We receive loads of SMSs every day. From marketing messages, notifications, to service activation and responses, SMS is ideally suited for text-based instant communication whose conversation context is ephemeral. That's how it has been for nearly three decades since its inception. WhatsApp changed the game by bringing in the notion of sustained conversation to text messages. With RCS (Rich Communication Services), SMS is undergoing a facelift to transform instant text messaging to the next level.
In this blog post, we explore RCS, which is touted to be the future of SMS. We cover the basics of RCS, its possible use cases, as well as the major CPaaS players who are offering this service.
What is RCS?
Without getting into the details of RCS, let’s focus on the essence of an RCS based communication as experienced by a typical mobile user.
The RCS User Experience
RCS is a new way of engaging via text messaging that feels like SMS yet much more powerful and interactive. To get an idea of what RCS can do that SMS cannot, think of some obvious SMSs that you receive from businesses. Service providers often seek feedback from their customers via an SMS response. If you have ever received an SMS from your service provider for providing instant feedback about their service, then this is how it happens in a traditional SMS way.
With RCS, your service provider can send an enriched message, and you can respond to it in a flash, without having to type a response.
As good as it feels, RCS enriches the plain old SMS with multimedia elements and fosters interactive response, which is much quicker than typing verbose text.
Technical Nuances of RCS
Under the hood, RCS relies on the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and MSRP (Message Session Relay Protocol) protocols for sending and receiving RCS messages.
SIP has been around for nearly two decades. It is the driving protocol behind the adoption of VoIP since the early 2000s and supports text messaging as part of the protocol. MSRP was standardized in 2007 to introduce the notion of a session to text messages. With this, a set of related messages is associated with a session.
For more details and upcoming news on RCS, you can check out the RCS resource page on the GSMA’s website, which is the trade group supporting the mobile industry players with the standardization process for RCS.
What Do You Need to Send & Receive RCS Messages?
Like any value-added service, the availability of RCS is also subjected to your carrier's adoption of this new technology. Additionally, your phone needs to support it. RCS won't work on the default SMS messaging app. You need an enhanced app that understands the RCS protocols. Google has been actively pursuing this through an android app called the "Chat". Several other vendors have been working on the RCS client app. However, Apple is yet to announce the support for RCS officially.
Take a look at this video and you will know the possibilities of RCS.
Use Cases of RCS Messaging
There is much more to RCS than just rich, interactive text messaging. RCS also supports advanced forms of interactions that rely on a group chat and file transfers. It is much faster and offers a more natural way to communicate. Above all, with RCS, senders and receivers can define their personas to portray their brand. Something that an SMS message could never have achieved.
RCS for A2P Messaging
A2P (Application to Person) messaging is a well-established use case of SMS that is often used to send notifications from businesses to customers. Most notifications are some form of marketing campaigns. With RCS, businesses can send SMS-like notifications to customers, but with higher levels of personalization.
With the support for media, RCS messages can be designed as impressive marketing campaigns that transcend the ubiquity of a plain text message. RCS also helps in brand recall, since the brands sending A2P messages can add their brand identity, something that isn't possible with SMS at all.
RCS as Ephemeral Apps
RCS messaging fosters super fast interactivity through predefined actions on messages. It is something similar to the predefined hyperlinks on a web page that you can click to visit the new page pointed by the link.
So next time you order a pizza, your pizza store may send you an RCS message with some instant options, before your pizza gets delivered. Take a look at this RCS message sent by Papa John’s Pizza for promoting their vegan pizzas.
So instead of opening the Pizza company's app and searching through the menu, you can directly order through the RCS message, and you are done. In this way, RCS enables businesses to offer customers more options, customized as per the context of interaction.
RCS as Tool for Managing Business Collaboration
Thanks to its interactive features, RCS has the potential to become a tool for business collaboration. Think of process workflows and checklists that need to be shared among team members for tracking the progress of tasks. As an example, if your company offers internet service to homes, then for every support call logged by the customer, you can initiate an RCS group chat between the customer service agent, the field engineer, and the customer.
This approach takes the customer engagement to a new level. The support agent and field engineer can collaborate over the group chat to bring the ticket to closure. Additionally, customers have direct access to information about the progress of the ticket.
With a few refinements, this interaction sequence can be enhanced for better customer experience, boosting the overall NPS score, and opens the door for further up-selling opportunities for businesses.
How To Get Started With RCS For Your Business
Are you convinced about the novelty of RCS? If yes, then you might want to test drive RCS for your existing SMS based marketing campaigns. You have an easy option to get started. Thanks to the emergence of CPaaS services, it is easy to try out an RCS messaging service without worrying about setting up a complex backend infrastructure.
A few CPaaS service providers are already offering RCS as part of their suite of text messaging services.
Infobip is a full-stack CPaaS provider with a complete suite of communication services spanning across text, email, voice, and video.
Infobip's RCS service is a simple, no-frills API, used to send and receive RCS messages, along with sent reports.Talk to one of the Infobip experts to get more information to sign up for the RCS service.
Sinch is another full-stack CPaaS provider with a plethora of services for text messaging, voice, video, and more. Sinch claims to provide the first RCS API that has a built-in fallback for SMS/MMS.
Apart from the usual send and receive features, the Sinch RCS API also supports callbacks and capability checks. Callbacks are useful to automate the sending and receiving of RCS messages via follow-on actions performed by webhooks. Capability check asserts whether the receiving phone supports RCS or not.
TeleSign offers CPaaS services around text and voice, along with fraud and verification management services. The TeleSign's RCS service is offered through API with the option of templatized messages.
For availing TeleSign’s RCS service, you need to have an enterprise account with them. Contact TeleSign for more information.
The logos of the RCS providers mentioned above are owned by the respective companies.
You can also check out our list of the most popular CPaaS providers.
Get On Board the RCS Revolution
With the GSMA's promotional efforts, RCS is going to get wider acceptance in the coming years. There are hurdles in terms of universal acceptance, especially from some large players like Apple, which results in a lack of RCS support with iOS devices.
However, considering the massive potential over SMS, it can be said that RCS will rule the business and marketing use cases in the coming years.
To get a better sense of what you can build with RCS, check out this infographic on What is RCS? by TeleSign.