Google Announces Updates to RCS Messaging that Could Replace SMS

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

One of the ironies of modern technology is that the more ways there are to connect with people, the harder it becomes to contact customers. There are many options for communication, and that makes it difficult for businesses always to have the client’s preferred choice. Also, since modern business communication involves a lot of data sharing, it’s helpful to have a platform that facilitates the sharing of images, documents, and other files. Google recently updated its RCS business messaging options to help local businesses connect with customers using their phones.

If there is a single thing you can assume about modern consumers, it’s that they have access to a smartphone. For many years, the best way to get information to customers on mobile devices, other than a phone call, was to send a message via SMS. Text messaging can be a powerful tool, but it has limitations. The obvious example is that text messages typically have a 160-character limit. Google’s RCS (Rich Communication Services) “upgrades SMS with branding, rich media, interactivity and analytics. With RCS, businesses can bring branded, interactive mobile experiences, right to the default messaging app”.

RCS upgrades SMS with branding, business verification, rich media, suggested replies and actions, and analytics. RCS modifies the native Android SMS program to allow for more data-rich messages and interactivity from the user. RCS is designed to work on the devices from a diverse range of manufacturers and carriers. The project has been in the works since 2016.

As Google explains, “Google is partnering with carriers and OEMs to offer a native messaging client, Messages, for RCS, SMS, and MMS messaging. RCS supports the GSMA’s Universal Profile for interoperability across operator networks and devices. Easily updatable from the Google Play store, the upgraded client will deliver a unified messaging experience across the Android ecosystem.”

Google provided some examples of major brands and corporations that are already taking advantage of RCS Messaging. Online retailer Overstock uses RCS to send customers purchase, shipping, and delivery confirmations. Overstock also includes the option for customers to rate a purchase after delivery or connect directly with customer service. These are all services that would typically require additional website visits for the customers. This feature can be especially useful for gathering reviews. Customers won’t have to take extra steps, like opening a link on their mobile browser, to leave a review.

Thanks to RCS, some Citi credit card and retail bank customers can quickly check their balance, see a short history of recent transactions and more. Similarly, Walgreens uses RCS to send prescription refill reminders and notifications for when orders are ready for pick up to their patients. In all of these cases, the quality and presentation of the information were improved by using RCS over SMS messaging.

RCS currently works with Android devices, as it affects the default text app. There are no announced plans to make it more available for iOS users, but it’s not a possibility to rule out in the future. As it is, Google reports that 86 percent of smartphones will be RCS-enabled by 2020. There’s better news for international business owners. RCS is currently limited to the United States, but Google announced that the service would become available to Europe late this year.

If you’re interested in learning more about RCS and want to be an early adopter, it’s still possible to sign up for Early Access. It’s too soon to say that RCS is definitely the future of mobile messaging, but with Google’s power to influence mobile design through Android, it’s a possibility that business owners should consider.

For more recent news about innovations at Google, read this article on new video asset options Google has added to responsive display ads.

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