The Most Important App on Your Phone That Marketers are Ignoring

SMS is the missed opportunity in mobile marketing. Cognigy, along with RCS Business Messaging (RBM), helps us reclaim it. RBM messages are visual, branded, and interactive experiences that persist in a user’s messaging app, making it the perfect medium for engaging users and responding with smart automation.

RBM messages are visual, branded and interactive

Let’s take a step back.

At any moment, most of us have at least five text messages on our phones from businesses that are woven into the fabric of our day-to-day communication. Along with all of our personal threads with our friends and family, we have texts with shipping details, authorization codes, reservation reminders, billing alerts, booking confirmations, and weather notifications.

We receive these messages all the time, but we view them as one-way notifications rather than an opportunity for a bi-directional marketing conversation.

Users opt in to this messaging, so why aren’t marketers taking advantage of it?

Some important distinctions make text messages even more compelling:

  1. Everyone has a messaging app — we don’t have to spend marketing dollars making the app discoverable.
  2. Messaging apps offer persistence — messages exist in a user’s messaging app long after they were sent.

And, perhaps most importantly,

3. Messaging apps are the priority apps for users.

Almost universally, at least one messaging app lives in the valuable space on a mobile device’s home screen, within thumb reach.

App discovery is down across several channels (including the App Store, word of mouth and advertising) and the majority of app users don’t download any apps per month.

But messaging apps exist on our phone by default and are integrated with the native SMS capability provided by carriers.

So why aren’t we connecting more with users over SMS?

There are, unfortunately, a few really good reasons why we aren’t doing more with SMS that have to do with the limitations of the SMS format:

  • When users receive a message, such as a shipping confirmation, we aren’t able to provide context on how to respond. Do users know they can talk back and, if so, what questions can they ask?
  • Sending users to a website or app could be a better user experience. A website or app can provide information visually — such as maps, buttons or images — that simply aren’t available in a 160 character text message.
  • Finding a specific brand’s message thread amidst all of the other messaging threads is hard. Message apps are cluttered by nature, and it’s hard for your message to stand out with a shortcode as the sender.

In addition to these user interface issues, most businesses lack the resources — human or software — to respond usefully to large numbers of incoming text messages.

So how do we reconcile this?

Brands have great real estate on the most-used app on the phone, but with a user experience that is too simple and narrow to be useful. How do we fix this?

The answer is Rich Communication Services (RCS) and RCS Business Messaging (RBM).

RCS? RBM? Or both?

It takes sixteen syllables in English to pronounce these two terms. But we can simplify them quickly.

Rich Communication Services is a standard established by the GSMA, the same organization that set the standard for SMS many years ago.

RCS allows for text messages that are more in line with modern messaging capabilities. RCS allows messaging to include media and interactive features (more on that shortly).

If you have used messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, you’ve already seen something similar to what RCS enables.

RCS matters as a standard because it enables your phone carrier to bring features to text messaging that already exist in other modern messaging apps.

RCS Business Messaging refers to the application of RCS for business-to-consumer messaging scenarios. RBM is used to talk about the full visual and functional capabilities that RCS enables.

Google, a major champion of RBM, promotes it as allowing for:

  • Branding
  • Business verification
  • Suggested replies and actions
  • Rich card carousels
  • Payments
  • And more

Instead of plain text, RBM introduces branded messaging that stands out in your messaging app, offers visual components and enables interactivity.

For a marketer or product manager, RBM is the best term to use as it highlights the user experience enabled by RCS rather than the details of the RCS standard.

A huge leap in user experience

This might sound generally interesting but not revolutionary.

Branded text messages are an improvement, but we’ve lived without them so far. Adding visual components to text messages makes them more interesting to users, but, again, we already have other solutions for this (like linking to a website that gives a rich interactive experience).

So, why should we see this as a truly compelling change to the user experience for communicating with our customers?

There are two related reasons why RBM is a game changer:

First, think of RBM not as a single one-way message. RBM messages are interactive experiences that persist in a user’s messaging app.

If a user books a hotel on your website, for example, you can send a confirmation as an RBM message. Within that message, you can have images that showcase the hotel’s restaurants, buttons that let you schedule a spa appointment and information about local activities.

If a user orders a product on your website, your RBM message can include options to check order status and purchase accessories, all without leaving the messaging context.

This means you can have an interactive presence on a user’s native messaging client without requiring them to download a separate app or navigate your website.

It’s an interface that is visually striking, functionally rich, branded and persistent.

Second, and closely related, RBM by its nature can be conversational. Rather than a one-way notification, RBM messages invite consumers to ask questions, access information and take action. Users can have messaging conversations with businesses in the same fashion and in the same app that they have conversations with their friends.

Unlike an app or a link back to your website, consumers can use natural language to ask questions and get things done in a single interface.

How businesses handle mass messaging

RBM gives you a persistent presence on a user’s messaging app, which is what you want. And implementing RBM doesn’t mean you have to create a conversational experience.

But if you do, how will you deal with a huge increase in inbound messages? In simple terms, who is texting back?

You need automation to help deal with requests from this new channel. Unlike simple links or buttons on your website, RBM allows for conversational interactions. Automating these conversations requires both natural-language processing, conversational reasoning and a process editor that enables you to define user journeys for incoming messages.

Cognigy.AI is a Conversational AI platform that plays a central role in your RBM implementation. As inputs flow from a user to their carrier, through Google’s RBM architecture and finally to your business, you need to process these inputs, access data in your Enterprise systems and formulate responses.

In cases where a human response is required, Cognigy forwards requests directly to your customer service operators, but the AI takes care of the mass of incoming texts by itself.

This is all simpler than it sounds.

Using Google’s RBM platform, you don’t have to worry about dealing with carriers or understanding the infrastructure of messaging. That’s all taken care of for you.

Once a message reaches your business, you need Cognigy to interpret and drive the conversation.

Cognigy.AI provides a single platform for natural-language processing, system integrations, and conversational reasoning. Even better, Cognigy.AI allows you to define conversational experiences and reuse them across RBM, Facebook Messenger, Web Chat, smart speaker devices, and other channels.

Where are we now?

Google has been working with carriers and device manufacturers to ensure the broadest potential adoption for RBM, and helping brands get started in sending more interactive messages to their customers. And they are doing so on a global basis.

For Q1 of 2019, work on a pilot initiative tied to a planned campaign. This allows you to gain experience with RBM projects and gather user feedback. It also lets you test conversion versus other channels like SMS, email and your website. This is a low-stakes way to get started with RBM and, if you haven’t already been implementing it, Conversational AI.

As we progress through the year, look for more progress with RCS Business Messaging. If now is the right time for a pilot, Q3 & 4 of 2019 will be the right time to use RBM as a channel for some of your critical business processes and user experiences.

Cognigy and our network of implementation partners can help you get started with RBM as well as introducing Conversational AI to all of your messaging interfaces. Contact us today to learn more about what a Conversational AI platform means for your business and how it fits into your Enterprise ecosystem.