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RCS: The next big messaging channel for business in SA

Ryan Miller, Sales Lead, Africa at Sinch.
Ryan Miller, Sales Lead, Africa at Sinch.

Google’s Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging is set to become a key tool for businesses following the Apple announcement that iPhones will support the technology in 2024.

According to Ryan Miller, Sales Lead – Africa at Sinch, a global communications platform as a service (CPaaS) leader: “RCS allows for the sending of branded messages directly to the traditional SMS inbox on your customers’ mobile device and combines the reach of SMS with the rich interactive capabilities of platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. It is secure and encrypted, and significantly cheaper than other channels. RCS pricing is around 10% less than SMS pricing in South Africa, which is a huge saving if you send messages at volume for marketing, customer service or verification purposes.

"RCS also offers the major advantage of being able to verify senders – so customers can be sure a message purported to be from their bank is, in fact, from their bank,” Miller says.

Miller notes that being able to verify senders is crucial for building brand trust and still reaching customers on their preferred channel.

Sinch research found that 35.6% of consumers want to receive mobile messages with promotions. But at the same time, spam texts are increasing by around 157% year over year. Describing RCS as the start of a new era of conversational messaging, Sinch says the RCS verified sender capability helps businesses strike the right balance between promotional outreach and preserving trust to avoid being categorised as spam and ensure a positive customer experience.

RCS enables interactive and personalised engagement, capable of incorporating multimedia such as high-resolution images, gifs or carousels, audio and video, and calendar and scheduling integrations. Marketers can send RCS messages that open in browsers, maps and other applications, and where SMS messages are limited to 160 characters, RCS allows users to send up to 250 000 characters at once. Secure group chats can also be launched without requiring another chat app.

Miller explains that RCS doesn’t require customers to download an app, as all Android devices manufactured since 2018 have built-in RCS. Messages from verified businesses will go to the native messaging inbox. In the case of much older, unsupported devices, the RCS will appear as an SMS. RCS also offers features such as large file sharing of files up to 10MB in size, as well as message reactions, read receipts and typing indicators.

He says: “Another benefit in South Africa is that RCS is delivered via WiFi and not via mobile networks, so it offers a good alternative to SMS, because if there is load-shedding and mobile networks are affected, customers will still receive their messages if they are within reach of a WiFi network.”

Miller says RCS has gained traction in certain markets – including Italy, France and Spain – but is expected to see more widespread adoption globally once Apple supports the RCS standard.

  • “It is becoming very topical in SA, with some of our large enterprise customers now moving to trial it,” he says. “RCS is an excellent solution for any business wanting to send marketing or verification messaging at scale and ensure they reach anyone with a mobile device. I think it will become the de facto messaging channel for businesses. Its comprehensive reporting features show delivery rate, read receipts and engagement tracking. Customers also have a single thread in their SMS inbox from your brand and it is quick and easy for them to opt-in or opt-out of receiving RCS messages.
  • “RCS also complements e-commerce and we expect it to become very popular with retailers not only because it’s a very cost-effective channel, but also because it’s feature rich and can deliver personalised recommendations and offers, interactive product catalogues, assist with abandoned cart recovery, post-sales order tracking and delivery updates as well as customer support.”
RCS enables interactive and personalised engagement.
RCS enables interactive and personalised engagement.

More and more brands are gravitating towards RCS and it is experiencing exponential growth – in fact, brands sent 25 000 time more RCS messages in November 2023 than they did in February 2022, Sinch says. Google reported recently that more than one billion monthly active users have RCS enabled in Google Messages.

“RCS delivers a richer user experience while saving money – it’s an ideal option for improved customer engagement,” Miller says.

If you want to know more about how RCS can help businesses elevate customer communications into rich, conversational experiences, then download the free RCS guide that Sinch has prepared for you and reach out to or (+27) 82 335 0725.

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