- Sonic Drive-In boosted app downloads and other mobile activity in a test of next-generation messaging for Android smartphones. The fast-food chain worked with mobile marketing platform Mobivity on a pilot of rich communications services (RCS), an upgraded technical standard for mobile messaging, per an announcement shared with Mobile Marketer.
- The test spurred five times as many app downloads than seen with communications by multimedia messaging service (MMS), an older chat technology based on the short message service (SMS) standard. Sonic also saw a customer registration rate that was three times higher than for MMS recipients, and a 50% purchase rate from mobile customers who registered on the app.
- Sonic's pilot, conducted Jan. 14-17, used Google's RCS Business Messaging to send interactive messages about its restaurant app, targeting customers among more than 3,500 locations. The test established a baseline by not including offers, discounts or other incentives, per Mobivity.
Sonic's test of an RCS campaign indicates that the messaging standard has the power to be a more compelling mobile marketing channel than older technologies with fewer features. While RCS has been around for years, it struggled to gain widespread adoption as Android users started using third-party apps with richer features such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. RCS provides more features that make Android messaging more like Apple's iMessage chat app, a rival that doesn't support RCS. The technology has features such as high-resolution photos, video sharing, location sharing, mapping directions and typing indicators, per Digital Trends.
Wider adoption of the RCS standard will help mobile marketers have richer conversations with users of Android, which has a 51% market share in the U.S., per data compiled by Statista. RCS also is expected to become more popular worldwide, with the GSM Association forecasting that 86% of smartphones will be RCS-enabled this year. RCS has the power to support chatbot and human-based conversations with mobile consumers, helping to improve the customer experience (CX) as more people connect with businesses through chat.
Sonic is among the restaurant chains that are gradually adopting RCS messaging technology. Papa John's Pizza last year ran an RCS messaging campaign for World Vegan Day that resulted in sales 23% higher than that of SMS communications. It ran the campaign for three days in the U.K., where the pizza chain has more than 350 restaurants and sees more than three quarters of its digital sales through mobile marketing channels.
It's not clear if Apple will support RCS, given that the iPhone maker is pushing its Business Chat service to connect consumers with live customer service, including employees at stores, hotels and banks, among other examples. Facebook this year revamped Messenger to de-emphasize chatbots while giving marketers a chance buy ad placements its Stories section.