We’ve come a long way from the very first text message, sent by one Vodafone engineer to another to wish him a happy Christmas back in 1992. No-one could have expected how SMS technology would explode as it has. But these days, customers want and expect more than just words, and they have embraced emojis, pictures and even videos when sending messages – and increasingly they also want to be able to interact with brands and businesses in a richer, more engaging way.

Which is why, 25 years on from that festive text, Vodafone has become the first operator to launch next-generation RCS A2P business messaging. Rich Communication Services (RCS) allows consumers to quickly and easily share videos, gifs and organise group chats without needing to set up new services or download additional software, like WhatsApp.

The same features that make messaging more fun for consumers also offers an exciting opportunity for companies to deepen their engagement with their customers with branded messages. To see how brands – and individuals – can best take advantage of this new channel, we’ve recently launched RCS business messaging trials.

Vodafone Spain experimented with a number of different messaging campaigns, including one that demonstrated our newly launched "V-Pet by Vodafone", and another was aimed at encouraging greater awareness of Secure Net, our online safety and security service. While only small scale, the initial findings have been encouraging: the campaigns delivered consistent click through rates of more than 25 times that of traditional SMS campaigns.


And now we’re also running wider scale trials with third party brands. This week in the UK, ITV, through the mobile messaging provider OpenMarket, began using RCS A2P messaging to explore new ways to interact with their viewers, and in the coming weeks and months we’ll be launching further trial campaigns with companies like Uber (in partnership with Infobip), Nissan (in partnership with CLX Communications), and partnering with IMImobile to reach Vodafone customers.

RCS is already the easiest and simplest form of enriched messaging, and it has been increasingly built into a phone’s default messaging service. Since last year it’s been included as standard on all Android devices, which means every day thousands of Vodafone customers use RCS in chats with their friends and family, without necessarily realising they’re using a new technology.

Vodafone has pioneered the development of RCS services from the very beginning, and now we’re delighted to be again at the forefront of new uses for RCS functionality. The early signs are encouraging, with consumers more likely to interact with a visual branded message than a standard text. But brands are also starting to embrace A2P as it combines the functionality and engagement we know consumers love from over-the-top providers with the safety, security and accountability of SMS. We are very much looking forward to learning from the trials we’re undertaking with major brands so that we can roll services to new companies and new markets throughout 2018.

These trials also coincide with the development of the new Universal Profile 2.0 standard, which will increase the options available to use with consumers, such as carousels, response buttons and ways to make interactions more engaging and easier to use than typing in full text responses. Users will also be able to search for companies directly and start conversations with them.

This open standard, which works across simply and seamlessly across operators and aggregators, means that RCS can now scale rapidly. With the widespread adoption of UP 2.0, RCS can live up to its potential to be a worthy successor to the much-loved standard text message, and offer brands and consumers better, more appealing and engaging ways of communicating with each other.

We will be showcasing our initial RCS A2P trials, as well as discussing the potential opportunity for brands, at Mobile World Congress next week.


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