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March 10, 2014


Fan Engagement and Wearables: Disney MyMagic+

by Ravi Kalakota

MagicBandA satisfying experience is the driver of any business’s revenue growth. Disney Theme Parks is no exception. Disney is executing a guest (and fan) personalization strategy leveraging wearables (and analytics) to track, measure and improve the overall park experience. The goal is increase sales, return visits, word of mouth recommendations, loyalty and brand engagement across channels, activities, and time.

Wearables are the next big thing.  The new crop of gadgets — mostly worn on the wrist or as eyewear — will become a “fifth screen,” after TVs, PCs, smartphones, and tablets.

Wearables are already being used to monitoring vital signs, wellness and health. Devices like Fitbit, UP, Fuelband, Gear2 track activity, sleep quality, steps taken during the day. Consumers of all sorts — fitness buffs, dieters, and the elderly — have come to rely on them to capture and aggregate biometric data.

What most people don’t understand is how powerful wearables (coupled with  analytics) can be in designing new user experiences.  Businesses thrive when they engage customers by creating a longitudinal predictive view of each customer’s behavior. To understand the wearables use cases and potential we did a deep dive into a real-world application at Disney Theme Parks.

Wearable Computing at Disney: MyMagic+

Disney has been rolling out a new guest experience called MyMagic+ to the 30 million guests per year at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

Realizing that guests were arriving with smartphones, watches and tablets and expecting access to realtime information, Disney started the MyMagic+ initiative to provide a next generation experience. The goal of MyMagic+ is to provide a much more personalized friction-free vacation at various theme parks, even down to characters knowing your name.

Disney is following in the steps of Harrah’s (now Caesars Entertainment) Total Rewards program that provided an integrated gambling experience across 40 casinos. Loyal spenders were rewarded with entertainment options, enticing special offers, free hotel rooms, and different ways to redeem credits.

How does MyMagic+ work?

MyMagic+ is powered by MagicBand.  MagicBands is a ultra-personalization experience.  These brightly colored RFID bands link with online profiles for each visiting guest, and can be scanned at park kiosks to access advance ride bookings, receive customer service, and pay for all the stuff your kids want to buy.

The key to a great experience is being predictive in terms of context. For instance, while wearing her MagicBand, a young fan who loves Disney princesses might be approached by her favorite of the park’s life-size characters and be greeted by name.

Disney extracts and integrates all the information about the guest from all the park siloed data systems. as well as from external sources. This allows them to create a longitudinal view of each guest’s behavior over channels, activities and time.

Sophisticated pattern-detection data science is applied against the 360-degree view to extract each guest’s behavioral predictors – like early warning on guest/family fading, real-time park experience dynamics (via feedback), and each guest sensitivity to specific promotions. The objective is to turn these signals into individuated recommendations served via customer marketing systems.

Technology behind MagicBand

Each waterproof RFID MagicBand sends and receives RF signals through a small antenna inside the MagicBand and enables it to be detected at short-range touch points throughout Walt Disney properties. MagicBands can also be read by long-range readers and  used to deliver personalized experiences, as well as provide information that helps improve the overall experience.

The next version of MagicBand might have much more computing built into it. If they go the Android route…Google has announced an SDK aimed at making Android, more palatable for wearables. Battery life is key. Android in early versions apparently was consuming more battery. Samsung tried using Android for the Galaxy Gear, its smart watch, and the results were not so great. It couldn’t last very long without a recharge. For the Gear 2 Samsung dropped Android in favor of Tizen, its own operating system.

Use Cases for MagicBand and MyMagic+

The fan engagement use cases are the following.

  • The MagicBand gives guests all the entitlements of the park, without having carry lots of tickets. It also allows Disney to unlock more special things for loyalty program members.
  • Replacing turnstiles and providing easy access to theme parks and attractions. It is well known that mothers who are juggling a lot of stuff /kids or are wheeling strollers hate turnstiles.  With MagicBand, you hold up the band to the touch point and if you get the green light, you’re in. If the kiosk happens to shine a blue light that means more information is needed signalling an attendant.
  • Users can also associate a credit card to the MagicBand, so you can purchase meals and other merchandise.  A PIN code is required to finalize any purchases. Parents can also place restrictions on their kids’ MagicBands to disable the ability to purchase items or limit the amount of spending.
  • Access to resort hotels, gift stores to buy souvenirs or buy food at restaurants.
  • Using the revamped My Disney Experience website guests can connect devices to FastPass+ reservations (a service that helps reduce the time standing in queues) and accessing photos taken by Disney photographers.

Given the amount of data that the MagicBand holds, privacy and security are certainly a concern. The band doesn’t store any personal information. It contains a code that securely links to an encrypted data warehouse that stores all the data.

As data becomes populated, Disney can learn from the data to improve operations. Disney can use ride data and park journey maps to manage peak-vs-lean staffing.

Disney can also automate customer journey mapping analysis based on MagicBand data.   A customer journey map is a very simple concept: a non-linear diagram that illustrates the steps the customer(s) go through in engaging with products, rides, characters, retail experience, advertising, or a service, or any combination. The more touchpoints Disney is able to instrument , the more complicated — but insightful— such a interactive map becomes. Based on data they can map “visit maps”  customer journeys looking at the entire arc of engagement – door to door.

What’s Next for MyMagic+

Captive fans – millions of them  – spending multiple days with the brand in a controlled environment.  Can Disney leverage MagicBand data to drive more cross-sell and up-sell across different properties like gaming, movies, etc, using richer customer datasets?  You bet they can.

As they generate/capture more data Disney will do more predictive analytics…
  • How to prevent people from leaving the park?
  • How to prevent people from going to competitor parks like Universal Studios or Seaworld?
  • If people do leave the park, how do you increase likelihood of return?
  • How to predict when people are not having a good-time and likely to leave?
  • How to proactively increase guest satisfaction or probability of purchase by cleverly giving  parents coupons or additional incentives to stay/spend?
  • How to cleverly position Disney characters based on children’s likes and surprise them with a magical experience?


Wearables, big data and predictive analytics are very much at work at Disney Theme Parks.  Disney is now playing at the intersection of brand, technology, services, software and network – to deliver a unique experience!   Disney’s hunch…  happier guests will spend more money.

Getting guests to come back more often and spend more each time is the target. The causation cycle…  experience/satisfaction -> loyalty -> advocacy -> engagement -> fans (word-of-mouth) -> repeat buying.

Shifting from price to experience/perception is a key business strategy. Disney’s Magic Kingdom entrance is not cheap.  The cost of single-day admission to the Orlando theme park is $99 for adults and children ages 10 and older.  If you have a family of 4+ it adds up in a hurry. Disney raised prices for the second time in 2014 ($89->95->$99) .

The mobile guest is definitely the context and Disney is leveraging what it knows about the customer to deliver enhanced insights which will allow set of targeting and customizing rich relevant experiences.


Notes and References

  2. At Disney Parks, a Bracelet Meant to Build Loyalty (and Sales) — The initiative is part of a broader effort, estimated by analysts to cost between $800 million and $1 billion
  3. CEM (Customer Experience Management);  CXM (Customer Experience Management; NPS (Net Promoter Score);  Mobile User Experience,  Guest and Audience Engagement
  4. Predictive Analytics & Wearable Computing = Personalized Big Data
  5. Predictive Analytics 101
  6. Analytics 101
  7. Data Monetization – Turning Data into $$$
  8. Different Type of Wearables (source: Credit Suisse)


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