RCS had suffered a lot of bad press over the years, and it has certainly taken a long time to get anywhere significant. It was designed by a committee, which never helps.
Yet a new study from Juniper Research points to a brighter future than RCS could possibly have hoped for.
One key to this success is that RCS can ‘piggy-back’ on 5G standards, and Juniper believes that there will be 415 billion RCS Business Messages by 2025.
Another critical factor for RCS will be the success of what Juniper calls ‘conversational commerce’, which is linked to omnichannel retail, which will emerge as a result of the maturing of the payments ecosystem to create a smooth, seamless commerce experience.
It will not be plain sailing, however.
While Google seems to be a big fan of RCS, Apple – so far – is not. And if Apple does not join the game, then it will definitely have an impact. A negative one.
Another challenge will be security. Wherever money flows, criminals follow, and as an entire commerce ecosystem emerges, the challenge will be significant.
As a highlight from the free whitepaper says:
Cybercriminals map their strategy to the payment mechanism on offer. The challenge is to have robust authentication methods in place and ensure that all touchpoints are hardened, including account recovery for all channels.
The other problem, not highlighted in the RCS paper is, of course, competition from elsewhere.
Many other big players are eyeing the opportunities of payments and commerce, and even a few years ago, we decided that payments will end up being the ‘really big battleground for brands.’ As an example, WhatsApp is rolling out a strategy that aims to put WhatsApp at the centre of customer service and payments. Businesses will use the app to interact with customers, and there are, of course, millions of WhatsApp users.
That said, if RCS and its business alter ego, RCS Business Messaging, is backed by the operator community, then that is a lot of muscle. There are already examples emerging of telecoms operators and their partners aiming for an end-to-end relationship with their customers, including payments, customer service and security. If they can succeed in that goal, then perhaps RCS does have a fighting chance to go mainstream.
One issue we do have with this, is that the Juniper paper treats the billing options for RCS services somewhat crudely, suggesting ‘price-per-message billing; session-based billing; access-based billing’ as three out of four options. The other option is what it refers to as ‘calls to action and future revenue sharing models.’ Perhaps the report itself offers greater insights.
Surely, though, after years of discussion about how to bill for value and content and surely if the success of RCS will depend on the emergence of a conversational commerce ecosystem, we can do better than that.