Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Reinventing the Walt Disney experience with RFID

Imagine if visitors of the Walt Disney parks could make all purchases with the swipe of a wristband - souvenirs, hot-dogs, meetings with the characters and bookings to see the parades would all be hassle free. On top of that, what if they received alerts on their smartphones when it was time to go to the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction without having to wait in the queue?

It may sound like fantasy, but this is part of Disney’s ambitious new management system “MyMagic+” predicted to transform the way people consume experiences in a few months time. The investment is estimated to be between $800 million to $1 billion USD, but they have a lot to gain from it in terms of consumer behaviour knowledge.

Visitors will carry a “magic band”, which will act as room key, park ticket, fast pass and credit card using NextGen technology. It will also contain a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) device enabling the service provider to store data about individual visitors. This will allow guests to enjoy personalised experiences such as having Mickey Mouse call their kids by the name and know if it’s their birthday. By tracking guests’ preferences, like how many times they have gone to certain rides, promotions can be tailored to them improving their experience in the park. Disney assures all of the data is secured but, if people are uncomfortable with conceding personal information, they can opt out of the data tracking option or at least disable their kids from being tracked.

Seamless transactions without interrupting the magic of the moment also allow for improved consumer experience. However, cashless purchase decisions, the aggregation of all expenses into one bill combined with high emotional involvement lead to people being more careless with spending as demonstrated by many behavioural economics experiments, which we looked at in the Master of Marketing.

Mental accounting rules based on Kahneman’s Prospect Theory show how people tend to combine gains and losses in particular ways in order to maximise happiness. While multiple gains are maximised with segregation as in the popular saying “don’t wrap all the Christmas presents in one box”, losses (i.e. expenses) are less painful when integrated. By adding up all of the park expenses into one bill, suddenly a Mickey Mouse pair of ears seems like nothing compared to what one has already spent just on that day, who hasn’t been there? In addition, separating the payment from the consumption with the “magic bands” reduces the perceived cost of the activity.

There is a fine but crucial line between making the audience’s experience more personalised and satisfying, and using personal data to exploit them. What is your view of the Disney “magic bands” development? How do you feel about having your personal data collected to serve you better? How is this different from promotions targeted to you via your smartphone using geo-locator when you walk into stores, or when you scan your flybuys card at the counter to get discount on chosen items, or when customised ads are displayed on different sites using your browsing history?

Adriana Heinzen
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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