Applying Disney’s Lessons of Digital Transformation and the Customer Experience

Although business leaders understand the need for digital transformation, the nuance of how to achieve it is more elusive. According to a study from global advertising consortium Wunderman, 68 percent of global brand decision makers still struggle to bring data, creative and technology together.

The challenges often revolve around understanding the difference between ‘doing’ digital and ‘being’ digital. The former is about isolated technology implementations and the latter requires upending how you do business on a fundamental level. Businesses can learn a lot about digital transformation from Disney, which transformed their business to embrace emerging technologies to create memorable customer experience by introducing the MyMagic+ wristband used at Disney parks and resorts.

The Disney Digital Transformation Roadmap

Like many brands, Disney had been facing a revenue and customer satisfaction drop, so they embarked on a digital transformation that would overcome their customer experience challenges. As the centerpiece of a $1B digital upgrade, the MagicBands give guests a seamless and frictionless way to manage their entire customer experience.

Guests can order the bands ahead of their visit and they enable them to make payments, manage reservations, access hotel rooms and enables staff to deliver a highly personalized experience. This results in a seamless park experience that eliminates multiple tickets, reservations or payments.

The MyMagic+ wristbands are the heart of the customer experience (CX) system and utilize built-in radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, which link to the park’s infrastructure. The encoded user data enables park systems and staff to identify each guest, their location, and their individual needs to provide a customized, contextual experience.

This includes the MyMagic+ vacation planning system’s advance ride booking and restaurant reservations mobile app messaging and other personalization touches such as personalized interactive screens that respond to each specific wearer. The holistic approach to improving CX also includes the rollout of ‘listening posts’ to assess the customer experience and find areas for improvement.

The real-time listening posts enable the brand to better target and engage consumers as well as understand the expectations, needs and wants of visitors. Disney shows how a holistic approach to technology implementation that is connected to CX improvement can further business goals and brand satisfaction for effective digital transformation.

Digital Transformation at the intersection of CX, Business, and Technology

Technology plays a critical part in delivering personalization through tools that help to streamline and elevate the park and hotel experience. Disney’s ability to envision the new CX through technology also required a fundamental shift in the business culture and training to ensure success. The holistic digital transformation includes:

  • Total redesign of the web portal
  • Custom RFID wristbands designed for use by Disney’s more than 10M visitors per year.
  • Installing 30M square feet of WiFi coverage in the park.
  • Fitting 28,000 hotel room doors with RFID readers.
  • Training 70,000 employees on how the new technology worked.

The personalized MagicBands work in tandem with Disney’s analytics servers to create personalized itineraries based on preferences. The result of the initiative begun at the end of 2011 includes:

  • 20% increase in Q4 2014 profits, driven at least partly by higher customer spending.
  • Increased footfalls from unique personalized digital experience throughout the period of stay.
  • More than 10 million visitors using the bands with approval ratings in excess of 90% by 2015.
  • Ongoing efficiency and process improvements as well as development of new customer experiences from direct access to customer data leveraged with analytics.

Insights and Lessons for Brands and Businesses

Disney may be a huge global enterprise, but the approach that they took to digital transformation is scalable and reproducible on nearly any size of business and brand. The lesson for businesses is the fact that digital transformation must sustainably create, deliver and capture value based on specific goals. Businesses should not be daunted by the scale of the Disney digital transformation as it shows how businesses of all sizes can follow their lead on a much more modest scale by:

  • Focusing on customer outcomes by understanding what customers want to achieve, and then leverage digital connectivity, data, analytics, and new business models to deliver the end goal to the customer. ·
  • Looking to emerging digital transformation technologies like AI, RFID, IoT, and Interactive Kiosks as well as shifts in multichannel touchpoints used by today’s consumers.
  • Linking channel activation and data systems to deliver customer value by removing customer friction points in ways that add seamless utility and convenience.
  • Creating a digital transformation map that encompasses the way that the end state will require cultural change across the business. This approach to a complete business model ensures that each new experience has a complementary value equation that supports key financial and strategic business objectives.
  • Ensuring that the digital transformation map is built on a continuous culture of experimentation, analysis, and refinement.

Disney’s MagicBand implementation is a perfect example of the focus on customer outcomes through new technology, data analytics, back-end systems, and customer-facing systems that create value while enhancing CX. To accomplish this on any scale requires a longer-term vision of a future state of CX.

It all starts with leaders taking a step back and reassessing how the business serves its customers and the bottlenecks that hamper and slow the customer experience and satisfaction. That means a new vison of the business model and how it fulfills customer or user experience through operational processes to deliver improved customer connections with the brand, business, products, and services.

It’s also about connecting and engaging people through emerging technologies in ways that create deeper relationships with customers for the long term. Digital transformation is not a simple or easy process as it requires building a customer-centric culture within your own organization. If done correctly, businesses can be poised to respond to evolving customer needs and expectations as well as emerging business channel opportunities that enables them to adapt and thrive in a changing global economy

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