The State of RCS Marketing in 2020

With the possibility of using the same general connectivity and phone numbers to deliver much more detailed and multimedia-rich content, RCS has a lot of people buzzing.  

Rich Communication Services (RCS) is a communication protocol between mobile carriers and between phone and carrier, aiming at replacing SMS messages with a text-message system that is richer, provides phonebook polling (for service discovery), and can transmit in-call multimedia. It is part of the broader IP Multimedia Subsystem. 

This new protocol opens a whole new world for marketers who use messaging as one of their marketing tools, enabling them to send longer messages with images and videos. Read on to find out how exactly.

What RCS brings for marketing?

RCS messages can contain many content formats ranging from free form content such as text and media (e.g., images, video, audio) to structured/templated content (e.g., rich cards and carousels).


Limitations that existed on MMS don't apply to RCS 

A key difference between RCS and multimedia messaging service (MMS) has to do with the size and quality of the files that are shared. Businesses are free to be more creative in how they communicate with their customers in a fully branded experience. 

Businesses that use this tactic incorporate more creative aspects into their messages, such as branding, logo and colour scheme. They can also provide images, videos and contact information. These additional features create more value for customers by enabling more message interaction.

RCS offers a chip list with each message 

This is a selection of suggested replies/actions or “next steps” associated with each message. When consumers receive a message, a selection of responses they can invoke with a click appear, allowing the customer to instantly and effortlessly interact with the brand.  

These responses trigger a message back to the brand, or they can trigger an action on the device such as loading the maps app, adding an event to their calendar, opening a website, or starting a voice call. Either way, end users can quickly identify next steps in the conversation.


You can use rich cards and rich card carousels 

Rich cards and rich card carousels are another RCS feature that put this messaging strategy above standard mobile messaging. Rich cards combine an image, video, text content, and suggested replies and actions into a single message experience, which can be presented in different sizes.  

Rich card carousels take that a step further and combine multiple rich cards into a single interactive unit, allowing users to scroll through up to 10 cards and select the offer that's best for them.  

An RCS promotion by Subway was tested among a set of Subway customers last year. Subway reported a 144% increase in redemption rates for the RCS promotion compared to the same promotion using SMS. If done right, RCS could provide brands with a more meaningful engagement platform. 

So, all of that combined creates for a much more customer-specific and enticing experience that is sure to drive up the conversion rates.

There are drawbacks though

While there’s some interest from operators and manufacturers, your addressable market is very small. Globally there are around 800 mobile phone networks and so far, just 65 of them have adopted RCS messaging. That’s a rather modest 8.1 percent. 

In the U.S., all carriers can handle RCS, though the technical aspects are not always universal.  

In Europe, the picture is bleaker. In most countries, RCS is just available on the Vodafone network with almost no other networks yet committing to it. 

For those that have rolled out RCS, technical complexities mean that it may not be truly universal, and messaging may not work smoothly between operators. It’s a problem that the GSMA’s “Universal Profile” is hoping to eliminate (the GSMA is the industry body that looks after the interests of mobile operator worldwide). 

Even though RCS offers breakthrough features and functions, there are a few more limitations: 

  • A developer must create and send messages. You can’t set up and run your own campaigns. A developer has to be involved on the back end, which increases the cost to connect with customers. Plus, waiting for a developer to create your messages is time-consuming, especially if you want to send time-sensitive information. 

  • It costs to send RCS messages. The cost of sending RCS hasn’t been finalised yet, but depending on how many customers you have, the cost of sending bulk RCS messages could add up and eat into your marketing and advertising budget. This makes your budget unpredictable since it’s at the mercy of messaging rates, which have been known to increase at any time.

  • It doesn't have end-to-end encryption. If you choose to send sensitive information via RCS, it isn’t protected from bad actors waiting to steal and sell customer information.

  • RCS isn’t supported on iOS. Depending on the market, Apple has between 20% – 40% of the global mobile phone market. RCS limits your ability to maximise your reach and connect with people if they aren’t using an Android device. iMessage is an alternative to Chat, but messages can only be sent to iOS phones.

  • There’s no way to track who uses RCS. Unlike iMessage’s Apple Identity Service that lists all users, there isn’t an RCS equivalent that shows how many customers use rich communication. This is because many different operators deliver RCS messages, not just one.

  • Limited mobile phone compatibility. If a user switches their phone to one that isn’t RCS-enabled, all their old RCS messages revert to SMS. For customers who save messages, like coupon codes or passes, this information is impossible to access via traditional text-based messages. 

So, while RCS brings a lot of new features and possibilities for marketers, there’s still a long way to go.


RCS goes above and beyond what normal text messaging can provide for consumers. This new way of delivering mobile marketing strategies engages customers with branding, images and response options that drive higher brand interactions and can result in more sales and customer loyalty.  

It has drawbacks though - no iOS, low level of adoption by the operators and device entry barriers make it a tool that isn’t going to be as global in its reach as its older cousin SMS, at least for the time being.

Kaur Virunurm
2020-01-07 00:00:00 UTC