Posted June 24, 2019 by Raj Shroff

“Pack your bags, we’re going to Disney!”…imagine that being echoed through the executive offices of retailers in America.

In the paragraphs below, I’m going to tell you why I think a visit to Disney is what all retail leadership teams should take.  My wife and I took our two boys to Disney two weeks ago. My trip was by far the best omnichannel experience I’ve ever had, globally. Writing that feels really odd, almost embarrassing.  But I can’t help to know it’s true. Sure there are brands that come close to doing omnichannel relatively well; Delta, Sephora, and sort of Starbucks to name several. [And probably others in China except my Alipay and WeChat won’t work for payment there $%^!].

Back to Disney.  We stayed on property and over the course of a week visited Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot.  I hadn’t been to Disney since I was 10. And despite Disney being Expensive and Exhausting, our Disney experience was fun and brilliant in so many ways.  

My first peek into the omnichannel world of Disney was when I downloaded the app and connected it to my wristband  (I chose yellow of course) profile. For those of you who have not been to Disney recently, their wristband is a comfortable bracelet that is your ticket to the park, and much more.  We pulled up to our hotel and went right to our hotel room, bypassing the lobby and check-in desk. We gained entry to our room by placing one of our Disney wristbands up to the door lock pad of our room.  At that moment a little part of me shifted from dad on vacation at Disney to consultant Dad, absorbing, evaluating and thinking how my experiences can help our clients.

The two things you need to survive at Disney are your phone with the Disney app and the Disney wristband.   Using your wristband you can open your hotel room door, check in for your Fastpass (expedited) ride line and buy anything in the park.  Imagine the hassle of grabbing your wallet or Apple Pay on your phone every time you want to buy something, no sweat, Disney solved for it.

Through the app, you can order meals ahead of time, picked up with very little lead time necessary.  You can adjust your Fastpasses, accelerating your wait time considerably. And you can self guide around the park.  

Tied to your wristband is a sophisticated security system, tracking you throughout the park. We saw this in action when we were going through the Epcot entrance. Our nine year old forgot which finger he scanned and was having trouble with the system syncing up (when you enter the park they match your wristband with your fingerprint).  A Disney employee quickly came up, and showed him a photo of himself entering Magic Kingdom scanning his right finger. He scanned his finger and into Epcot we went.

“Digital” hits the physical world in other ways at Disney.   Small things like custom designing a car at the Test track or creating an interactive content.  

Though I had many takeaways from my Disney experience, below are the big ones:

(1) Disney senior leadership clearly values looking at the Disney experience truly holistically.  This view and subsequent experience strategy is undoubtedly then filtered down into tactics that actualize the experience they are trying to create.

(2) If there are corporate silos across physical experience design, digital experience and marketing at Disney parks, they do a great job of not letting the guest see them.  There are no seams in this experience, it’s all fluid.

(3) The efforts don’t seem to follow the shiny flash object syndrome embraced by so many retailers.  Each and every thing I experienced served a value, whether noticeable to guests or not.

Was it perfect?  No, but it was pretty darn close.  I didn’t notice anything related to our journey through an “omnichannel” lens (based on technology that is currently in-market today) that could have been better,  Disney was really fun. We’ll go back once my kids have jobs and can support their own souvenir addiction.