Q&A: Nick Millward, VP Europe at mGage

Nick Millward, VP Europe at mGage, discusses the need for brands to change they communicate with their customers.

messaging

What are rich communication services and how are they impacting marketing?

With 97% of people using some form of mobile messaging daily, it is vital that brands start to incorporate messaging applications into their interaction with consumers.

Combined with a growth in the number of users using Over-The-Top (OTT) services such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, it is clear that businesses need to move beyond the simplicity of SMS messaging and transform their communication with a newer, richer and more engaging experience through Rich Communication Services (RCS). Our research has shown that more than half of 18- to 34-year-olds favour a messaging service or chatbot over picking up the phone to contact an organisation – highlighting just how important RCS messaging is for the future generation of consumers.

RCS can be utilised to drive smarter conversations that reduce internal costs, retains and sustains customer satisfaction and can also be used to upsell different products and services. For instance, sending them targeted, personalised promotions such as vouchers for a particular service or a round-up of the best sellers that they are especially interested in with the intention of increasing sales. Trials in the industry are seeing 11-times higher click-through rate compared to traditional SMS, meaning consumers are not the only ones to benefit from this more personalised approach. Businesses also ensure that their communications are being read and know that their message is having the desired effect as they witness more interaction with their consumers through these platforms.

Nick Millward, VP Europe at mGage

Nick Millward, VP Europe at mGage.

Why do you think they have been so important during the coronavirus lockdown?

Mobile messaging has become a vital tool as this global pandemic continues to cause worldwide disruption. Brands and organisations worldwide who are wanting to communicate important updates to their consumers, contacts and employees have been utilising messaging platforms to spread any key messages and developments in a fast, easy and engaging way. Most people know how to use messaging platforms, regardless of their demographic, and it has an immediacy which is needed for delivering messages during these difficult times.

Global communications company Edelman says 65 per cent of customers are making their future purchase decisions based on an organisation’s response to the current situation. Therefore, it is crucial that organisations embrace mobile messaging to stay relevant to their customers and connected during this time.

As social distancing measures remain in place and industries struggle with high call volumes, SMS and RCS messaging can support customer service by providing an alternative form of contact, when call centres are experiencing exponential strain – such as using text to call-back or deploying a chatbot with suggested actions and quick send responses to take the load off call centres. Operational updates can also be shared such as new processes that are in place or new opening hours, as well as notifications on delivery delays or appointment changes.

What kind of sectors have been utilising these services and are there any other sectors starting to adopt them due to the coronavirus situation?

All sectors have made strong use of SMS messaging at this time from charities reaching out for support and donations to help those in need, travel companies updating passengers on travel updates and returns processes, through to retail brands keeping consumers informed of order updates and opening hours, as well as online offers – all industries have come to realise the value of SMS during this time. Other sectors such as streaming services or utility companies have also been utilising mobile messaging to deliver account updates, direct customer requests for information and send pertinent information relating to other products that they may be interested in.

Texts have also been used by official bodies to send critical updates – and are a great choice for delivering these due to their wide reach to thousands of people, with 98 percent of messages being read within 2 minutes. In fact, we saw this in the UK when the government chose to use SMS to send key alerts to the population with a link guiding people to the new rules in force and the NHS notifying patients as to whether they were high risk and should shield for 12 weeks, or not.

For similar situations in the future, RCS would be a great tool for brands and public bodies in a variety of use cases. It allows for the creation of twoway conversation with chatbot functionalities to boost customer engagement. Businesses could request or respond to feedback, direct customers to key content in line with their questions or enable them to reschedule appointments or deliveries. They can bring messages to life with multimedia such as videos, GIFs and audio, to create an appealing message which has been shown to drive 14x higher engagement when compared to traditional channels of communication.

Consumer trust is also built with the sender verification feature which provides additional fraud and security protection. Stakeholders will feel valued and protected by knowing that only genuine companies can send messages directly to them – it also boosts the perception of the brand providing familiarity and a peace of mind, which makes it more likely that people will want to engage.

Despite the current situation, it is an extremely exciting time for the mobile messaging landscape, with SMS and RCS delivering a whole range of benefits for both brands and consumers. Currently, mGage is in discussion with the governmental, pharmaceutical, and medical sectors to rollout RCS messaging solutions for a whole host of uses. For instance, governments could send information guides through this platform, with pictured examples to illustrate their points or for the medical sector it could be used for people to fill in surveys or ask questions on symptoms that they are experiencing.

Do you know of any examples of companies that have used RCS and how their customers benefited from that?

Trials of RCS have shown higher engagement from consumers with conversation rates being 140% higher and a read rate of 73% when compared to other forms of communication – making it a channel that businesses should seriously consider incorporating into their communication strategies, both now and in the future.

It has shown to be particularly popular within the services sector, allowing a rich experience that really draws the customer in. Subway has used RCS with much success to allow customers to create a personalised order in a conversation format right from food choice to place of collection – making it possible to complete an order within a matter of seconds and at the simple touch of a button.

Rail company Virgin Trains has also utilised RCS within its passenger communications for things like journey updates, sending promotional offers and as a platform to allow travellers to leave feedback. Again, it was a great way of really engaging with the customer to make them feel important and valued.  

What tips would you give to companies that are just starting to use RCS?

As the mobile messaging eco-system continues to grow and consumers demand convenience and engaging interaction, RCS deployment will continue to increase worldwide. RCS messaging is forecast to create a market worth $10.6 billion by 2024 and the number of users is expected to rise exponentially, as effort is being made by Google and Mobile Network Operators to fully rollout RCS Business Messaging to all Android devices making now a good time for brands to invest in the future of messaging.

While SMS will always have its place because of its simplicity, there is a clear appetite for a service which offers ease of use, enticing content and an element of personalisation. Businesses who embrace RCS will see a growth in engagement as the rich experience creates a real appeal for the consumer. Not only can they reduce costs, but they can also improve customer satisfaction as well as upsell and cross promote other services. The beauty of RCS is that it can also be used alongside other services such as SMS, Apple Business Chat and Facebook Messenger to create and enhance a brand’s customer communication strategy.

Are there any pitfalls to avoid when it comes to successfully implementing RCS?

The biggest stumbling block that businesses can face when converting to RCS is forgetting to check whether they would get the best coverage. Not everyone has access to RCS yet, due to certain phones not being able to use it currently – however this is something that Mobile Network Operators are continuously working on and it is expected that RCS deployment will be more readily available by the end of the year.

But, where is this may be a stumbling block for now, businesses can easily revert back to other proven channels such as SMS that offers the largest range of coverage and achieves the biggest reach possible – as all phones can receive text messages.

 What other marketing strategies should companies be implementing to compliment RCS?

Marketers should look at combining a mixture of channels that work in synergy to promote a brand’s messaging. It is important to cross-pollinate any media –a campaign that can run on the web can easily be promoted across RCS and SMS messaging channels too. Both RCS and SMS work well together and can be used to provide a variety to the tones of a message and the interaction necessary – with RCS being more user-friendly and conversational, while SMS is very much oneway communication only.

How do you see RCS evolving post-corona?

We are expecting to see RCS taken up widely for Person to Person communication (P2P) and Business to Consumer (B2C) interaction – with millions expected to be using RCS messaging channels by the end of the year. The benefits that it offers for both brands and consumers makes it too great an opportunity to miss – with the promise of greater engagement and interaction.

We also expect to see evolution in the features that it offers too – such as development in chatbot functionalities which will see more options integrated to create a more realistic conversation that can meet most needs of the consumer to boost satisfaction levels. It is also expected that payment capabilities will see a boost, as brands embrace the convenience and security that RCS offers to consumers to allow a transaction and order to be completed within seconds, safely and securely.

  • mGage is a mobile marketing and engagement specialist with offices in London, Amsterdam, Athens, Atlanta, Los Angels and New York City.

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