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Twilio adds support for RCS, next generation carrier messaging

Twilio adds RCS Business Messaging

We’re excited to announce support for RCS Business Messaging, enabling you to build more engaging, rich messaging experiences while leveraging the reach of SMS. RCS (Rich Communications Services) upgrades carrier messaging with features like sharing high resolution photos and videos, adding appointments to a calendar, mapping directions to a business, browsing a carousel of products, sharing location, and more. This standard aims to combine the messaging features consumers expect from popular messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger with the ubiquity of SMS.

With Twilio, developers can use one API to deliver the richest messaging experiences for any device, while reaching every user.  To that end, we are announcing Rich Messaging Extensions, which extend the Programmable SMS API with additional optional parameters for including rich content and interactive experiences. Now, delivering rich, contextual messages is as easy as sending a text.

How We Chat

SMS is a universal messaging standard with 5 billion users and more daily active users than any other app or service. SMS is unique because it’s the one app that’s pre-installed on every mobile phone and all you need is a phone number to reach another user. This universal reach has made SMS a unique channel for businesses to reach their customers with 98% open rates.

Today, we all use a variety of messaging apps, beyond just SMS, to communicate with different people in different contexts. We use WhatsApp, WeChat, and iMessage to coordinate with friends, Slack and HipChat to collaborate with our coworkers, and SnapChat and Instagram to share photos with friends and family. These apps have transformed consumer expectations for all messaging experiences—whether that’s with friends or a business..

Enter RCS, Next-Generation Messaging

RCS is a next-generation messaging protocol that aims to make carrier messaging as engaging as these popular messaging apps and as universal as SMS. With RCS, users can share their location, attach hi-res photos and videos, add and remove members to a group chat, and enable read receipts and typing indicators. These rich messages are delivered to users’ default messaging app on their device; all you need is a phone number.

RCS Business Messaging is opening up RCS for businesses so they can reach consumers with more engaging content. This enables businesses to send branded messages, share rich cards like boarding passes, include carousels for scrolling through products, suggest replies and actions, instill confidence by sending from a verified businesses sender, and gain insight into how messages are performing with accurate read receipts and click-through data.

Twilio is enabling RCS support in partnership with Google through its Early Access Program which is designed to help brands and developers adopt RCS business messaging more easily. “We’re pleased to have Twilio as part of our Early Access Program to help businesses upgrade their SMS messages to RCS,” said Amir Sarhangi, Head of RCS at Google. “Twilio’s support of RCS enables developers in Twilio’s ecosystem to build more dynamic messaging experiences for their customers, exponentially expanding the reach of RCS as a universal standard.“

Future Proof with One Integration

In the past, when a new messaging channel started to gain traction like RCS, developers had to wrestle with new protocols or APIs, differing capabilities, and tooling or lack thereof. This was a complex and time-consuming process. The high cost of supporting new channels meant businesses weren’t able to engage on customers’  preferred channels.

With Twilio Channels, developers no longer need to deal with this fragmentation in the messaging ecosystem in order to reach customers where they want to be reached. The same Twilio app can support SMS, MMS, Facebook Messenger, Alexa Notifications, and now RCS, without custom code for every different channel.

Today, we’re also excited to introduce Rich Messaging Extensions in Developer Preview—enabling the different rich capabilities that each channel supports, in a uniform manner, through the same SMS API. These capabilities include the ability to send suggested replies, include geolocation, and other native actions. Rich Messaging Extensions provide additional optional parameters to extend the existing SMS API. Today, these extensions support RCS Business Messaging and Facebook Messenger, with more on the way in 2018. As new channels emerge, you can trust Twilio to be there.

Rich Messaging Extensions to the SMS API gives you the richness of RCS, and the reach of SMS, all without compromise. Today with RCS you can reach customers who are using Android (KitKat OS or more recent) and are subscribers on one of the carriers that have implemented the Universal Profile. This audience continues to grow, with RCS being used by over 157 million active users globally, implemented by over 22 handset manufacturers, and support announced on more than 50 carrier networks. That means that you need another ubiquitous channel to reach all the users who can’t be reached on RCS yet. Rich Messaging Extensions SMS fallback ensures that if your users’ carrier or device doesn’t support RCS, your message will failover and be delivered via SMS.

Say It with Flowers

One of the first companies in the Twilio ecosystem to add RCS support to their SMS app was 1-800-Flowers.com. When you order flowers for someone, 1-800-Flowers.com knows you’re expressing yourself with one of the most important people in your life. And for a customer-service obsessed organization, this means communications about your delivery are critical. That’s why 1-800-Flowers.com has been using Programmable SMS to make sure recipients always know what’s going on with their orders. Now, with support for RCS in the same API, 1-800-Flowers.com was able to quickly extend this experience into a rich experience for supported devices. They now use RCS to send rich order confirmations and delivery updates, allowing customers to easily modify their order, delivery window, and more without ever having to sit on hold to speak with an agent.

“At 1-800-Flowers.com, communications is core to delivering a great end-to-end experience for both the sender and the recipient,” said Amit Shah, Chief Marketing Officer at 1-800-Flowers.com.

“RCS is now being used to enhance our customer experience by allowing customers to modify orders, track shipments, and place additional orders within the message. Twilio allows us to deliver that experience using the same API we already use for SMS.”

Get to Production Faster

Take advantage of the full Twilio platform and developer tools when building for any channel. Twilio SDKs in your web language, uniform logging and callbacks, TwiML support for response handling, serverless runtime environments, and a wealth of documentation help you build, deploy, and scale your app.

You can also save time and sprints designing RCS applications with Studio, Twilio’s drag-and-drop communications builder. Anyone and everyone can create, edit, and manage messaging flows in Studio, empowering folks outside of engineering to design and iterate on messaging apps. Devs, don’t worry you can still customize these Studio apps by adding your own code with Node.js based Twilio Functions, a serverless runtime environment.

Developer Preview

RCS Business Messaging and Rich Messaging Extensions to the Programmable SMS API are now in Developer Preview. Let us know if you’re interested in learning more and getting early access when it’s available.

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