We’re living in the midst of a digital revolution, meaning businesses and their customers are spoilt for choice when it comes to the tools they use to connect and interact. The rise of messaging apps (opens in new tab) and social media (opens in new tab) that compliment Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, coupled with more traditional communication mediums, has led to organizations everywhere adopting multiple platforms in a bid to keep up with customer’s high expectations for business interactions.
Robert Jones, Head of Messaging, BT Enterprise (opens in new tab).
You would think this investment should result in higher customer engagement, however, a case of ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ can often be the reality. If the multiple channels used by businesses operate in isolation and are not connected to each other, it can result in a disjointed customer journey. Managing this complexity could lie in utilizing a customer's native messaging inbox.
In 2019, there were a staggering c.90 million mobile subscriptions in the UK. The native inbox is ubiquitous and, therefore, it is the perfect route in for reaching customers. Advances in messaging technology means customers can enjoy all aspects of modern-day communications in one single, transparent function.
Over the past decade, the popularity of messaging channels such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Telegram has accelerated massively, and this uptake continues to grow. Indeed, users on mobile messaging apps increased by approximately six percent in 2021 compared to 2020. Interestingly though, this is projected to slow to 2.6 percent in 2025. At the same time, business (opens in new tab) use of SMS is going up and, in the UK, there has been consistent year-on-year growth for this method of communication of between 10 and 15 percent.
The new generation of messaging channels may have overtaken SMS as the preferred person to person communication channel of choice. But the noise they create – the constant notifications from group chats, for example – means the speed at which people engage, and the level of priority they are considered has diminished. On the other hand, text messages indicate a sense of urgency. When a SMS notification comes through, the probability is it won’t be from a peer or colleague and as a result the recipient is more likely to sit up and take note. In fact, research shows 98% of text messages are read – 90% of these within three minutes, further demonstrating SMS’ position as the communications channel with the highest engagement rate.
This, combined with the simple fact texts can be received and read on all mobile devices, is the reason SMS remains a vital means of communication. Texts allow information to reach people quickly, and ensure it is acknowledged immediately. This is crucial for organizations of all kinds – from SMEs all the way to the likes of the NHS.
Rich Business Messaging (RBM)
When it comes to communicating with customers (opens in new tab), one of the biggest problems businesses face is that many messaging channels will operate in complete silos, with a fragmented customer user base. Not only does this breed inefficiency, but it can also leave organizations unable to track their customers’ journeys as they hop from one place to another in search of an answer to their queries, which can be hugely detrimental to customer experience (opens in new tab).
RCS (Rich Communication Services), or in its business messaging guise – RBM (Rich Business Messaging), combines all the rich features that customers can expect from an app or web experience, and offers these directly in the customer’s native mobile messaging inbox, as a single channel of engagement. RBM has untapped potential to supercharge the way organizations interact with consumers. Combining the global reach of SMS with the rich features of apps, RBM lets organizations deliver a fully branded experience, with interactive messages sent directly to the users’ native inbox.
What’s more, a two-way app-like experience can be achieved with images, video, audio (opens in new tab), and interactive buttons, meaning customers are more likely to engage. Read receipts, meanwhile, provide a vital metric that enables businesses to measure the success of campaigns more effectively and brand verification adds an extra layer of security giving both the customer and the brand peace of mind. Think about an airline managing uncertainty throughout the pandemic.
Using multiple unconnected messaging channels at various call centers to engage with customers could result in untimely inefficiency and disruption. RBM leverages the ubiquity and familiarity of the native mobile messaging inbox as an effective single channel to engage on. RBM has proven to drive a higher engagement rate, which can in the case of the airline, help mitigate delays for the call center teams and ensure customer queries are managed in a more personalized and relevant approach.
RBM consolidates the best of both worlds by harnessing the traditional method of texting as the preferred communications method of choice, combined with the increasing quality of rich features and chatbots alongside an actual human element. These features can help brands forge long standing relationships with clients by use the conversational element of richer, smarter messaging.
Richer, smarter messaging in action
Take the example of Oxfam GB, a major non-for profit. In 2021 and at a time when charities were struggling amidst the pandemic, Oxfam launched the world’s first RCS mobile donation campaign to encourage more donations and higher levels of engagement.
RCS enabled the charity to use payments, through direct carrier billing, reducing the steps between the call to action and conversion. It was accompanied by familiar branding, meaning users were assured messages were legitimate, protecting against fraud and the reputation of the sender. The results were significantly stronger when compared to a standard Premium SMS.
Elsewhere, Papa John’s, the world’s third-largest pizza delivery company with over 350 restaurants in the UK, took its mobile-based marketing heritage and trialed RBM to promote its new vegan pizza back in 2019. The result was a three-day RCS campaign that outperformed their usual expectations. A total of 23% higher sales were achieved and some stores actually sold out of vegan pizzas.
These examples show the real power of RBM. By keeping interactive communications with customers within their native inbox, prospects are presented with trusted and simple to use, picture lead services that do not force them to open another app or their browsers.
It is clear that SMS remains a powerful messaging medium that businesses of all kinds must embrace. It is a pillar of ubiquity and a crucial building block towards much richer, more visually stimulating conversational brand communications through channels like RBM. Due to ongoing industry advancements across both network operators and handset manufacturers, RBM is set to continue to take all that SMS has to offer and run with it. As a result, organizations will enjoy greater engagement, increasingly productive conversations and importantly, enhanced customer experiences. SMS has survived for almost three decades, and RBM is the next evolutionary step.