Italy compares apples and oranges by text

29 Jul 2008

With all the talk lately of price wars and impending food shortages, it’s interesting to see Italy showing initiative with a new text messaging service allowing customers there to compare prices of food items.

If Italians feel their local food retailer is charging them over the odds, they can now use this system to help them decide whether to buy, haggle or walk away.

Italy’s Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry, along with consumer organisations, have come up with the SMS Consumatori service, which tracks prices for over 80 types of fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy products and so on.

To use the service, shoppers send a text message to 47947 for free, typing the name of the product they want a price for. They get a reply straightaway listing both a wholesale price and average retail prices in the north, centre and south. If a product comes in varieties, the service sends separate messages for each of the most popular ones.

SMS Consumatori sources information from 2,200 different stores, such as butchers, market stalls and discount stores, and covers the whole country. Prices are updated from Tuesday to Saturday. A very good feature is that people can fill a virtual shopping cart and see what its average cost would be.

According to Jote Bassi, vice-president global sales and marketing at messaging services provider Anam, which is headquartered in Dublin, SMS Consumatori is a great use of SMS technology and yet more evidence of the importance to both consumers and operators of SMS services in general.

He told “As we can see from this example in Italy, if you want to introduce a service with mass appeal, then SMS is the way to do it. How many of these shoppers would have used the service if they would have had to go to a WAP or webpage?

“Anam provides the enabling technology for SMS services like this, partnering with Irish companies like TR2 and Puca. We think this service might catch on and we can envisage being asked to work with partners to create a service like this for interested operators.”

By Sorcha Corcoran