RCS Messaging: A Breakdown of Features to Expect

RCS messaging blog

All of us at Zipwhip have been giddy about the widespread adoption of RCS, or Rich Communication Services. RCS messaging is the successor to the SMS app that comes pre-installed on our phones, and it’s going to change how consumers and businesses interact with one another.

SMS debuted nearly 30 years ago, and it looks and acts relatively the same way it did in the 90s. Users can send and receive 160-character plain texts and exchange small multimedia files. While SMS has proven to be an effective way to reach customers, businesses and consumers alike are hungry for robust features.

Messaging apps like iMessage and Facebook Messenger have long since adopted such features, including larger file sharing, typing indicators, read receipts, video chatting, group messaging and location sharing (to name a few). RCS, which will be rolling out on more Android devices this year, is expected to have similar features and then some.

What does “rich” mean in RCS?

When you hear “rich,” think engagement. RCS’s advanced, complex features will foster an elevated customer experience that will boost brand awareness, improve sales and encourage customers to proactively reach out to businesses.

That’s why Zipwhip is so excited about RCS. Businesses will one day have access to rich texting features that will be universally available to everyone. Businesses won’t have to build their own branded app to give their customers an app-like experience. RCS will offer that environment right from the texting app that is already built into all our phones.

Below, we lay out a few highly anticipated RCS features along with how they’ll benefit businesses and their customers.

Logo and color customization

What they’ll do: Adds company branding to your text messages to increase brand awareness and establish trust with customers

Why you’ll love it: Together with text-enabling your existing business phone number, displaying your company logo and colors keeps your communications consistent. Just as you’ve invested in branding for your email, social media and other communication outlets, RCS will extend that to text messaging. With company branding through RCS, a customer will have a consistent brand experience by seeing your company logo above your phone number, over a customizable banner.

An example of RCS features

An example of RCS features, including company branding, typing indicators and Google Verification

Branding via RCS will also easily let businesses identify themselves to a customer. When we get a text from someone who’s not saved to our contacts list, we can’t immediately identify who it’s from. As the recipient, we’re only able to see a phone number and an empty avatar image.

Of course, the business can let the recipient know who they are with a simple, “Hi, this is Johnny from Seattle City Insurance” or add a signature at the end of the message when they’re using Texting for Business software. But when you add logo and branded colors to the texting experience, a recipient can instantly identify the sender without having to read the text first.

Verification badge

What it does: Customers can trust that they’re messaging with a legitimate business

Why you’ll love it: Much like adding your company logo and colors to your text messages, having a Google Verified checkmark next to your profile image establishes legitimacy. This little checkmark will let your business stand out from sketchy spam and smishing attempts so that your messages aren’t overlooked.

Typing indicators, read receipts and delivery stamps

What they’ll do: Signals an active conversation and confirm messages have been delivered and seen

Why you’ll love it: Those of us who use iMessage, Facebook Messenger and similar Over the Top (OTT) apps are already familiar with read receipts, delivery stamps and typing indicators.

Read receipts are a little controversial among friends and family, but they make sense from a business’s perspective. For example, if a business sends a text to a customer reminding them of an upcoming appointment, the business can confirm that their text was acknowledged without needing a reply. And delivery confirmations will do just what they imply; no more wondering whether a message made its way to the recipient.

An example of typing indicators and read receipts via RCS features

We all know that SMS texts are naturally read quickly even without these features telling us so. However, adding concrete signals will give us even more peace of mind that our messages are doing what we expect them to do.

As for typing indicators, they offer a signal that an active conversation is taking place. When a business sees those three little dots pop up in the text window, they’ll know to keep their attention on the conversation since the customer is actively engaging with them.

Suggested replies and actions

What they’ll do: Keeps customers engaged by giving them choices to reply with a single tap

Why you’ll love it: Suggested replies and actions are made possible by chatbots. When a customer texts a business, a chatbot can reply with a few suggested replies and actions to guide the conversation and solve the issue more efficiently.

Many businesses currently use chatbots on their website to help customers with simple questions and work through minor issues. However, chatbot windows don’t always translate well on a mobile website; the wonky format can create a frustrating experience for consumers. RCS chatbots can do everything their website counterparts can without the formatting inconsistencies.

If an auto shop texts an appointment reminder for a customer’s scheduled maintenance, the chatbot might display two choices for a response underneath the text, such as “Confirm” or “Reschedule.” If the customer wants to reschedule, they just tap on “Reschedule” instead of typing out a response that requests a cancellation and asks for another day to bring in their car.

Suggested replies and actions will make it much easier to continue the conversation without the need to type out a response, saving time and encouraging a faster response from the customer.

Carousel cards

What they’ll do: Offers a focused shopping experience to customers

Why you’ll love it: Carousel cards offer interactive shopping assistance and can provide customers with guidance from the discovery phase through purchase. Carousel cards are clickable, swipe-able images, videos or GIFs. If a customer needs help finding a gift, for example, they could text the retailer and a chatbot or a person (or both) could ask a few questions to determine what the customer is looking for, then provide a few gift ideas via carousel cards. Retailers can help customers save time from combing through web pages for an item and bring thoughtful choices straight to their texting inbox.

Making payments

What it will do: Offers a convenient, fast way to make an “in-app” purchase without the app

Why you’ll love it: Making payments over text is a great addition to a business’s conversational commerce strategy.

For example, say a customer opts-in to receive a text alerting them when an in-demand item is back in stock. When the customer receives the text, they can have the option to purchase the item right away, within their texting app.

They may see a message such as, “Hey Parul! The Nike Airmax 90 is back in stock in your size. Want to purchase your pair now? We recommend moving fast since stock is limited!” The customer could then be presented with a few suggested actions, such as “Buy Now,” or “Choose another style.” In just a few taps, the customer will have purchased a pair of sneakers.

Delivery tracking

What it will do: Gives customers an easy way to see the status of a delivery without having to dig through their email inbox.

Why you’ll love it: After buying something online, many of us anxiously wait for the moment the package is delivered. But the fun gets sucked out of it when looking for the tracking information over and over again – it gets tedious. You have to dig for the email with the tracking information in your inbox, which can be confusing when you have more than one email tied to the purchase (one for the purchase confirmation, another for the shipping confirmation and a final one with the tracking code).

With RCS, customers can just text a business and get their tracking information in a reply without having to follow a link and exit the texting app. They might see a map that indicates where their package is currently in transit, have the option to re-route the delivery or even hold the package at a location.

It’s not too early to start thinking about how RCS features can help your business

RCS adoption is revving up, but we’ve still got a way to go until it’s universally available considering that every phone, every piece of infrastructure and every carrier in the country must go through updates to accommodate. The lengthy timeline doesn’t mean businesses should wait to strategize until it’s fully available. RCS will offer businesses plenty of options to improve customer service, so it’s important to research early and determine how it can be best used for your business needs.


Want to learn the basics of Texting for Business and how to get started with messaging your customers? Download our free e-book The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers.

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