New for 2024! RCS is coming to an Apple phone near you. About time, or is this just the final straw for RCS?

News that Apple will allow RCS to run on the iOS platform sometime in 2024, was greeted with great surprise and happiness by many of my colleagues in the world of CPaaS – communications platform as a service.

Surprise, because none of them thought the day would ever come, and happiness, because it validates the hype. The technology is powerful and transformative and this milestone in the evolution of RCS should help remove a lot of the barriers adopters currently encounter.

However, it’s the timing that most interests me and if I was an RCS proponent, I would be celebrating with some caution. Apple is so late to the party, that wonder if it’s too late – the RCS balloons could well and truly pop.

Why would I say that?

So many of the businesses I work with are targeting growth next year. And, through the workshops we’ve been delivering, they’ve established they can’t differentiate, and therefore grow loyalty, if they don’t design products or services that truly match what customers want. But to do this effectively and consistently, they must know their customers better.

That’s why they are ring fencing budget to invest in technologies that will turn data into meaningful and useful insight. Insight that can be used to create compelling campaigns and brand stickiness.

RCS is billed as a winning ticket for organisations that want to offer something different to their customers and prospects. If you saw RCs in action I think you’d agree with me that at the times of year when retailers want to sell hard (Black Friday, Christmas, January Sales etc) there’s real value in using it to drive sales. It’s ideal for fun and engaging marketing campaigns, such as those that help customers find the perfect gift with interactive gift carousels.

Yet there is also a fly in the ointment. It’s not an app that consumers are using for P2P communication. The mantle is held by WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook messenger, Snapchat, Signal, and many more.

Brands have a choice. Do they go with the platforms consumers are using ie be where consumers are, or go with the platform marketers are evangelising because it’s new and all singing all dancing?

Anyone worth their marketing salt knows that people are inundated with multiple types of communications already. I can’t be alone in feeling I was bombarded by emails, SMS and WhatsApps as brands unleashed their Christmas assault.

That’s partly my fault for not keeping on top of permissions. But I also think it’s a sign of ‘hoping for the best’. Too many brands are guilty of sending messages to everyone in every channels rather than tailoring their message to segments within their base and the platform they use. Yes, it might mean more work, but isn’t a tailored approach worth it for greater engagement and more sales?

I’d say so.

With that in mind, RCS can’t be celebrated as the silver bullet yet. It’s just another messaging platform to manage, and one customers aren’t as familiar with. This is especially true when compared to WhatsApp, which is already ubiquitous across handsets. So, while the industry might be excited about the prospect of RCS coming to an iPhone near you, the consumer won’t care.

I do acknowledge that the ROI on RCS is very good – I’ve seen campaigns deliver exceptional open rates, dwell time and high response rates in terms of booking appointments in the eye health sector to making a purchase in beauty retail.

As such, marketers will be keen to get a slice of this action. But they will have their work cut out. They will have to punch through the noise and do so without alienating customers who already show a strong preference to another comms channel.

So, for all the questions RCS answers, it also creates new questions. Can you be sure a set of customers will be receptive to a change. And if they are, is their behaviour indicative of how everyone will respond? Should campaigns be delivered to different segments in different ways? How will brands test their strategy for optimal outcomes?

The debate underlines that channels are important, and a multi-channel strategy is highly relevant to driving engagement. It allows brands to target consumers through the channels they use most.

To my mind, it also reinforces the point that marketing strategy needs to be holistic and look at all touchpoints and be cognisant of the fact that more channels are coming. TikTok wasn’t on the road map a few years ago and look at the power it holds today.

So, my advice to anyone looking at what the news from Apple means to them is to step back. Knowing your customer will be crucial, as will taking them on the journey with you. Take a renewed look at your consumers and build an over-arching marketing strategy that uses data, customer preferences, alongside clever and appealing creative, all delivered in the right context at the right time through the right channel. It’s ok to dismiss some channels over others.

Being brave is a big part of this new era – it is a complex world to enter, but one that is manageable with the right blend of expertise and technology. If you need help to crack the nut, then drop me a line. The team at Graystone is already successfully helping numerous brands determine the best strategy for their business – RCS or not.

James Gray

About James Gray

James has over 20 years of experience working in the telecoms and retail industries. He is an expert in subscription-based business models, CRM, direct and indirect channel management and major proposition development and launches. He has held a number of Marketing Director and Consumer Director roles.