How Behavioral Analytics Changed Disney World Forever

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How Behavioral Analytics Changed Disney World Forever

On the surface, this all looks like magic. But what guests experience is actually powered by Disney's ability to interpret and execute on their analytics.

· Big Data Zone ·
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Even though a visit to Disney World is magical, planning the trip there used to be anything but. Every single experience from booking the trip to buying ride tickets had to be done separately. Plus, tickets had to be printed and brought to the park every day.

Once in the park, guests had to find a map, plan out the day, and figure out how to find everything. When they eventually found the right place, they were greeted with what looked like a mile long lineup.

Adding to this was the weight of backpacks filled with drinks and snacks, wallets, room keys, and a camera or phones. Every time they needed something, they had to dig through the chaos to find it.

A few years ago, Disney World introduced the MagicBand. The wristband unlocks all sorts of goodies at the resort. Unlike a few years ago, guests can now experience a remarkably friction-free visit. This includes customized itineraries, no need for stuffed backpacks, and zero lineups.

Let's take a closer look at how Disney World uses behavioral analytics to create magical experiences.

A Customized Experience With the MagicBand

Like lots of other companies, Disney World uses data to understand how guests behave, their preferences and their needs. It's a chance to learn and offer relevant information to enhance their customer experience.

To get there, Disney launched the MyMagic+ program. The goal was to use it to "overhaul the digital infrastructure of Disney's theme parks." It would change how they operated and how guests interact with them. One of the program's biggest wins is the MagicBand, introduced back in 2013.

It's a radio-powered wristband equipped with short and long-range radio frequency (RF) technology — meaning that when you tap the band on sensors called Touch Points, the short-range antenna acts as a park ticket, room key, Fastpass+ reservation tool, and credit card. The long-range antenna uses beacons around the park to relay information back to Disney, telling them where guests spend time.

When someone books a trip online, they have the option to personalize the band color and add their name. This, in addition to the band's many uses, helps Disney understand user patterns and customize the experience. For example, before heading to the park, guests can plan their daily visits. With the Fastpass+ online reservation tool, they can reserve access to three attractions, entertainment events or character meet and greets.

This means that guests not only bypass lineups but also get a daily custom itinerary that maps out the best route to each attraction. No more getting lost wondering where something is — it's all done for them. This level of personalization acts as starting point to keep Disney one step ahead of customer needs.

Let's take a look deeper dive into how Disney uses behavioral analytics to power to MagicBand.

Creating Friction-Free Experiences

If you've ever visited an amusement park, you know the biggest pain point is waiting in line. You wait in a line to get into the park, another line to buy food, and another one to get on rides. All of this waiting takes away from the fun you could be having.

Disney saw an opportunity to create a friction-free experience by getting rid of these pain points. The MagicBand cuts out factors that interfere with guests enjoying the experience of being at the park. They don't need to understand complex memberships or rewards programs to get easy access. They just put on a band and get on their way.

Transportation and Check-In

The revamped friction-free experience starts as soon as visitors arrive at the airport. If they signed up for the Magical Express, they just show their band before boarding the shuttle to the resort. Checking into their hotel is also quick thanks to the band. Their tagged luggage is automatically sent from the airport to their hotel room. With the band, guests don't have to wait in long lines at the airport, try to find a cab to their hotel, wait in line to check in, and then haul luggage to the room. It's all taken care of with the data transmitted from the band.


When guests are ready for some fun, a simple tap at the front gate gets them inside. No need to remember to bring printed tickets or cards every day.

The whole purpose of the wristband is to make guest experiences as seamless and stress-free as possible. Disney likes to say that customers can travel light while at the park. And this makes sense. With the band, guests can buy food and souvenirs without having to dig around for a wallet to find cash or credit card.

Creating Lasting Memories

Guests don't have to whip out a cell phone every time they want to take a picture, either. Between pictures with Disney characters or at Space Mountain, there's no shortage of photo ops at the resort. Fortunately, professional photographers are always on hand to take pictures. The bonus? Pictures are automatically linked to the MagicBand. Guests use the Disney PhotoPass Service to see the pics and download the ones they want.

The band means Disney can take the data they collect and merge tech with the real-world. As a result, they've built friction-free experiences that streamline end-to-end experiences for guests. Things that used to frustrate them are now positive, memorable experiences.

Discovering Behavioral Patterns in the Data

With the long-range antenna in the bands, Disney is constantly collecting data. They use it to track customer behavioral patterns to figure out where people spend the most time in the park. It also helps them form insights into their guests' tastes and preferences.

Let's say they notice a surge in traffic near an attraction. They use that data to coordinate where they put characters or how much food to stock restaurants with. Certain patterns like peak times, popular locations, or busy rides help them prepare and plan schedules in advance. This is all to make sure that the right resources are at the right place at the right time.

Another way they use data is through geo-targeting. Typically, this means sending people content, like ads, based on their location. It's like walking past a restaurant and getting a message with specials for the day. Disney has taken this idea and put their own spin on it.

Guests can log onto the Disney World app, make a dinner reservation, and then order their meal. When the time comes, they head to the restaurant. The long-range antenna triggers a message to the host's phone letting them know guests are nearby. When they arrive, they're greeted by name and invited to sit anywhere.

At the same time, the kitchen gets a message to start preparing the meal. By the time guests find a seat and get comfortable, a waiter wheels over their piping hot meal. This is all thanks to the band and radio receivers in the restaurant. With this technology, Disney can monitor behaviors and proactively serve their guests.

Staying Ahead of Customer Needs

On the surface, this all looks like magic. But what guests experience is actually powered by Disney's ability to interpret and execute on their analytics.

Even with this new technology, the learning curve is flat which makes the band such an appealing solution. When you see the band in ads, the focus isn't on introducing some new kind of wearable technology. It's instead positioned as a way for customers to maximize their experience.

What's important to note here is the importance of using your data to stay ahead of and anticipate customer needs. That's what the MagicBand has helped Disney do. The result is an experience that matches customers needs. They've found a way to identify pain points and use their data to make guests' experiences as simple as possible.

Use your data to figure out where customers drop off along your funnel. What can you do to fix this? Rely on your data to give you ongoing insights, and your customers will thank you for it.

behavioral analytics, big data, connectivity, data analytics

Published at DZone with permission of Archana Madhavan , DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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