RCS is a next-generation mobile messaging technology that radically increases the engagement rates of commercial messages transmitted to cellular users. However, the majority of South Africa's 22 million smartphone users do not appear to have RCS enabled on their handsets.

RCS means African brands can now verify themselves, while making use of interactive features during commercial messaging campaigns like suggested reply buttons and end-to-end payments.

Unfortunately, all of this depends on South African mobile users on supported networks like Vodacom actually switching on their ability to receive RCS messages. Informal surveys suggest that even those local cellular users with the ability to receive RCS messaging have not actually accessed their settings to switch on RCS.

Mobile users can use RCS on an unsupported network but the range of capabilities will be similar to SMS and MMS. In addition, RCS is currently available to many Android users worldwide without Mobile Network Operator support.

The mobile marketing industry in South Africa needs to prioritise the communication of the RCS nuts and bolts in 2020. When it comes to this phenomenal emerging technology, we need more 'how to' information in South Africa to ensure uptake is where it should be.

RCS is being rolled out globally by Google and the world's MNOs. It has been described by industry pundits as the next evolution of SMS and the protocol has intended to succeed the most adopted form of written communication in history.

The customer's love affair with short digital text started with SMS and now continues with RCS. This freshened-up descendant of SMS now enables bulk text-based mobile communication to feature the latest emoticons, stickers and animations of the day.

To enable RCS messaging in Google Messages on Android phones, many South African mobile users would have to take the following steps:
  1. It is important to remember that your MNO has to offer RCS.
  2. Be aware that RCS uses mobile data, so you have to have access to either WiFi or wireless data.
  3. You must be running Google Messages as your main text messaging app. If you don't have it, visit the Google Play Store and download the Google Messages app free.
  4. Make sure to set this as the default messaging app. 
  5. Double-check by going to the Settings app. Press Apps and notifications > Advanced > Default apps > SMS app. Then, select the Messages app as your default messaging app.
  6. Open the Messages app and open the settings by tapping the three vertical dots in the upper-right corner and selecting Settings. Then, tap Chat features and tap Enable chat features to turn RCS messaging on.
  7. Once enabled, you can start to play with the different RCS options.
The above tutorial may vary across handset models and Android Operating Systems.

According to the GSM Association, an international grouping representing the world's leading mobile network operators, over 76 operators worldwide have launched RCS. According to the Association, 59 additional operators should launch RCS over the next year.

In South Africa, leading international brands with a local presence have already implemented RCS-based marketing campaigns. RCS business messaging has been described by one MNO as the 'game-changer the industry has been waiting for'.

IMImobile PLC, which joined Google's early access programme for RCS Business Messaging in 2017, is working through its Johannesburg-based African operation, IMImobile SA, to offer RCS business messaging to the wider African continent.

For Google, working with mobile messaging specialists like IMImobile SA helps with the rollout of RCS business messaging across Africa. From one-dimensional mobile messaging that gets the job done in a clunky fashion, RCS instantly transforms non-verbal mobile communications with all the bells and whistles we love. In a flash, RCS almost enables the mobile user to 'touch and feel' mobile messaging.

For more information, visit www.imimobile.com.com. You can also follow IMImobile South Africa on Twitter.