- Sonic Drive-In this year increased downloads for its Sonic App by sending messages to customers via an upgraded technology for Android smartphones. The chain, which is owned by Inspire Brands, worked with mobile marketing company Mobivity to test rich communications services (RCS), a standard for mobile messaging that Google supports, per a blog post by the search platform.
- To compare RCS and multimedia messaging service (MMS), Sonic ran simultaneous campaigns. The RCS campaign featured a carousel that mobile users could swipe to see four new products, while the MMS campaign only had one product. Customers who didn't already have the Sonic App were prompted to download it and register for an account, while existing customers could immediately place an order for pickup.
- Sonic generated five times as many app downloads with RCS than with MMS. Sonic also saw a rate of customer registrations that was three times higher than for MMS recipients, and a conversion rate as high as 50%. Sonic conducted the test Jan. 14-17, and used Google's RCS Business Messaging to reach the chain's customers across more than 3,500 locations.
Sonic's side-by-side test of RCS and MMS technologies found that the upgraded messaging standard can provide better results for mobile marketers by giving them more tools to engage customers. Its RCS campaign had richer graphics and more capabilities to link to the Sonic App, driving direct orders. RCS is gaining traction worldwide, with the GSM Association saying that 90 mobile operators in 60 countries have adopted the standard. Wider usage of the RCS standard would let mobile marketers have richer conversations with users of Android, which has a 73% market share worldwide and a 40% market share in the U.S., per data compiled by Statcounter.
RCS gives Android devices more media-rich features like those found in Apple's iMessage platform, which doesn't support RCS. It's not clear whether Apple will ever support a messaging standard that may give users of its iOS-based devices another reason to buy a competing Android-based smartphone. The RCS standard has been in development since 2007, but third-party apps like WeChat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger with richer multimedia features have overshadowed the technology and hindered its adoption.
Developers of third-party chat apps continue to add more services for business-to-consumer marketers. Adidas and Sephora last month were among the first brands to start testing an update to Facebook Messenger that promises to help businesses manage consumer communications through sister app Instagram at scale. The new application programming interface (API) for Messenger lets businesses integrate Instagram with other enterprise software and workflows. The update also lets businesses that sell through Facebook Shops integrate Instagram messaging with their social media storefronts. With people spending more time at home during the pandemic, Facebook has seen a more than 40% jump in daily conversations between people and businesses on Messenger and Instagram, the social network said in a blog post.
The Sonic case study and recent chat app developments underscore the role of messaging in engaging mobile users with direct and interactive communications from brands.