The Italian agriculture ministry and Consumer Associations have one up on a lot of U.S. businesses: They understand the power of SMS.
And they are leveraging it.

According to the BBC, in response to growing civil unrest due to rocketing food prices and rogue retailers, Italians are being offered a new text-in service to compare food costs in their region.

All consumers need to do is text the name of the food item to a dedicated short code. Then they will receive a text message back with the requested item\’s prices in different areas of Italy. This service seems to give some leverage to food buyers when dealing with sellers who may be excessively jacking up prices. (Kind of like a lot of the gas stations in the San Francisco Bay Area.)

Can you imagine it – no more being upset that a dozen eggs are \”buy one, get one free\” at the grocery chain around the corner when you just bought them elsewhere for $3.99. All you have to do is text-in and find out the best price, before you even leave your house!

By offering this service, the Italian ministry seems to enjoy multiple successes: Empowering consumers and building trust; regulating national food trade while encouraging better business practices; and transferring some of pressure felt by the government to businesses.

The Italian government sets a prime example for us and demonstrates two major things in regards to SMS:

  • SMS is a great vehicle for loyalty and trust campaigns.
  • SMS serves as an information source that engages users and can directly affect buying behavior.

If Americans had access to a similar service regarding fuel, electronics, or virtually any other consumer product, the entire retail process would be transformed. Unfortunately, our government doesn\’t engage in cutting-edge texting programs to support consumer rights. Yet. This makes now an even better time for businesses to pave the way for inventive programs like the one in Italy. Just think: You can be the first to bring a relevant SMS program to your industry.

Shaneli Ramratan, Marketing Manager, mobileStorm