Disney: Using Big Data, the IoT and machine learning to enhance the customer experience

Disney: Using Big Data, the IoT and machine learning to enhance the customer experience

‘The happiest place on Earth’ just got happier, thanks to Big Data. Why? Because entertainment behemoth Disney has been leveraging Big Data technology to create an even more magical experience for visitors to its theme parks.

How Disney uses Big Data in practice

After years of testing, Disney World launched its innovative MyMagicPlus programme in 2013. Now, each and every guest gets their own MagicBand wristband, which acts as identification, hotel room key, tickets, FastPasses, and even a credit card. Guests simply swipe the band at sensors located around the park to gain entry to attractions or pay for items, giving Disney a wealth of data on where its guests are, what they’re doing and what they may need. This data allows Disney to anticipate guests’ every need and deliver an incredible, personalised experience.

The idea is to create a totally frictionless experience for visitors, for example, by letting visitors reserve their place for certain rides and attractions before they even leave home, so they don’t have to queue when they get there (hurrah!). Remember, long waiting times is one of the biggest challenges for any theme park – because, when you’re queueing in line, you aren’t spending money in the park’s shops or restaurants. So any progress in eliminating long lines is critical for both guests and the business.

Using data gathered from guest wristbands, Disney can understand where the logjams are, and make smarter decisions to relieve the pressure, such as incentivising guests to go on another ride, or adding more staff in congested areas. This allows for more efficient use of the park.

The wristband offers endless possibilities to create a memorable, highly personalised experience for families. Imagine pre-ordering a nice dinner for your family, then being greeted by name when you arrive at the restaurant (because your wristband tells staff who you are), and being served your food as soon as you sit down. Because the park’s system triangulates your location, it can alert restaurant staff of your imminent arrival.

Or, how about your kid’s favourite Disney character finding them and greeting them by name? Or photos of you taken around the park being sent to your room every night? Or getting a free voucher if the system determines you had to wait too long for a ride that day?

Disney’s Next Generation Experience project aims to create an even more seamless, immersive and personal experience. What might this mean for visitors? In 2016, the company applied for a patent for a camera-equipped robot that tracks visitor movement throughout the park via their shoes. This data could be used to understand not only which rides are most popular, but also which routes and paths around the park are used the most. It could also be used to deliver operational improvements, such as more efficient scheduling of the nearly 250,000 shifts of 80,000 employees (and that’s just per week), or improving marketing decisions, using past data on guest preferences and behaviours to design new packages and offers. Disney is even toying with the idea of robotic characters that would move around the park and mingle with guests.

The technical details

Disney is fiercely protective of its methods, but we do know the wristbands incorporate RFID and long-range radio technology. They communicate with the thousands of sensors around the park and stream real-time data for analysis.

Ideas and insights you can steal

Disney’s board of directors features some huge hitters from the tech world, including Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and this speaks to the importance of getting the right talent on board.

One of the interesting things about Disney’s MagicBand is its potential to creep people out – nobody likes the idea of machines knowing their every move. Yet, as the data and technology fuels a superior customer experience, this trepidation melts away. It goes to show that customers will willingly part with an awful lot of data, so long as it’s ultimately worth their while.



Written by

Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.

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