RIM is launching an aggressive campaign to retain customer share and halt falling sales this year with plans to launch a cut-price, money back upgrade deal for BlackBerry customers.
The strategy is aimed at retaining customers and follows a particularly tough year for RIM that saw it dogged by a series of prolonged server outages, software problems with its flagship smartphone the BlackBerry Bold 9900, and delays to its BlackBerry 10 operating system. The Canadian manufacturer recently appointed COO Thorsten Heins as CEO.
The European-wide upgrade initiative will see the company offer BlackBerry customers who trade in their old phones a cut-price upgrade to one of the latest BlackBerrys. Sources said RIM is in talks with retailers, operators and the dealer channel in preparation for the launch of the initiative, which is aimed at BlackBerry Curve 8520 customers coming to the end of their two-year contracts this year. The drive will be backed by a major marketing campaign.
One source said: ‘RIM is promoting this to retailers, the networks – anyone and everyone. It is largely aimed at b2c customers. It is an attempt to prevent customer churn, particularly after the outages customers suffered last year.’
He added: ‘It is a pan-European initiative. The deal offers customers around £50 off plus the recycling value of their old phones, so long as they upgrade to one of the latest BlackBerry smartphones.’
CCS Insight director Ben Wood said the move could be prompted by falling US BlackBerry customer numbers. This week, researchers IDC said RIM’s market share in Q4 last year fell by 11% to 8.2%. Wood said: ‘This initiative locks customers in, which is a positive move. RIM’s sales are still strong in Europe but it needs to make sure its European customers don’t go the same way as US customer numbers, because once you have lost those customers to other platforms it is very difficult to get them back.’
Strategy Analytics’ analyst Neil Mawston said: ‘This is a relatively innovative strategy. It is a way of making maximum use of their assets to retain customers while waiting for the Canadian headquarters to upgrade the BlackBerry portfolio. However, it will eat into RIM’s profit margins.’