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GUEST COMMENT What is RCS and why should retailers start preparing for it now?

After many starts and stops, it’s finally here. Rich Communication Services, or RCS, has been an emerging technology that is finally reaching fruition and promises to revolutionise text messaging as we know it.

RCS is set to transform messaging by taking its best functionality and giving it a 21st century upgrade, with features like high-resolution imagery, advanced video and audio capabilities, location information, and analytic feedback, just to name a few.

One of the most exciting capabilities of this new technology will be the opening of a new world of ways for brands to connect with customers. Features like high-quality photos and videos, payment options, and mapping directions are just a few of the more engaging capabilities that brands will be able to take advantage of to create truly branded conversations with any device. 

Retailers don’t have much time, though, before RCS will become widely available and hit the retail world full force. Here are some of the most important benefits of RCS to understand and how retailers can start taking steps to implement them now.

Better customer engagement and satisfaction

Many of the most engaging channels to customers are currently distributed among desktop and third-party apps. Now, with RCS, these will be able to become a more direct, simple mobile-based experience.

The technology will allow retailers to send promotional content, manage payments, and create chatbots that interact directly with the mobile number of a user, and without the user having to switch between different apps and devices.

Let’s take a closer look at these capabilities:

  • Live delivery tracking

Through RCS, customers who want to track their deliveries only need to send a text, and they can receive a reply with all the information – instantly. Retailers can share anything from a live tracker, to buttons with options to reschedule the delivery, to an option to choose a safe place to leave a package. And it can all be done with branded graphics, and without users having to follow links or open other apps.

  • Technical assistance

Although customer service representatives will never be able to be completely replaced, RCS will relieve a lot of pressure from call centres. RCS is a perfect channel to support chatbots, which can be trained to offer support for the most common problem customers may encounter. Instead of waiting for an operator to be free, a customer can text a company and receive immediate assistance. This efficient approach makes sure that smaller problems can be handled by an algorithm, and that human representatives can concentrate on solving more serious problems.    

  • Coupons and vouchers

Redeeming discount codes will become easier. With RCS facilitating the sharing of high-quality pictures, retailers can bring products to life in a manner impossible right now. For improved conversion, retailers can send QR codes with discounts directly thought text, similar to how airlines provide virtual boarding passes. This will make redemption much simpler and promise to dramatically increase conversion. Instead of relying on third-party apps to download and access coupons, retailers can keep customers engaged in their own digital space, building a closer, more direct relationship with them.

  • Mobile payments

Payment options are becoming a new standard for shoppers, fuelled by tap-and-pay convenience. Taking advantage of this capability as a wallet (and reassuring them about the security of the transaction) will be a game-changer for brands. Until recently, these transactions have been provided by third parties, like PayPal or Apple Wallet, but with RCS, retailers can own the transaction directly without the need to redirect to third-party platforms. This will bring the customer even closer to a 360-degree experience, and foster even more loyalty. Moreover, as an extension of mobile payments, RCS can enable one-click repeat purchasing for everyday items such as contact lenses, and it can also be used to offer promotions on related products, like lens cleaning fluid. Upselling and repeat selling can form the nucleus of a longer-term strategy.

  • New product announcements

RCS allows retailers to share high-quality pictures and videos, making it easier to send customers information on new arrivals. For example, fashion retailers could send a show reel of their new collections, and game shops the trailers of the most anticipated video games.

How retailers can prepare now

While telecom operators work on rolling out RCS, retailers have a short amount of time to prepare an effective strategy now, which will allow them to use the technology to its full potential and start monetising from day one.

The first step is thinking about what kind of services retailers can offer to their customers. Based on the examples above, if they send packages regularly, implementing a delivery tracker is a priority; an automated assistance service is also crucial. To this end, retailers should do in-depth research on their customers and look for ways that RCS can make their relationship more direct and simple.

Once retailers have an idea of the kind of content they want to create, it’s time to start looking for people who can develop it. They will need designers who understand RCS and its formats and necessities, and who can work closely with them to have the content ready for a smooth rollout.

No time to lose

RCS is coming. Soon it will be the new standard for today’s mobile retail experience.

Now is the perfect time for retailers to prepare, and there’s not a moment to spare. They must look to impress their customers with a new, engaging service that eliminates barriers and makes the retail experience more direct and simple. And the earlier the preparation for this, the better.

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