Greg Hoy, Director of Product Management, RCS Messaging – February 28, 2019
On August 29th, 2018, the UK’s Virgin Trains partnered with Vodafone and OpenMarket to become the world’s first company to roll out an RCS Business Messaging campaign on a commercial basis.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, mobile comms specialist Mobivity – an OpenMarket partner – was working on a pioneering RCS trial with the international sandwich chain, Subway Restaurants.
The teams in both projects were confident that customers would respond positively to the rich, interactive messaging experience RCS delivers.
But none could predict the incredible uplifts in engagement and sales conversions delivered by the channel that’s become known as “SMS 2.0”.
Six RCS Usage Takeaways
So six months on from the first commercial RCS launch, we’ve come up with six important takeaways that businesses everywhere should sit up and take notice of.
1) Customer experience levels up – and engagement through the roof.
Virgin Trains sends RCS messages to customers’ smartphones 10 minutes before they arrive into London’s Euston Station. The messages deliver latest updates for underground train services, complete with interactive buttons for more detailed information. Impressively, every customer that has fed back has given the experience a five-star rating. And not one has chosen to opt out.
John Sullivan, Chief Information Officer at Virgin Trains, said: “Results have been pretty phenomenal. We are now an absolute believer in RCS because our customers love it.”
2) Killer sales conversions herald a new era of conversational commerce
The Subway campaign was more sales focused. The team sent one group of customers two offers via SMS, then sent another group the same two offers via RCS. The wording for the offers – a two-sandwich deal and a $20 meal deal – matched exactly, but the branded RCS version included interactive buttons and product images.
The conversion rate was an incredible 140 PER CENT HIGHER than SMS for the two-sandwich offer, and 51 PER CENT higher for the meal deal.
Subway was already a huge advocate of SMS marketing. But the RCS data blew SMS out of the water. Subway has shown interest in ramping up its use of RCS to market to customers. They’re also planning to use RCS to make it easy for customers to order and re-order food from their messaging inbox.
3) A big appetite for rich media
Over the past year, there’s been a 5X rise in interest from brands looking to roll out multi-media messaging campaigns to customers via MMS. Industry insiders attribute this rise in interest (in a relatively old technology that doesn’t enjoy any of RCS’s interactive qualities) to publicity surrounding RCS.
But now RCS is here – ready to roll out. This pent-up business desire for rich messaging engagement, combined with the incredible CX data emerging from trials, signals that brands are about to adopt RCS messaging in their droves.
4) No user training required
RCS is a brand new technology. But in both campaigns, customers required no user training or instructions. In fact, neither Virgin Trains or Subway told customers they would be receiving their alerts as RCS instead of SMS messages – yet opt outs were non-existent. The campaigns demonstrate that RCS programs can be rolled out with no customer action (in the form of an app download) or effort required. There is zero user friction. Few technologies can make this claim.
5) RCS data confirms the immediacy of the messaging inbox
Data from the RCS campaigns revealed the time between users receiving an RCS message, then reading it, was typically under two minutes.
In a sense this is no surprise. SMS has long been known for its high opening rates – with a reported 90% of messages read within three minutes. However, this SMS data has always been gathered from customer surveys, as it can’t be yielded from the channel itself.
The RCS channel on the other hand provides much greater insights into delivery and read data. And for the first time, these two RCS campaigns could show exact opening rates of mobile messaging marketing campaigns – and the results were better than expected.
6) There’s no need to wait for full adoption – now’s the time to get on board
Brands have been waiting for RCS to take off for years. But now carriers across the world are either on board with RCS, or getting on board.
But the beauty of RCS is that brands have no reason to wait for widespread adoption. Any RCS message sent through OpenMarket will revert to an SMS format for customers whose carriers or phones don’t accept RCS. We can also automatically transform a message from UP2.0 (the current version of RCS) to UP1.0 (it’s predecessor) so that older RCS phones get an enhanced experience over SMS.
So Virgin Trains customers who weren’t on Vodafone (the only UK carrier to support RCS) received an SMS message instead.
It makes sense for brands to start creating RCS campaigns and reaping the benefits now. Virgin Trains’ John Sullivan said: “Following the surprise and delight from our customers during our first campaign, we just want to make sure we continue that momentum. My big ask is for the other mobile operators: Can they get on board with RCS. We want to push it as hard as we possibly can.”
So maybe it’s time to rephrase the question we started with: Why are you not using RCS?
RCS and the new age of customer empathy
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