Going to Disney World? Forget your tickets, wallet, and room key. All you need is a sleek, personalized wristband to step into the magic. “Welcome to Disney, Chris”, a cast member beams as you tap your wrist to enter the park. A simple flick of your MagicBand purchases your Dole Whip, books your fast pass tickets, and even opens your hotel room door. MyMagic+, Disney’s $1Bn digitization initiative , has revolutionized the theme park experience, taking guests into Tomorrowland.
In the mid-2000’s, Disney execs were panicking. The world’s most iconic park was in a slump, with consumer metrics such as “intent to return” falling due to long lines and high ticket costs . Every hour, 8,000 to 10,000 guests flowed through Disney World’s main entrance, creating massive bottlenecks . The inability to plan in advance and high ticket prices incentivized families to crisscross the hub of the park up to 20 times per day to maximize ride options, leading to an exhausting experience . In addition, technology was challenging Disney’s legacy – how could Disney ensure young, tech-savvy guests would love Disney Parks as much as their parents did ? Disney’s answer to improving operational efficiency and capturing the next generation of customers was a radical overhaul of the parks experience known as MyMagic+.
Launched in 2013, MyMagic+’s goal was to reduce friction in the system through two initiatives (Figure 1): 1) My Disney Experience, an online planning page and mobile app where guests could make restaurant, hotel, and ride reservations in advance  and 2) MagicBands, wristbands equipped with RFID technology that stores information for each guest . MagicBands possess both short and long-range sensors: short-range allows functional benefits such as entering the park, making purchases, and opening hotel doors whereas long-range tracks guests as they navigate the park . In addition, MagicBands access real-time data, personalizing vacations to an unprecedented degree . Thanks to the instant data transmission from MagicBands, Cinderella may wish your daughter an unprompted happy birthday or your favorite meal could magically appear in front of you.
Source: The Walt Disney Company, MyMagic+, https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/my-disney-experience/my-magic-plus/, accessed November 2016.
Operationally, MyMagic+ has smoothed demand while increasing capacity and customer satisfaction. Advance booking of rides has reduced wait times for popular attractions and minimized idle time for guests . In addition, The Disney Experience app allows guests to view wait times in real-time, further optimizing the guest experience. Since the introduction of MagicBands, Disney World has decreased turnstile cycle time by 30%, alleviating the entry bottleneck . Evening out demand also allows for more guests in the park, increasing capacity and therefore revenues. Furthermore, long-range sensors allow Disney to create heat-maps to monitor where crowds are forming and respond accordingly . For instance, if sensors indicate Fantasyland is overcrowding, Disney can respond with a character parade in Adventureland to re-direct traffic. Since implementation, 90% of guests rated the MagicBand experience as excellent or very good, indicating high customer satisfaction .
In addition to operational improvements, MyMagic+ has generated a treasure trove of consumer data. In the past, Disney treated “everybody as a giant blob of people…delivering a one-size-fits-all experience ”. MyMagic+ allows Disney to differentiate its customer base on a granular level by collecting data on all touch-points from how guests spend money down to the exact rides they choose . According to then CFO, Jay Rasulo, “we can now offer on a personalized basis because we know who you are, where you are…whether you are a first-time visitor, a 50th-time visitor…it is your child’s birthday, it is a graduation, it’s an anniversary .”
Despite MyMagic+ being a drastic overhaul, Disney is only grazing the surface of digitization. For instance, customer data can have vast implications on marketing and cross-segment synergies. Personalized moments, such as birthday greetings and custom photo opportunities, can be monetized as part of a premium package. With full visibility on individual consumer spend, from accommodations to purchases to dining, Disney can offer tiered pricing to attract guests of all income levels. Big data also enables Disney to pitch experiences beyond parks to consumers. For instance, if one family attended the Frozen Sing-A-Long multiple times, Disney could advertise a Frozen-themed cruise to the same family or promote the latest Disney Princess movie in theaters. Queues and rides can become further customized by leveraging MagicBand data. Guests could be greeted by name in line by animatronics or even integrated in the ride itself through virtual storytelling.
Despite being at the forefront of digitizing the theme park experience, Disney is still grappling with the possibilities of its customer data. Beyond potential pushback on privacy, Disney is only limited by its own processing power. With 100 million visitors per year globally , Disney’s database has boundless potential. Next step you step foot in a Disney Park, don’t be surprised if Disney knows more than just your name.
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