The Anatomy of an RCS Message

3 min read

Rich Communication Services are often described as “SMS 2.0” or the evolution of SMS. In reality, RCS is much more.

RCS messages support numerous features that make those messages appealing to the public and enterprises alike — and when combined, these features become more than the sum of their parts.

At its most basic, RCS marries the ubiquity of operator-run SMS with the interaction and content features of app-based messengers. However, this doesn’t really tell us much, so let’s dissect some examples of what RCS messages can do.

Better content

Images and videos can enhance messages in a variety of ways. This was previous attempted with MMS messages, but with little success.

For one, MMS was poorly standardised across operators, both in terms of image dimensions and the supported maximum file size. These images also came through separately from SMS text, so there was no truly orchestrated delivery channel – a text message could come through significantly before the MMS it was related to.

RCS integrates text and images (and videos, or even file transfers) into one single message with a clear standard for implementation. This means you can do a lot of things. For a start, images and video make for more visually appealing messages with text and visuals clearly interconnected. They also have other uses.

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You can also insert images into notifications. So if you’re confirming an on-site visit by and engineer or a delivery, you can include a photograph of your representative to improve customer trust and confidence (and safety). Videos also make how-tos and instructions clearer.

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Plus, if a user needs a ticket — either for a journey or a concert — you can send them an image containing a QR code which will serve as a digital ticket or coupon. This means that RCS can, through the simple inclusion of richer visuals, deliver a lot more utility to your customers.

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More trust

Under the hood of RCS is an encrypted connection between user and operator, improving user security. On top of this, the channel incorporates a verified sender system from the start. While fraudsters can manipulate SMS message headers — or simply claim to be who they are not — the same is not true of RCS messages.

When you sign up for RCS Business Messaging you go through a verification system which will result in your brand gaining a profile which includes branding and a clear badge of trust. Users will quickly learn that the absence of branding and a brand name is an indication that the message is suspect.

This is especially useful for banks, government ministries and similar organisations, whose customers are often targeted by scam artists.

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Increased interactivity

RCS also integrates with map and calendar apps, allowing users to directly save dates and find locations. Enterprises can send details of meetings, appointments or deliveries which can be saved as appointments and get directions with just a tap of a preprogramed button.

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Enterprises can use similar buttons, which they define, to construct conversational flows or guided interactions. Using these buttons to present options to the end user, letting them self-serve simple troubleshooting scenarios, book appointments, check product availability and more.

A new sales channel

From the start, RCS was envisaged as a way of enhancing the way brands and customers interact.

Its interactivity is key to its role in the future of messaging. In furtherance of this, mobile operators and the GSMA — the telecoms trade body which has led the effort to develop and standardise RCS — introduced a number of features which, together with those already mentioned, let enterprises make sales in the messaging channel itself.

Rich cards collect related text and images into a single unified format, with relevant interaction choices provided below. These rich cards can then be collected into a carousel, which means that single message can convey a mini catalogue of choices — whether for products, tickets or services — presented in a clear, concise and useful way.

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Rich cards and carousels can be included in an interactive flow with a chatbot and buttons to create a  conversational commerce platform that recreates a personalised, guided shopping experience. Customers can interact with an automated agent (or a live agent, if needed) to find the product or service they want. Payment integrations then let them make a purchase without having to leave the RCS messaging channel, creating seamless user experience.


RCS messages have a whole host of features they can include. It can be quite bewildering when you first come to look at them. However, as we have hopefully demonstrated, it is quite easy to start with familiar elements and ramp up.

Once you have an idea of what you can do — and what goals you want to achieve — it becomes much easier to understand which features you want to use and how to use them.

GMS prides itself on providing insightful advice on getting the best out of messaging, so if in doubt consult our experts about which RCS features can best help your business grow.

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