What’s the future of business text messaging? Less text, more rich communication

Mobile messaging is changing fast – here’s how to choose the right channel for your organization.

OpenMarket – March 29, 2019

The evolution of business-to-consumer mobile messaging has left organizations with a channel dilemma. They can now choose to communicate with customers via:

  1. Traditional SMS text messaging
  2. RCS Business Messaging (with its app-like, image-rich experience)
  3. or OTT services such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger

RCS Business Messaging is the channel currently stealing the headlines and making its mark with consumers. Take a look at this gangbuster RCS engagement and conversion data from early rollouts involving Subway and Virgin Trains.

It turns out consumers love and respond to RCS’s rich, interactive messages delivered straight to their messaging inboxes.

SMS in their sights

Over-the-top (OTT) messaging app providers like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are trying to capitalize on this rich-messaging opportunity by moving into business messaging.

And let’s face it, on paper, business text messaging delivered via SMS looks vulnerable – an analogue channel in a digital age.

An entrenched incumbent

Yet business text messaging has been stubbornly resisting the challenge from OTT messaging apps in recent years. In fact, a 2019 study from Juniper Research predicts 3.5 trillion SMS business messages will be sent in 2023 – up from an estimated 2.5 trillion in 2019.

So what’s the reason for the Peter Pan-like longevity of business text messaging? And is there any chance it can continue to thrive in a new era of rich messaging?

The stats tell a story

If you know anything about mobile messaging, you’ll probably be familiar with the important SMS stats:

– Around 5 billion people use SMS

– 98% of texts are read

– Around 90% of texts are read within three minutes.

In short, SMS is an open line to almost every adult in the world. Some OTT providers might have impressive coverage (WhatsApp says it has around 1.5 billion active users) but none can compete with SMS.

SMS enjoys another big advantage over every other form of messaging – it’s unbelievably effective for automating simple conversations and interaction experiences. It’s true that rich messaging does make for a better user experience. But people don’t necessarily need buttons and images to rearrange appointments or to confirm their identities.

That’s why the ubiquitous, anytime-anywhere reach of SMS – so far – still trumps the advantages of rich messaging.

RCS – the best of both worlds

But not so fast. RCS will soon offer the prospect of ubiquity and a rich experience.

Android phone manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Google and Huawei support RCS. So if you take into account the usual two-year renewal cycle of smartphones, the vast majority of phones will soon be RCS compatible.

If Apple gets on board with RCS, almost all smartphones will end up with it.

A fast take off

There’s an even more important reason why RCS will take off and eventually leave SMS in its wake. Normally, businesses wait for widespread adoption of a communications technology before they start using it. But an SMS fallback feature (offered by providers like OpenMarket) means every RCS message a business sends can simply revert to an SMS format for audience members that can’t yet receive RCS.

A similar feature could also prove to be important for OTT messaging. Innovative messaging providers could integrate OTT into their platforms. They could then find out which format of message a consumer wants – whether RCS, SMS or OTT – then deliver the message via that channel. Look out for OpenMarket announcements about this later in the year.

A key advantage for RCS

So we’re likely to see businesses turning to both RCS and OTT apps in the future. Customers will want the choice of communicating on the channel that best suits them.

RCS Business Messaging arguably looks the most attractive proposition to businesses and consumers. On top of its reach and accessibility via the traditional messaging inbox, it’s an open standard supported by a cooperative mobile messaging ecosystem. This cooperation will lead to continual development of the channel, with regular feature and UX improvements. RCS will also come with guaranteed message delivery, secure connections, regulatory simplicity, and almost-zero latency.

OTT apps, meanwhile, have a significant downside – they’re tied to the social networks that own and operate them. These social networks (as the world knows all too well) tend to collect data about messages to inform their advertising. Many businesses will be wary of exposing both their data and the data of their customers in this way.

So RCS looks to be in pole position. In the meantime, SMS is set to be around for years to come. The progression by businesses from RCS to SMS will be natural and fictionless. This is evolution rather than revolution. And the journey can start now.

Want to find out about getting started with RCS? Download our RCS ebook here.

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