Vodafone and IMImobile: an RCS success story

How Vodafone worked with IMImobile and TMW to deploy its first major RCS campaigns and saw response rates soar up to 25%.

Karl Shilbach

Conversational messaging experiences have become an essential part of differentiating the customer experience (CX) a brand delivers to its customers. Today’s smartphone-first consumer wants to be able to engage with any business over their favourite messaging channels for everything from buying products to receiving customer support. The ubiquity of new digital messaging channels that now enable two-way B2C interactions, such as Apple Messages for Business, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, reflects this demand.

As tech giants scramble to create their own branded messaging apps to win the attention of 3.5 billion smartphone users, it’s only natural that the market has become fragmented and complex. With so many messaging apps on offer, what’s needed is a more ubiquitous messaging channel for delivering two-way conversational messaging experiences.

Enter Rich Communication Services (RCS).

What is RCS Business Messaging?

An evolution of SMS, RCS spearheads the next generation of mobile messaging, helping to improve the ways in which people and businesses communicate. Businesses can fill their messages with action buttons, carousels, videos, images, and more, to create more engaging two-way messaging interactions.

Complementing its rich media capabilities, RCS also offers customisable UI and branding, read receipts and a new wave of messaging analytics, such as video exit rates and button clicks.

With all the added features, the key question is, can the channel be used to improve P2P and A2P communications to better engage customers, increase campaign ROI and build brand loyalty?

Vodafone trials RCS for improving communications

Vodafone is one of the world’s leading mobile network operators and is the first UK network provider to support RCS messaging across Android mobile devices.

While the mobile operator was experienced in using SMS and MMS for marketing and CRM communications, they were keen to meet customer expectations for seamless two-way digital experiences. With RCS, Vodafone saw a way to deliver experiences that are both familiar and innovative, ultimately helping to distinguish the brand’s communications.

To create its first major RCS messaging campaigns, the network teamed up with IMImobile and their creative agency, TMW.

Treating customers on the bank holiday

For the company’s first RCS campaign, Vodafone wanted to delight and surprise customers using the new channel.

Taking advantage of the Spring bank holiday, the network chose to help their customers make the most of the long weekend. By timing the campaign around the holiday, it meant that the message could provide a relevant and thoughtful interaction at the exact point when customers were winding down for the weekend – and more likely to check their phones.

As a trial campaign to 3,600 customers, the initial message asked whether they’d like ‘some treats’ for the bank holiday weekend.

If the recipient responded ‘yes’ to the offer, they were presented with a three-card carousel containing seasonal offers from the network’s commercial partners. Each carousel card was customised with a specific image and text, with a CTA of ‘Redeem Now’. If the customer responded ‘no’, they received a link to personalised rewards and the opportunity to opt-out of future messaging.

To monitor the campaign’s success – and to ensure those without RCS enabled devices still received the offers – Vodafone also ran the campaign across SMS and MMS channels.

Highlighting one of RCS’s key features, when using SMS and MMS for marketing and CRM campaigns, there is no way of measuring open rates. However, with delivery receipt compatibility, RCS enables for the accurate tracking of engagement, helping campaign owners to identify how many users read and respond to their messages. With SMS and MMS, you get no such stats.

Looking at the success of the campaign, RCS showed a clear advantage over SMS and MMS, consistently engaging the customer and inspiring action. For context, a massive 80% of customers read the message, and 25% responded to the offer. By comparison, SMS and MMS scored a response rate of around 1%.

Father’s Day and RCS Unlimited

Encouraged by strong engagement of the bank holiday campaign, Vodafone wanted to follow up with two more RCS campaigns to excite their customers.

The second campaign once again took advantage of a seasonal event, Father’s Day. Users would be sent a message asking if they still needed to sort out a Father’s Day gift and if so, the VeryMe Rewards program is there to help. From there, users could choose how they would describe the person they are looking to treat using 4 different buttons. From what they selected, a relevant offer would be presented back to them. For example, picking the ‘proper chocoholic’ option would enable the user to redeem a gift from Hotel Chocolat.

Are you 5G-ready?

The third RCS campaign aimed to promote Vodafone’s new 5G-ready unlimited network plans. After responding ‘Tell me more’ to an initial message asking ‘if they are ready for 5G?’, the user could select to upgrade to a 5G plan, which would direct them to the subsequent plan on a Vodafone page. To help celebrate the launch of the 5G plans, the user could also select to enter the VeryMe Rewards competition, browsing through different options contained in an interactive carousel - all of which sat within the native message.

Both campaigns took advantage of bold visual content and the use of buttons to give users an easy way of responding to the different choices.

Showing that the results of the bank holiday campaign could be replicated, these campaigns also proved to be a resounding success, with engagement rates of up to 26% achieved across both the Father’s Day and 5G campaigns.

This is just the start of Vodafone’s RCS journey to create richer interactions for their customers. The network is continuing to work with IMImobile and TMW to use the channel across customer service, operations and other key business touchpoints.

The future’s bright for RCS

With RCS demonstrating its potential for engaging customers, the channel’s popularity is growing with organisations that are looking to better manage customer expectations and enhance their CX.

In fact, according to research by Mobilesquared, around 3.23 billion people will use RCS messaging across 486 mobile operators worldwide by the end of 2023.

As more consumers move to RCS compatible devices, use of the channel by businesses is only going to continue to grow in the coming years.

How to get started with RCS

If you’re looking to learn more about RCS or are interested in getting started with using the channel to give your communications an edge, visit our RCS Business Messaging page for more information on how to book a demo and gain access to the API.