Described by Digiday as the “lowest common denominator” of any messaging strategy, SMS (short messaging service) plaintext messages are often a fail-safe. If all other channels fail, customers can always receive messages via SMS. Unfortunately, plaintext SMS is just that: plain. It doesn’t support any interactivity or other benefits that rich media offers, such as video or audio designed to directly engage users.
Unlike static text, rich media contains more information in a smaller yet more engaging package. Here’s a closer look at a couple key use cases revealing the technical and branding benefits of rich media for messaging.
Quick and Efficient QR Codes
Introduced as a mobile phone technology in 2010, QR codes—short for “quick response barcodes”—can store thousands of characters of data in a compact, two-dimensional square. Marketers quickly adopted them to distribute multimedia or webpage content, but QR codes initially weren’t popular with mobile subscribers because they were often placed inappropriately in places like subway stations (where there’s no mobile phone signal) and on TV ads (when users have no time to scan them). As a result, few mobile users actually scanned QR codes and many didn’t even know what they were. That was the early story of QR codes.
Then something interesting happened: Companies, rather than customers, became the ones scanning QR codes, and they began sending QR codes to customers on their mobile phones. For example, airlines started sending QR code boarding passes to customers who purchased tickets. The rich media on QR code boarding passes gives TSA access to all of the customer’s flight information in a single scan, making it more convenient, more efficient, quicker, and better for the environment. QR code boarding passes reduce airlines’ reliance on printers and help them drive customer engagement by sending QR codes through their branded native mobile apps.
Because of the ease and efficiency of this form of rich media, the number of people who have scanned a QR code has hit 9.76 million in 2018, and that number is projected to increase to 11 million by 2020, according to Statista.
Rich (and Interactive) Communications Services
Already known as an OTT chat alternative to SMS messaging, Rich Communications Services (RCS) has been employed by companies like Google to bring video sharing, emoji, animated GIFs, and typing indicators to Android phones. RCS emulates much of the native messaging functionality found in Apple Messages on iPhones, iPads, and Macintosh computers.
Now the NBA’s Sacramento Kings team has provided a new RCS use case for rich media. The team has enabled an existing toll-free phone number to send and receive two-way texts from fans using Android phones, according to SportTechie.
The Kings use location sharing to target their fans for road games when they’re in the same city, enabling more intimate team-to-fan communication. And, of course, RCS lets the team share game highlights, locker room interviews, and more, boosting fan-to-franchise engagement and personalizing the experience.
The Kings are already famous for being the first major league sports team to accept Bitcoin; by adopting RCS, they have arguably cemented their brand’s reputation for technological forward thinking. This type of use case shows the benefits of rich media for users and companies alike, allowing for greater communication between the two and enhancing the customer experience along the way.
CPaaS, Personalized Videos, and the Benefits of Rich Media
Riding on the coattails of RCS, communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) is emerging as a channel for enterprises to send rich media messages—specifically personalized videos—to customers. CPaaS now lets enterprises capitalize on the cost-sensitive, third-party commodity of SMS communications like any other software application. For example, rather than communicating with automated transactional SMS about an expiring cable TV contract, the operator can analyze opt-in data the customer has provided and create a personalized video emphasizing channels and programs that will entice them to upgrade or renew their package.
Many leading brands are already taking advantage of this more effective and cost-efficient technology to improve their customer experience with dynamic text, pictures, and individualized audiovisuals. Naturally, customized content can hold virtually every customer’s interest.
Whatever the future holds for SMS, rich media, and messaging delivery channels, the benefits of customer communications for business cannot be denied. The technology keeps evolving and getting cheaper every year. And a sort grand unified field theory of messaging is becoming more of a reality every day, where messaging APIs will enable enterprises to spread the benefits of rich media across several channels equally. In the end, if message delivery fails through all those channels, at least a plaintext message can always be delivered via SMS.