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Analysis: 3 reasons why RCS is where it is today

At the MEF Connects Rich Communications online event next week, we’re delighted to have a prominent role in a number of discussions, including RCS.

For us the timing is perfect as we’re about to launch a number of messaging products, including our new national messaging strategy planning tool, MessageMap, and also our latest RCS Databook and report.

This post is not about sharing our latest numbers or promoting our new products (beyond what I already have 😊), this is about our evolved positioning with regard to the RCS landscape and how this will be explored in the report.

With the chaos and devastation caused by the pandemic throughout 2020, of all the messaging channels RCS is the one to have suffered the most, with brand activity on existing RCS platforms limited, and the number of planned deployments in 2020 significantly reduced.

Even without the pandemic, delays have been occurring on the rollout of RCS networks for the last 2 years. COVID-19 has effectively amplified the number of delays, and stalled its development for up to 12 months.

But the mobile operator delays coupled with limited brand demand in RCS could also be the result of how we as an industry have approached and sold RCS to the same brands (and mobile operators).

Point 1: RCS has no identity

Right now, RCS is a channel with no identity. It ranges from being labelled a messaging platform, a rich messaging platform, a chat platform, to a digital platform, and more. It’s every one of those and more. The problem with such a scattergun approach is that the companies selling the RCS proposition all have a different view, and subsequently, have all developed very different commercial models when trying to sell the same product to the brands.

Outcome: As an industry we need to agree on a single identity for RCS, stick with it, and sell that.

Point 2: The concept of the RCS “Gold Markets” is fundamentally flawed.

The RCS ecosystem (including Mobilesquared) have long discussed the need for “Gold” markets, whereby all of the major mobile operators have launched RCS in one country. This offers brands a ubiquitous user coverage in that market and allows brands to target RCS users across every mobile operator, as opposed to being restricted to just the RCS users on one or possibly two mobile operators.

This approach is more Fools Gold, and flawed because as an industry we’re effectively telling the brands not to use RCS until every major mobile operator has launched RCS in one market.

Based on our continued tracking of RCS, Mobilesquared believes that delays of RCS and RBM platforms will impact 67 countries over the next couple of years, thereby greatly reducing the number of Gold Markets to attract the brands and enterprises.

The focus of developing Gold markets has failed to ignite the marketplace as it has not encouraged mobile operators to launch RCS if their national rivals have already done so (as Vodafone will no doubt testify!). So the RCS ecosystem needs to migrate its message away from the desire of having Gold markets.

Outcome: Drop Gold, aim for platinum 😉

Point 3: Let the brands build RCS followers

Mobilesquared believes the RCS ecosystem must direct brands down a digital journey and build followers on RCS, in the same way they have done so on Twitter, Facebook and so on.

Presently, brands interested in running RCS campaigns are handing over their database to their RCS aggregator partner to then “sense-check” the data to see how many RCS-enabled users reside within it. The results are typically coming back showing anywhere between 2-10%. Brands then say ‘why would I only want to talk to 10% of my base’? It’s a fair point based on the existing “use your opt-in database” approach to attracting brands. That approach needs to stop now.

This is an outmoded approach and not reflective of how the world operates today. Brands need to develop their own RCS strategy based on encouraging followers, and then look to monetise – this is a P2A model as opposed to the existing A2P (opt-in). Twitter only has 320 million users globally, yet every brand uses it. RCS will soon be a 1 billion user platform, and it won’t take long for it to pass the 2 billion and 3 billion user mark. Time to get the message across to brands to start thinking long term.

RCS is not about creating Gold markets, and likewise, brands should not be concerned about targeting users on one mobile operator. If the channel works, use it.

Outcome: Brands to build an RCS audience

The focus of the messaging industry has to be on getting RCS to work, and then throwing it out to the brands to generate the followers and subsequent engagement strategies and monetisation.

That’s what the OTTs have done. They don’t worry about the finer details. They have a vision and they follow it. And it’s now starting to impact on mobile operator revenues. We are now seeing traffic migrate away from A2P SMS onto WhatsApp Business. OTTs are starting to nibble away at the mobile operator messaging revenues.

Mobile operators do not have an infinite amount of time dillydallying when it comes to the evolution of their messaging strategy, and protecting their A2P SMS revenues.

There are already green shoots of recovery emerging. Our COVID-19 research confirms the drop in demand for RCS during lockdown is temporary, with brands (naturally) turning to familiar channels during the pandemic. Over time, demand for RCS will exceed all other business messaging channels. But for now, that is exactly what we need to focus on: now, but with a fresh pair of eyes.


For more information on the MEF Connects Rich Communications 3-day digital event click here

Author Jo Hall

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