Riding the Apple Watch bandwagon that picked up speed after the company's March 9, 2015 product announcement, wearables constitute a potentially significant disruptor of modern technology. CMO.com suggests that smart glasses, watches, and armbands yielded $3 billion in 2014 sales. The site also noted that searches for Google Glass increased by 135% over the prior year, versus 39% growth for tablet-related searches and 38% for mobile-related browsing. GlobalWebIndex conducted consumer research which corroborates these statistics with a report that states 71% of Internet users between the ages of 16 and 24 are interested in using wearable tech. While the technology primarily represents the condensation of tablet and mobile hardware into smaller packaging, wearables that increasingly implant themselves (in some cases literally) into our lives have already proven practical in the healthcare and fitness spaces as users track their physical performance using wearable devices. Data collected by these devices powerfully informs personal practices, but the output of "big data" holds equal relevance in the business landscape.
In 2013, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts announced a chain of guest experience enhancements for Walt Disney World Resort dubbed MyMagic+. Among these enhancements are My Disney Experience (a "vacation management system" that allows guests to plan and manage their trips), FastPass+ (a virtual queuing system that extends the existing FASTPASS system by enabling guests to virtually reserve attraction times, even in advance of their arrival), and Memory Maker (a supplement to the Disney PhotoPass service for on-site photography). A wearable wristband appropriately named MagicBand consolidates much of that program in a physical dimension. Despite a price tag estimated to have cost Disney between $800 million and $1 billion, the MyMagic+ program has already been touted as a technological game-changer for experiences in the theme park industry.
MagicBands, in particular, operate using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology already popular in many other settings. In the hospitality industry alone, RFID is the basis for most card-like hotel room keys. Since 2006, Great Wolf Lodge has used RFID for keyless guestroom entry, cashless point-of-sale, and even integration in Creative Kingdoms' MagiQuest live action role-playing game introduced at their resorts in 2008. Unlike the small chain of family resorts featuring indoor waterparks, however, Disney intends to deploy its technology for use by millions of guests each year (in 2013, the Magic Kingdom Park alone received a record-breaking 18.6 million visitors).
The MagicBand can be linked to the My Disney Experience account of each guest and consists of several key elements, including:
From the standpoint of experience design, the MagicBand also enables frictionless service. Consider a guest entering Epcot: previously, he would have waited in a seemingly endless line to insert his park ticket into a kiosk and then pass through an uncomfortable turnstile guarded by legions of main entrance greeters; now, that guest simply touches his MagicBand to carefully-disguised hardware at the gate that (a) quickly confirms his ticket entitlements and gracefully welcomes him to the park or (b) prompts a greeter or guest relations Cast Member to offer assistance in the event of an error. With either outcome, the new process so efficient and redesigned that lines at park entrances rarely experience bottlenecks. An additional example of the frictionless technology comes from the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster, during which guests wearing MagicBands automatically receive their on-ride video in their Disney PhotoPass records. Such processes either create more painless or interruptive experiences for guests that, in many cases, allow Disney to anticipate and fulfill expressed and unexpressed guest needs.
As a final demand-side note, and shifting to the informational capabilities Disney gains through the use of MagicBands, the devices encourage more personalized services. Because the bands are linked to My Disney Experience accounts, which can hypothetically endure for the lifetime of a guest, Disney Cast Members have access to unprecedented amounts of evolving information that can be utilized to enhance guest engagement. A band-boasting child meeting Cinderella, or even the technologically-advanced Magician Mickey Mouse, is likely to be greeted by their first name before even being introduced to the character. Ariel might wish a guest a happy birthday without needing to reference Disney's signature birthday buttons worn by many celebrating guests, instead seeing a message flash across a computer responding to the tap of a MagicBand. Information on guests' last or most-frequently-visited attractions, resorts-of-residence, and similar information is available at the touch of a finger for many Cast Members - characters and otherwise. Cumulatively, personalization and the other benefits of the MagicBand ease the creation of interactions between guests and the Cast versus impersonal and unemotional service transactions.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. That’s how we think of it. If we can get out of the way, our guests can create more memories.
Beyond these benefits to guests, which are expected to dramatically increase levels of guest satisfaction and engagement at Walt Disney World, the company also benefits through the collection of near-infinite amounts of data about even the most minute guest behaviors. The RFID-enabled bands include 2.4ghz transmitters that allow Disney to monitor the flow of guests throughout the park, and even beyond (guests traveling through Orlando International Airport are invited to put on their MagicBands before they board Disney's Magical Express shuttles to the resort). This capability can allow park operators to preempt overcrowding in areas of the theme parks or redirect guests in unavoidable circumstances. Wait times can also be more accurately monitored, with the digital technology replacing historically manual systems for queue management. Because each guest has their own MagicBand, this information can be segmented by family behaviors to draw additional insights. From the standpoint of merchandise purchases for instance, Disney can better trace which guests in a party purchase which items. This is even truer of dining, as many Disney guests utilize dining plans that distribute fixed sets of food and beverage entitlements to each member of a travel party; purchase habits can be traced to individual guest based on their redemption of meals and snacks.
Whether seen through the eyes of the guests or the company, MagicBands (and the entire MyMagic+ system) offer enormous amounts of data and new processes that will develop more frictionless interactions at Walt Disney World Resort. Marketing teams can gain significant insights into consumer behaviors segmented at any level - from the aggregation of all visitors to a single guest - and operations teams can better plan and manage service offerings and guest engagement opportunities. Frontline Cast Members, especially, can create increasingly memorable interactions based on stronger personalization capabilities. Better service more precisely satisfying guest needs, as the basic tenets of customer relationship management suggest, drives increased loyalty and, consequently, increased revenue. Disney, now better than ever, can make more magical moments thanks to megadata from the MagicBands and - in so doing - can hopefully deliver stronger returns to Mickey Mouse.
In the following video, SCM World Senior Vice President of Research Matt Davis shares his perspective on the dreams-come-true enabled by Disney Parks data.