Google is expanding its program that lets businesses send Rich Communication Services (RCS) messages to customers, per a blog post. RCS is a standard for the next generation of text messaging with apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and LINE offering features that aren’t available in standard SMS-based messaging apps.
RCS lets mobile marketers send high-resolution images of their products instead of a text message to customers, who can select and buy items without leaving the messaging app. Google plans to show off its capabilities next week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
1-800 Contacts, 1-800-Flowers.com, Booking.com, SnapTravel and Subway are among the brands that are running campaigns enabled by Sprint and messaging partners 3C, CM.com, Mobivity, OpenMarket, Smooch and Twilio, per Google. More than 40 carriers and device manufacturers now use the RCS platform out of 60 that support it, per TechCrunch.
The greater availability of RCS will mean that marketers can have media-rich conversations with customers who have Android devices. Google has been working on RCS for years as a way to compete with Apple’s iMessage app to provide enhanced messaging features like high-resolution photo sharing, group chat, transactions and the ability to see if someone is typing back. The older SMS standard was developed for the era of phones that didn’t have much processing power or functionality, with text messages that were limited to 160 characters.
Google faces challenges in getting consumers to use RCS messaging, given the established popularity of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Apple’s iMessage that already have features that RCS brings to Android. But Google has signed up carriers and device manufacturers worldwide to get on board with the platform. The company has significant market share with the Android operating system and a monopoly on services like mobile search that give it significant power to promote RCS to mobile consumers worldwide.
It remains to be seen whether Apple will support RCS, which is important considering that Apple has a 15% share of the global smartphone market and 40% in the U.S. If Apple doesn’t get on board, RCS messages will appear as regular text messages on an iPhone. In the meantime, marketers can expect to hear more details about Google’s plans at next week’s Mobile World Congress.