Q&A with CLX co-founder and chief evangelist Robert Gerstmann

28 November 2018 | James Pearce

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Capacity speaks to CLX's Robert Gertsmann about Omni-channel messaging, RCS, and current trends in the messaging industry

What is omni-channel messaging, in a simple phrase? And who will use it?

Omni-channel messaging is business messaging orchestrated across any mobile channel including SMS, RCS, chat apps and MMS.  

Increasingly a good customer experience is the primary way in which businesses compete. As consumers increasingly move to smartphones to perform a wide range of tasks, it follows that omni-channel messaging is for any company that is serious about customer service, loyalty and engagement.

How complex is it for businesses to use parallel technologies and parallel channels to communicate with consumers?

The truth is that achieving omni-channel communication is complex. Enterprises want two things; a single customer view gathered from multiple communication technologies, and to be able to reach consumers on the platform most relevant to them.

Add to this the contextual dynamic – the message may only require a 160-character SMS or need something more two-way like a chatbot session including exchange of rich media, depending on the purpose of the communication.

Its up to communication service providers to make sure the message takes the right path, at the right time, to the right person and importantly delivers this contextual requirement.

What are the obstacles to overcome in this aim – including the still embryonic state of RCS?

With RCS in particular, the route to mass adoption has various simple obstacles that are the responsibility of different parts of the ecosystem.

Firstly it’s up to mobile operators to adopt MaaP and Universal Profile so that RCS is enabled. This is happening at pace, with several operators, including Sprint, AT&T Rogers and Vodafone already live with A2P RCS and many more operators expected to launch in 2019.

Secondly, at the OS level, Android and Microsoft support the RCS standard. Crucially, Android OEMs like Samsung, LG and Huawei support RCS, so via the usual renewal cycle of smartphones (two-years at the outside) RCS will grow significantly as a native function of nearly all new Android devices – approximately an installed user-base of five billion globally.

Thirdly, Apple is yet to get on board with RCS but anecdotally they are said to be considering it as a failover for iMessage and Apple Business Chat. In the meantime any RCS message sent to an iOS handset is replaced with an SMS message.

Finally, in order to be able to provide their customers the enhancements in customer experience that RCS offers, its up to brands and businesses to get their arms around RCS and commit budget to using it.

How do the costs (versus benefits) differ across the different platforms?

For RCS, it’s too early to say where pricing will be set. This is subject to intense discussions across the ecosystem. A combination of per transaction and per session pricing with the payload, which can be much heavier in terms of data than SMS, being included in the charge somehow looks likely.

Whilst pricing levels aren’t yet nailed down it’s likely that RCS will cost more than SMS but in terms of consumer engagement, measureable things like response, loyalty and transactions will exponentially rise.

It’s also worth noting that unlike chat apps, RCS doesn’t extract any value from personal user data for advertising purposes. And against a backdrop of consumer awareness and consent on how personal data is used, RCS certainly champions privacy and consumer trust.

 

How long do you think it will take for RCS, OTT and other “new” messaging systems to achieve a significantly larger market than SMS?

It will take at least five to ten years for the combination of RCS and OTT messaging options to eclipse SMS, as SMS today is trusted and ubiquitous and doesn’t require a data connection. Even with consumer acceptance of new messaging formats, SMS will still be widely used as the most appropriate channel for specific messaging tasks depending on the specific use case, cost, handset, network etc..