In today’s fast-paced, dynamic marketplace, it is crucial to develop communication channels with your customers in a way that is convenient for them and facilitates lightening fast conversations. Consumers in the modern era are incredibly busy, tech-savvy, and have a massive amount of information at their fingertips. They are not interested in spending any amount of time, unless absolutely necessary, calling a company for help. Businesses are constantly looking for the next technology that is going to improve and expand the narrative of the conversation, facilitate high-quality customer interactions, and give them an edge over their competitors. That’s why more and more businesses are increasingly turning to messaging and rich messaging.
If you’ve never heard of this technology, then your first question is most likely, “What is RIch Messaging?” That’s exactly why we wrote this piece. In this article, we will dive into the topic of rich messaging and all of its capabilities and implications. After reading this article, you will have a better understanding of what rich messaging is, why it is an exciting technology, and the capabilities it brings to both businesses and consumers.
First Things First
Let’s start with a basic definition of rich messaging. By defining rich messaging, we gain a firm foundation from which to explore its capabilities and applications:
Rich messaging is a communication protocol between mobile-telephone 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 transmit in-call multimedia. – BBC News
The key takeaway from this definition is that rich messaging is the evolution of text messaging, otherwise known as short messaging service (SMS). It is shocking to think that the first text message was sent nearly 30 years ago. Text messaging has remained extremely accessible since its creation and has gained in popularity in recent years, particularly as the most common technology we all use every day to communicate with family and friends. What is new about SMS/text messaging is its foray into consumer-to-business communications. Gaining in popularity and preference is the ability for consumers to now text companies directly instead of having to call or email.
The next evolution of SMS/text messaging is rich messaging. Let’s dig in.
The Google and Apple Approach
When we talk about rich messaging, there are two providers, one for iPhone and one for Android devices. Apple and Google are the two giants in the communication space. These two providers are both offering great features via rich messaging; they are just going about it a little differently.
Google and Apple are investing massive resources to convince carriers to adopt the rich messaging protocol. In order to strengthen the relationship with consumers, consumer-oriented businesses are now utilizing technology that both increases meaningful conversation and decreases the inefficiencies of traditional communication methods, like email and phone calls. Rich Messaging is not a messaging app, like WhatsApp or WeChat. It is the next stage in text messaging technology that will come with features like read-receipts, group chat, image sharing, video calls, and a never-ending supply of GIFs, emoticons, and animated features.
The Apple approach enables businesses to offer a direct line of communication for customers to engage via Apple Business Chat. While Apple uses the word “chat” in their feature, it is really messaging. To digress a moment, web chat or live chat is when consumers engage with a company on desktop devices versus using messaging or Apple Business Chat on their mobile device. Getting back to Apple Business Chat, a few of the rich messaging capabilities available are the ability to present product choices to customers in a tap-to-pick list, offer calendar availability to allow for appointment scheduling, as well as the ability to complete secure financial transactions using Apple Pay.
Google has come to market with Google Rich Business Messaging (RBM). The Google approach is to work directly with the carriers to encourage them to adopt the rich communication protocols versus Apple opening up the gates directly to businesses on their platform. The native messaging experience Google offers on Android also offers exciting rich messaging capabilities. Chicago’s transit system uses the Android approach to allow customers to get directions and arrival times. Redbox is letting their customers browse their product availability, reserve their choices, and locate a station, all within the Android platform. Overstock is using rich messaging to allow customers to receive order information like purchase, shipping, and delivery confirmation, as well as presenting a product review survey.
What’s the Big Deal?
Messaging and chat applications have provided businesses proof that engaging with consumers in more meaningful ways is one of the keys to driving sales and repeat purchases. Rich messaging is a great way to interact with customers in a convenient way is above the noise of all the other chat apps now populating the conversation infrastructure. The messaging ecosystem is so crowded that developers are looking to rich messaging as a way to standardize the increasingly complex varieties of APIs and tools coming to market which are both costly and time consuming to update and retool. The cost of managing so many different technologies and platforms is simply becoming overbearing.
For businesses, this is especially relevant when considering the current application to person (A2P) infrastructure and customer service goals. A2P is generally more complicated than person-to-person messaging (P2P) because it requires support across multiple channels for multiple users. Developers often find themselves trying to work with multiple APIs, display formats, and a variety of complexities. Rich messaging used to present similar challenges until the technology was pulled together under the GSMA’s Universal Profile. This allowed A2P providers to provide rich capabilities in a cost-effective manner for the first time.
Now, businesses of all sizes can utilize rich messaging to create a more holistic conversation with their customers across multiple networks, from any device. This opens up a lot of opportunities for businesses to improve their brand image strategies, optimize their customer service, increase customer satisfaction and delivery times, and gain deeper insights into the pain points of their consumers. Rich messaging gives companies the ability to gain real-time insights into conversation analytics, as well as reports on link-click rates and other interaction metrics.
The benefits that rich messaging brings to business-to-consumer conversations go beyond emoticons. This new form of communication reaches audiences on a deeper level by engaging them more effectively and providing a more secure environment for the conversation to take place. Due to the many incidences of customer data being misused, or even stolen, many people are rightfully, fearful of the security in the traditional SMS/text messaging space. Rich messaging brings an additional level of comfort by showing recipients that their message has been delivered from a verified business or organization.
Not everything about rich messaging is perfect, and the technology has met its fair share of challenges and hurdles. There are a variety of versions in rich messaging history and the versions are often difficult to navigate considering the complexity of the rich messaging standards. These barriers to entry have kept many companies from utilizing the technology. The Universal Profile becoming the standard of rich messaging technology solved all those problems, and now rich messaging can support both P2P and A2P initiatives.
The future is coming and it’s coming fast. Businesses across all industries need to be prepared to solidify their messaging infrastructure in order to remain relevant in conversation norms and trends. While there are many customer communication channels, like phone, email, and web chat, there is significant data showing these platforms have already fallen to the bottom of the preference list. That means companies must have a methodology and strategy that can react to the current change in customer preferences, as well as the future changes rich messaging offers. Businesses need the ability to set up their conversation channels in a way that can react to any future changes in technology.
In addition to creating a solid foundation for the future, rich messaging offers businesses a greater reach than traditional methods due to the increasing adoption of GSMA’s standards. Major mobile carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T, as well as the OEM’s, namely Samsung, Apple, and Google, have already begun adopting rich messaging technology. More major players are expected to adopt it in the future.
The universal support across Google’s Android network gives marketers and developers a wide array of platforms and devices to utilize rich messaging. The emergence of Apple iMessage adopting rich messaging capabilities provides an even bigger boost to both consumers and businesses alike. A2P processes have brought about a rich boom in interest, investment, and adoption in rich messaging technology. The ability to integrate rich messaging technology into the major customer relationship modules means that businesses now have the ability to capture new customers, service customers directly via text, chat, or social media messaging, and interact with customers in real-time.
The possibilities and opportunities for implementing rich messaging into current marketing and customer experience initiatives have never been better. If you are interested in learning more about rich messaging and what it can do, you can read more here.