RCS messaging 101: Your quick start guide

What is RCS messaging and how can businesses use it to its fullest potential? Read more about this messaging channel’s key features and functionalities, the different ways to use RCS, tips on choosing the right RCS provider and more.

Welcome to RCS, the evolution of SMS

Consumer preferences and demands are changing and we now all expect to receive richer and more interactive messages which is where RCS comes in. RCS, which stands for Rich Communication Services, offers a rich, immersive messaging experience similar to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Send and receive not only texts but images, videos, voice recordings and location pins as well. 

Built on top of the existing SMS channel (so there’s no need to download a separate app), RCS is essentially seen by many as the next stage of the evolution of SMS. 

As long as your phone is RCS-enabled, you’ll be able to send and receive RCS messages. If not, your message will be converted to an SMS message. 

For businesses, this unlocks a world of possibilities. Provide customers with a rich messaging experience that they can access via their mobile’s built-in messaging app – helping you to enhance customer engagement and experience. You can also benefit from a branded business profile and brand verification, which boosts customer trust.

While it’s currently only available on Android devices, Apple has announced that it will adopt the RCS messaging standard in late 2024. So finally, iPhone and Android users can exchange rich messages and engage with interactive features like typing bubbles and read receipts without needing to download another app. All they need is an internet connection, whether that’s WiFi or mobile data.

Want to find out more about RCS? Look no further than this resource, where we’ll be breaking down the features and functionalities, top ways to use RCS and how businesses can use it to supercharge their engagement with customers.

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A closer look at RCS: Features & functionalities

Did you know that 90% of consumers want to interact with brands via text messages? And 86% of these consumers feel more positive about that brand after messaging them. With RCS, you can meet these expectations. Not only can you have two-way interactions with consumers but you can also share richer, more engaging messages.

Here are some of the top features that RCS messaging enables.

An example of an SMS text which invites customers to visit in-store to redeem a free gift.

Your business will also benefit from:

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The different types of RCS messages

There are three types of RCS messages:

  1. Branded messages
    Upgrade existing SMS traffic with verified branding and improved security.
  2. Single messages
    Embed rich content into your messages and boost engagement and conversion.
  3. Conversations
    Have two-way chats with customers – perfect for sales, customer service, marketing and more.

These messages can help you:

SMS vs RCS

Where SMS offers unrivalled reach, RCS offers you the opportunity to craft a richer, more engaging experience, thanks to the ability to add high-res images, GIFs, videos and more. Which one should your business choose?

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How to use RCS

A cartoon woman holding a video icon, showcasing the rich messaging capability of WhatsApp

1. Rich notifications

Reminders will not only keep your customers informed but can also help them to manage important notes – such as reminders.

Example applications include:

  • Order confirmations
  • Delivery updates
  • Appointment reminders
  • Service interruptions

2. Marketing

When you send marketing campaigns through RCS, you benefit from the ability to send rich, engaging content which can help you boost read rate, conversion and the overall user experience.

Example applications include:

  • Flash sales
  • Product launches
  • Upsells
  • Driving website traffic
Cartoon woman standing in front of a dashboard with pie charts and graphs on it, representing a marketing campaign
A cartoon man wearing a headset, representing customer support

3. Customer support

RCS can resolve support queries faster and create improved experiences for customers. 

Example applications include:

  • Account updates
  • Order queries
  • FAQs
  • Contract/policy updates

4. Alerts

One of the most popular and effective ways to use mobile messaging is to send alerts to customers, informing them of status updates, IT notifications and more. With RCS, your business can improve customer experience, and gather better metrics and analytics data on campaigns. 

Example applications include:

  • Travel updates
  • Facility closures
  • Security breaches
  • Account updates
Cartoon person walking as they receive a message notification on their phone
Cartoon man holding up a giant coin while sitting next to a pile of coins which represents the sales you can drive with WhatsApp

5. Sales

From rearranging appointments to processing payments, handling common queries can be time-consuming and take resources away from the cases that really require human intervention. A chatbot delivered via RCS can not only solve this challenge, but also give customers the power to serve themselves, eliminating the need to speak to a support agent or experience delays in the process as a result of being put on hold.

Example applications include:

  • Appointment booking and management
  • Order updates
  • Account management
  • Answering FAQs

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Case study: Southwark Council

Southwark Council wanted to capitalise on their success with SMS campaigns for those in early arrears on their council tax. With an existing campaign engagement rate of 32%,  Southwark planned to increase engagement levels and looked at RCS as an option because it provided the opportunity to build in suggested replies and calls to action that SMS alone could not provide.

By incorporating RCS into their communication strategy, Southwark Council saw:

  • A 55% increase in people choosing to make a payment, up from 21%.
  • A 60% increase in people choosing to engage with the customer service team for support.
  • 90% of people stating this was a better experience than SMS, in addition to making customers feel more reassured.

Want to keep learning how other businesses are using RCS and rich messaging to boost their customer experience?

Head over to our case studies page to be inspired!

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Choosing an RCS provider

Once you’re ready to implement RCS into your business communication strategy, your next step is to choose the right provider. Here are some areas to consider.

Highly experienced

Has your RCS provider worked with businesses like yours? This could be in terms of project scope, business size or they’ve worked with organisations in the same industry as you. The best providers will also be experienced in implementing mobile messaging solutions as a whole so they can help you to decide where it’s best to use RCS in addition to your existing comms channels for maximum ROI.

At Esendex, we’ve been helping our customers benefit from mobile-focused communication strategies for over 20 years. We’re also committed to learning about and investing in future developments in business messaging so you don’t have to. That means we can help you stay one step ahead of the competition.

Customer-centric approach

Can your RCS provider respond proactively when your business needs change? This may mean implementing RCS in a way that’s best for your organisation or recommending a different messaging approach that might be better suited.

For example, Esendex will take the time to understand your business, from challenges to goals, so we can help you select the right mobile messaging solution for your needs. That includes bespoke solutions and integrations.

RCS feature set 

Some key RCS features include high-quality media sharing, interactive buttons, read receipts and message performance reports. What features can your prospective RCS provider offer?

The Esendex messaging studio platform is included as part of our RCS offering. So in addition to features like branded business profiles, access to suggested replies, interactive buttons, images and other media, you can also:

Interoperability

Can your RCS provider support interoperability across different types of devices and operating systems? This means your RCS messages can be sent and received by a wide range of users.

Esendex will first identify whether the recipient’s device can receive RCS messages. If the device is RCS-compliant, the rich message will be delivered directly into the default messaging app on the recipient’s phone – just like a standard SMS.

If the device isn’t RCS-compliant, the recipient will receive an SMS landing page message so they still receive the rich experience you intended.

Integration capabilities

The ability to integrate with your existing systems, such as your CRM solution or any other messaging platforms, is key to a smooth RCS implementation. What seamless integration solutions or APIs does your provider offer? 

Enabling business messaging is quick and easy with Esendex. Our Rich Content API allows you to integrate message sending capabilities into your existing systems. So within minutes, you can start sending RCS messages.

Level of support

As your business grows, your messaging requirements may do so too. Can your RCS provider scale its services and support to align with your changing needs? 

At Esendex, we’re committed to maintaining strong customer relationships. That’s why we offer 24/7 support to every customer. No tiered pricing, no hidden costs. We strive to be the expert partner you can rely on.

Are you ready to get started?