Google is set to introduce RCS messaging on Android as its version of iMessage. Matt Ramerman, CEO and co-founder of Vehicle, looks at how the RCS messaging standard has the potential to massively improve consumer engagement with enterprise messaging and marketing….much more so than SMS.
He recognised that the emerging digital channels could change the way companies spoke to their customers. In short, brands finally had an alternative to merely ‘shouting’ their messages from TV and radio.
“Permission doesn’t have to be a one-way broadcast medium,” he wrote. “The internet means you can treat different people differently, and it demands that you figure out how to let your permission base choose what they hear and in what format.”
“Permission marketing is the privilege of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”
Two decades later, Godin’s ideas are mainstream. But does that mean the practice of mass personalised messaging is commonplace?
Most internet communication is blunt: “You’ve just browsed that, maybe you’ll like this.”
Mobile messaging is a little better. But not much. Most companies send the same marketing alerts to thousands of customers with little differentiation.
What a wasted opportunity. It’s been said many times before that mobile is the most personal communication medium ever invented. People carry their phones with them every waking hour. They read messages almost immediately.
Crucially, with text, they can also respond at their leisure. A phone call can be intrusive. It demands attention now. An SMS, by contrast, is ‘asynchronous’. Recipients can respond when convenient.
So mobile, to re-quote Godin, is a channel through which to “deliver anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”
Well, here’s the interesting news. Two new innovations are changing the mobile messaging space. And together they make the dream of mass, personalised, two-way – and actionable – communication a reality.
The innovations are CPaaS (communications platform as a service) and rich media.
Before we dive into them, let’s look at a hypothetical example of mass personalised messaging in action.
Imagine you are a cable TV customer. Your package has just expired. It’s time to renew/upgrade.
Here are three things your provider could do:
- Send an automated text message: “Your contract has expired. Please call us.”
- Send a personalised video message detailing the upgrade offer. The offer would be based on your preferences and include video, audio, text and images. It might even let you click a button to upgrade immediately from your mobile wallet.
Self-evidently option three is best. So let’s see how the two previously mentioned innovations make it feasible.
First, there’s CPaaS. This turns communications into software. It means companies can manage their own comms internally. Rather than ‘buy’ messages in bulk from a third party, they can use APIs to send text, audio and video messages from their own customer-facing applications.
Combine this with the opt-in data they have on their customers, and the dream of ‘mass personalised’ messages moves closer.
The second major innovation is a new messaging format called Rich Communication Services (RCS).
RCS is essentially SMS 2.0. This new standard will deliver messages to one inbox that contain rich content such as images, maps, coupons, videos and reply buttons that can link to further menus and functions. RCS also includes read receipts so marketers can perform A/B testing, gauge the success of campaigns and make changes on the fly to improve responses.
In a sense, RCS makes a message behave like a mini-app.
The world’s operators are currently building out the infrastructure to put RCS on every phone in the world.
So, to recap, brands could soon have the opportunity to send thousands of rich media messages that are personal and relevant to the recipient. They could send them with a click from inside their own systems.
Unsurprisingly, there’s widespread excitement about the potential of CPaaS and RCS to transform marketing and customer service. In fact, a small number of companies have already demonstrated great success with their own rich media platforms.
One is Vehicle, a US company that helps brands send dynamic text, images and personalised videos tied to individual customer attributes. It’s worked with customers including Macy’s, Chipotle, Miller Lite and more.
In April 2018, Vehicle was acquired by Sweden’s CLX Communications. CLX is one of the world’s largest CPaaS providers. Post-acquisition, the two companies are working towards bringing mass personalised messaging to major brands, including CLX’s global network of customers.
They are also preparing for the opportunities presented by RCS. And with it the chance to make customers feel like individuals again.
By Matt Ramerman
CEO and co-founder