Disney’s MagicBand, Big Data, & Marketing

This past January, our family made the trek to Orlando for our very first Disney World vacation. Our kids, aged 8 and 6 had been hearing about Disney World from other friends and families, and seeing commercials on TV. They were inquisitive, but humble in asking if and when we could go “someday”. After doing research and asking questions, we booked the flights and hotels. We decided not to tell the kids right away, and came up with a cool “scavenger hunt” that led from clue to clue as to where we would be going. When we finally revealed we were off to “The Happiest Place on Earth”, to say the kids were excited would be the understatement of the year.

I did a ton of research as to how to best maximize our time there. I read blogs, subscribed to newsletters, downloaded apps to my phone, you name it I researched it. I knew all of the restaurants to go to, I knew which rides would be closed, and I knew which parks offered Magic Hours on specific days. I signed up for MyDisneyExperience and downloaded the app… and my life changed forever. As soon as I signed up and linked our reservation, I was instantly able to book dining reservations at “Be Our Guest” Restaurant (up to 6 months in advance), book front row seats for Epcot’s “Illuminations” Dessert Party, book up to 3 FastPass+ selections per day, make an appointment for my 8 year old daughter to get a fairy tale makeover at “Bibbity Bobbity Boutique”. Disney makes the experience easy. In fact, I’d say fool proof. We even pre-ordered our MagicBands that were customized with our own names and colors we chose.

We decided to stay on-site at a Disney Resort (Art of Animation), so we could take full advantage of Disney’s new MagicBand. Disney’s MagicBand is a new ticketing system for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. These wristbands contain a short range RFID chip (for NFC purposes) and a 2.4 GHz transmitter that tracks your location while inside the park. The amount of information that is able to be collected from a family that uses the bands during their 9 day vacation is priceless. Disney is banking on it, to the tune of a $1 billion investment in this Big Data project.

What type of information you ask? The MagicBand is:

  • Your hotel room key, for guest staying at Disney resorts
  • Theme Park/Water Park admission ticket (Uses fingerprint scanner to confirm identity)
  • Payment method when purchasing food, beverage, and merchandise
  • FastPass+, used for skipping the main line at an on-site attraction
  • Used to link your Disney Memory Maker or PhotoPass account

So for the time that your family is staying at a Disney resort and going to the different Disney Parks, the MagicBand tells them:

  • What, when, and where you eat and drink, and how much you spent
  • What, when, and where you purchase souvenirs, and how much you spent
  • Which rides and when you check in at your FastPass+ selections
  • What time you arrived and departed a specified Disney Park
  • What time you leave and arrive back at the Disney resort each day
  • Whether or not you actually went to one of their parks, or if you did something else that day (no footprint of admission, rides, or purchases for a given day would lead one to believe that you were offsite at Universal Studios or SeaWorld)
  • Where and when you had your picture taken with certain characters throughout the parks

This data that is collected is priceless. The ability to “Target Market” to an individual family is phenomenal. Using the data collected from our trip, Disney can see that we:

  • Spent under the average on food that similar sized families did
  • Bought a ton of souvenirs (Please, for your own sake, do not start PinTrading)
  • Spent more time at the Magic Kingdom, than any other park
  • Spent the least amount of time at Hollywood Studios
  • Had one day off-site (SeaWorld)
  • Left the resort mid-morning, arrived home late every day

Using this data, Disney could send me an email (which they already have on file) 6–8 months after our visit, saying:

Dear Rathwell Family,

Thank you so much for coming to Disney World this past January. We would love to have you back. So much so, that we would like to offer you the following:

  • Disney Dining Plan at no additional charge
  • Free upgrade to one of the following moderate resort suites
  • One extra FastPass+ selection per day
  • Dining reservations at “The Royal Table” (Since it was closed during your stay in January)
  • The opportunity to purchase limited edition PinTrader pin packs for your kids.

Book a 7–10 day package before September 30th, to take advantage of everything we are offering. Call now. 1–407-WDW-7915.

I’m not kidding you, if I got that email, I would call and book today. Seriously.

Disney’s investment of $1 billion is tiny compared to the revenue potential once they are able to utilize the information collected by these devices. MagicBand has been live now for just over one year. What Disney decides to do with this information during the coming years is anybody’s guess. Taking global information and using it to hyper-market to an individual proves that it’s a small world after all.

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