How One Italian Entrepreneur Used Data For a Big 2020 Pivot

Federica PasiniFeatures

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Nowadays many boundaries between industries have become thinned, challenging organizational flexibility to readapt to new contexts or markets. From fashion retail to the food sector to travel industry, focusing on the core business is not enough anymore. Every organization needs to embed digital, technological, and social aspects into its essential frame to stay atop the market and keep growing.

Embracing this shift can be challenging and forced for some companies, or a natural path for others. The Org interviewed a company naturally adapted to a new industry: DataAppeal, born within the tourism sector before turning its core business quickly into the data business.

Entrepreneurial Profile

The company was founded by Mirko Lalli, who previously worked as the CMO of the Tuscan Regional Authority where he was in charge of repositioning the destination’s digital presence. This period of his professional life was particularly relevant, as he needed to deeply analyze Tuscany’s reputational positioning relative to other Italian and European destinations. For many years, he was unable to find existing tools to accomplish the objectives of various projects, which inspired him to create a platform bringing together a small team of technological and innovation-driven minds.

Mirko Lalli

Mirko Lalli

Travel Appeal

After a brief incubation period at H-Farm - one of the biggest startup incubators in Italy - he put together a strong management team of Italian and international experts in both AI and software development and Travel Appeal was founded.

In 2014, Mirko’s focus was on hospitality and tourism, as they were the first industries impacted by the “feedback economy.” When Travel Appeal was born, the concept of reputation was fairly consolidated in the hospitality and restaurant industries, which is why it was their initial mission to aid these sectors in making travelers and customers happy.

“The first challenge was to expand the concept of going beyond ‘reviews’ to discuss ‘appeal’,” Mirko said in an interview with The Org. “Our objective has always been to compile, evaluate and highlight the content and information impacting the perception of a business, consequently influencing buying behaviors and customer choices.”

Over the past five years, Travel Appeal expanded the brand and customer base, growing notoriety within Italy and throughout the international market to confirm the success of investing in his own vision.

The Strategic Advantage

To explain why Mirko and his team decided to move from the tourism industry into the business of data, it is important to understand how the strategic advantage of TravelAppeal has been their integrated and innovative global, holistic approach to analysis. They collect data and online content about all components of a territory, including: hospitality, food & beverage, transportation, museums, retail shops, attractions, and experiences.

Even if their technology monitors, aggregates and interprets the data of over 3 million properties, activities and brands worldwide, the company considers every activity not only from a quantitative point of view, but also a qualitative perspective thanks to semantic analysis of all reviews, content and online conversations. This information is processed with external data, including: weather, events, prices, and more. This ambitious model has allowed them to master the market positioning of any business or a brand to understand its dynamics over time and which specific variables result in a positive change.

From Travel Appeal to Data Appeal

The real turning point for Mirko and his team came in 2020, when they realized that the data and information their algorithms had uncovered for hotels, restaurants, and destinations was also relevant for other sectors. This data and information is invaluable for understanding and evaluating the customer experience. What Barclays coined the "feedback economy" has grown exponentially outside the hospitality and food and beverage industries. There is no business or brand today that is not influenced by what is written or said online.

“We have extended our offer following the demand,” Mirko said. “The Data Appeal Company will serve those interested in our data analysis and digital monitoring. We are excited to have formally entered the retail, finance and real estate sectors, since the appeal of a business or a territory is an excellent index to assess the economic reliability, make strategic investments and create and measure effective communication strategies.”

So for Mirko and his team, embracing this change was an easy decision to take. From an organizational perspective, the technological team kept on doing the same job, but their marketing and communication teams were able to use different data to focus on rebranding offers and positioning. Meanwhile, the sales team has been restructured to match the right person(s) to the right sector or vertical. Since the company has always invested in people with various backgrounds to embed cultural diversity, their team is very flexible and the shift has been smooth. They have maintained their 30 employees and have grown to serve more than 5,000 customers in Europe, including companies like JLL, UniCredit, Best Western, and others.

“Our objective and hope is to expand our brand and services internationally, attracting clients from around the globe,” Mirko said. “Our data transcends countries and industries and we’re excited to continue our growth. On a business level, we hope to continue the development of our proprietary indexes, which offer exclusive and unique insights to aid businesses in better understanding their clients and strategizing more effectively.”


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