LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 LATIN AMERICA, BOGOTA: Silvio Pegado, head of messaging business development at Google Latin America, talked up the opportunity for RCS to become “the new way for people to connect with brands”, as the GSMA provided an update on uptake of the service.
With the growing use of online messaging services including WhatsApp taking a chunk out of operators’ SMS business, Pegado said “it’s not the case” SMS is dead. Instead, it has become a mechanism for brands to communicate with customers.
“If you go to your inbox, there’s a lot of conversation going on with brands. You are used to having messaging…where your banks speak to you, your credit card companies, if you are going to catch a flight, you get your boarding pass via SMS,” he said.
While business SMS use delivers reach, it is limited in terms of capabilities. RCS offers a feature upgrade to support group chat, and high-resolution photo and file sharing among others, without the need to install a dedicated app.
“In Latin America especially, there is an issue where Android phones are low-end phones. They have issues with their data storage – it’s very valuable for the user. So if it’s an app they are going to use once, it is going to get uninstalled, and the brand is going to lose a channel of conversation,” Pegado said.
Jeff Michaud, VP of sales at 3Cinteractive, said RCS will help bridge the gap between the SMS and in-app experiences, where there is a stark difference in the richness of supported features: “When you look at usage after 90 days, app usage falls off very quickly for retailers and brands, while SMS adoption stays high – across our client base 90 per cent of customers stay opted-in to SMS programmes,” he said.
In addition to features, RCS offers brands a way to control their campaigns, without needing to work with partners who may have different motivations.
David O’Byrne, IP communications project director at the GSMA, said: “To put it simply, a bank would be very slow to use an OTT service to send messages to its customers. Why? Because the OTT services want to keep all the information, they want to keep the metadata, they want to use that to target advertising. They want to use that to offer other services to those customers. And banks, particularly, are prevented from doing that by regulation and good business practice.”
“Operators have no interest in capturing that data. Their interest is in providing communications services. So operators have a great opportunity to build a business in RCS for application-to-person messaging.”
Michaud said: “Pitching SMS to a brand marketer isn’t very sexy, they don’t get very excited about it, effective as it is. It’s different with RCS – we’re getting a lot of attention, the brands are responding very well.
O’Byrne said there are 50 RCS “networks launched or announced but not quite launched yet, over 140 million monthly active users. Please compare this to where we were a year ago, when we had 30 million. The growth has been incredibly quick.”
The executive also talked of bold ambitions for the future: “We expect to hit 250 million by mid-next year, we expect to be at 1 billion by early 2019. And at that point we go from where we are now, which is about the seventh biggest messaging platform by users, up to the fourth by the middle of next year, and up to number one by the beginning of 2019.”
“That is the ambition we have for RCS – every device that has SMS should in the future have RCS as well,” he said.