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Operator-sponsored RCS set to win US consumer hearts and brand budgets

Study reveals consumer appetite for advanced messaging functionality, but operators must place privacy, security and person-to-person functionality at the core of new messaging services

Rich Communications Services (RCS) have long promised to enable operators and brands to increase subscriber engagement and create new revenue, and research from Synchronoss has revealed that – in the US at least – the time is now.

An evolution of operator-led SMS messaging, RCS comprises an interactive cross-operator advanced messaging platform available on all mobile devices. It not only incorporates advanced multimedia capabilities into text messages, but also gives users the ability to accomplish everything they currently do across multiple apps from a single messaging platform and with a single contact list for friends, family and services.

RCS also offers the potential of providing a private-by-design direct marketing ecosystem that operators can offer to brands who can then take advantage of a new, secure, permission-based, personalised communications channel. It also promises higher open, response and click-through rates than SMS.

For operators, the business benefit is that they could gain an opportunity to grow their revenue outside of traditional lines of business and further solidify their own reputations as protectors of subscriber privacy.

The report, How operator-sponsored RCS can win consumer hearts and brand budgets, took the opinion of focus group conversations asking consumers of all ages to discuss their mobile messaging habits. It asked focus group participants about their current messaging behaviours and introduced them to RCS capabilities.

The company says the discussions it had demonstrated a clear demand for operator-sponsored RCS, with convenience and operator trust at the heart of participants’ excitement for this new form of mobile communication.

“When asked about their perception of messaging services today, participants perceive a clear distinction between ‘messaging’ and ‘texting’,” said Glenn Lurie, Synchronoss president and CEO. “‘Messaging’ is reserved for messaging applications, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or Instagram, while ‘texting’ is considered to sit outside of this messaging arena and is a different activity entirely. For consumers, texting is fool-proof.”

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Synchronoss regards this as good news for operators. It notes that while consumers may use multiple messaging applications for different purposes, nearly everyone texts, and they text a lot. Moreover, the company argues that consumers trust traditional texting services because they consider them secure and reliable, and they know their personal contacts all have access to texting, which it says isn’t necessarily the case with messaging apps.

Synchronoss added that people should bear in mind that the most commonly used messaging app is the native, pre-loaded application that integrates both SMS and device-centric messaging services, such as iMessage or Android Messages, and that the preference for and trust in SMS demonstrates a clear opportunity for operator-sponsored RCS to build on the allegiance consumers already have to text messaging.

Looking at RCS capabilities – such as mobile-app-like experiences, such as booking and scheduling services or purchasing goods directly from the RCS application – focus group members were receptive to the idea of living their digital lives in a single, one-stop messaging application that includes friends, family and favourite brands.

Synchronoss said that users liked the prospect of being able to eliminate multiple apps and streamline mobile communications into one all-encompassing tool. This removes the user friction caused by the sometimes clunky and inconvenient separate messaging apps and the tendency of those apps to occupy a lot of device memory.

Three lessons emerged for operators from the research, added Lurie. “First, operators must prioritise person-to-person communications to ensure RCS is seen as an app used for day-to-day texting as well as messaging,” he said.

“Second, operators should quickly launch application-to-person functionality to make it easy for consumers to control interactions with the brands they like,” said Lurie. “Finally, operators must prioritise privacy and security so that RCS becomes the app consumers trust for everything. RCS is an incredible opportunity for operators and brands. Consumers love its capabilities, and brands love its potential as a safe, engaging marketing channel.”

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I want my phone messages with friends, family, and business associates to remain private. I don't want my communications to be monitored and psychoanalyzed by marketeers and governments. I don't want to be bombarded with uninvited ads. Being presented with more things to buy does not really enrich my life. RCS has some good attributes, but I will stop using it for privacy reasons.
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