between brands and shoppers. 

Most businesses currently settle for strict rule-based conversations with SMS, building limited dialogues with shoppers that rely on yes or no responses. But with RCS, brands now have the features needed to engage with customers using rich media and interactive content — and with the power of conversational AI, RCS messaging can take your marketing to a whole different level. 

Conversational AI allows businesses to offer a truly interactive and dynamic exchange with their shoppers across multiple channels. This incredible tool combines natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) processes and merges them with a conversational interface that can interpret and respond to user queries, commands, and requests.

With conversational AI and the innovative features of RCS messaging, consumers can get quick answers to important questions via text message, easily purchase items without having to navigate through entire websites, receive helpful suggestions and personalized product recommendations based on their previously collected customer data, and so much more.

Bloomreach Clarity, our revolutionary conversational shopping AI solution, has the power to utilize all these RCS features to their true potential. Clarity is trained on real-time customer data, your product catalogs, and our 14+ years of data on how customers shop and search, offering every customer the most personalized and relevant experience wherever they interact with your brand — including through texts. 

With emerging AI tools and evolving messaging protocols, brands will soon be able to boost their business-to-consumer text message conversations to exciting new heights. It’s a whole new chapter for ecommerce marketing, where RCS will quickly become a must-have tool for any marketer’s toolkit. 

Interested in learning more about the impactful ways that Bloomreach Engagement can revolutionize your mobile messaging campaigns? Visit our website to see how game-changing our platform can be. 

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Ian Donnelly

Content Marketing Manager at Bloomreach

Ian has years of copywriting and digital marketing experience that he brings to his role as Content Marketing Manager at Bloomreach. With a keen eye for fresh angles and new perspectives, he aims to highlight the endless possibilities available to savvy businesses with cutting-edge digital commerce. Read more from Ian here.

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