Rich Business Messaging – and how it differs from SMS Messaging

Rich Communication Services (RCS) Business Messaging (RBM) is an advanced messaging protocol designed to bring a more interactive and feature-rich messaging experience to users. Google has been a major supporter of RCS and has developed its own RCS platform, Jive, to enhance messaging capabilities for Android users and deploy RCS services across mobile networks globally.

How is this different to SMS? SMS is plain text and offers 160 characters per message. RBM offers a more visually interactive and engaging message (think buttons, images, emojis and even carousels) delivered directly to your Messages inbox. On top of that, you have about 2,000 characters to play with per message.

But RBM is not ubiquitous. RBM isn’t available on all smartphones, yet. Apple has indicated that they will RCS-enable their devices in their September 2024 update. Those Android users who can’t find the functionality, well, all they need to do is turn on RCS, or download the updated Messages App. If an RBM message cannot be sent, then there is SMS fallback available to deliver the message as an SMS text message. This is what happens when there is an attempt to send to an Android device that is not RCS enabled, or an iPhone or Apple device.

For those of you who want to send Rich Business Messages to your customers, there are a few things you need to do and know before sending messages.

Google’s Requirements for Sending RCS Messages

To ensure a high-quality experience, Google has set out specific requirements that must be met by businesses who want to send RCS Business Messages.

These include:

1. Business Verification:

Before sending RCS Business Messages, businesses must undergo a verification process with Google to confirm their identity. This verification helps establish trust with users and ensures that messages are coming from legitimate sources.

2. Compliance with Google’s Policies:

Businesses must comply with Google’s policies regarding RBM. This includes guidelines on acceptable content, user privacy, and data security. Failure to comply with these policies can result in the suspension or termination of RBM services. For more information on this, here are Google’s Terms of Service for RCS Business Messaging.

3. Data collection:

When businesses ask for contact details in order to receive SMS messages and RCS Business Messages, they will need to comprehensively disclose how they collect, use and share this personal data. This should also be covered in their Privacy Policy which would be linked to the disclosure notice at the collection point of the personal contact details.

Businesses must get user consent before sending RCS Business Messages. This includes getting permission to send messages at the point where a contact (or customer) enters their mobile number. The contact also needs to have an option to opt out of receiving future messages.

5. Opt-out Mechanism:

On that note, the RCS messaging channel provides message recipients with a button option to block future messages from a sender, so the management of unsubscribes is handled automatically on the RCS channel and does not need to be done by the sender.

6. Message Analytics:

Google encourages businesses to use message analytics to track the performance of their RBM campaigns. This includes tracking message delivery rates, user engagement, and other metrics to optimize messaging strategies.

By adhering to these requirements, businesses can make sure that their RCS Business Messages will be delivered effectively and provide a positive user experience.

Google’s guidelines are designed to promote transparency, privacy, and user control, ultimately enhancing the value of RCS Business Messaging for both businesses and consumers.

How is this different to sending an SMS when it comes to compliance and data sharing?

Most businesses currently sending business SMS messages, are doing so through an SMS platform (i.e. a third- party provider). These SMS platforms must adhere to the rules and regulations in their specific country.

In South Africa, for example, SMS platforms need to be a member of the Wireless Application Service Provides Association (WASPA), and therefore, when a business signs up to use one of these platforms, they automatically must adhere to the WASPA Code of Conduct, which includes the following:

1. Compliance:

Businesses need to comply with the WASPA code of conduct, especially as it relates to direct marketing messages.

2. Data collection:

Businesses need to be able to prove that the contacts they are messaging to have given their explicit consent i.e. they have opted in to receive mobile messages.

Any businesses sending messages out to their contacts also need to ensure that they have removed any numbers from the WASPA DNC list list before sending out marketing messages. Transactional messages do not need to go past the WASPA DNC.

4. Opt-out:

A contact (or message recipient) must be able to opt-out to any incoming business messages by replying STOP. When a contact has opted-out of receiving SMS communications via any channel, a confirmation message must be sent, stating that the opt-out request has been received and actioned.

As messaging technologies continue to advance, understanding these differences and adhering to respective guidelines is essential for businesses looking to engage their customers effectively.

If you have any questions about RCS Business Messaging or SMS, contact us at - we’d love to hear from you!