Big Data, Meet the Mouse

Caveat: Peter is both a stockholder of The Walt Disney Company (DIS) and one of the world’s biggest mouse-ear-wearing nutjobs.  You can occasionally find him sipping coffee on the Lilly Belle.

I should probably have titled this “Oh, I see you two are already acquainted” but that doesn’t sound as pithy.  What I am referring to is this gem from last week:

At Disney Parks, a Bracelet Meant to Build Loyalty and Sales –

As I’ve mentioned before, Disney knows what to do with data when it’s available.  In this case, Disney has been preparing for this uptick in data availability for some time.  The weak spot has always been in collecting the information, then contextualizing it with location and time.  We use the Verizon Disney Mobile Magic app when we visit the Disneyland Resort attractions and so do a LOT of other folks.  It’s an imperfect exchange of information but the app does allow for better queue/demand management by informing visitors where the lines are longest, what attractions are closed and which shows are about to start.  Disney benefits mightily from behavioral changes and through user feedback (e.g., real time reported wait times by people in the actual lines) but this only scratches the surface.

Strapping an RFID tag to your customers’ wrists goes a lot deeper and holds promise for both the company and customer satisfaction.

If you get your picture taken at the park by a photographer, the cast member can scan your ticket for reference or give you a receipt to look up the photograph later on in the day.  Lose the ticket and you’ve lost the picture while Disney has lost a potential sale.  Scan your wristband instead and those lost opportunities are lost no more.  One park I worked with several years ago had this grand idea that they would take candid photos throughout the day and use facial recognition software to identify the customer on his/her way out.  Insert the wristband into the equation and now you can potentially identify the guest wherever he or she goes.  The cost to take one picture is vanishingly small and the chance you will like it enough to purchase a print or copy on disk is smaller still…but… 

If I as the park operator can present you with 100 sample pictures instead of just one or two I might improve my uptake rate.  You, in turn, might just appreciate a nice candid with the family.

Photo tagging is a simple example and not even the most advanced use of technology like this.  The data collected will allow Disney access to your ride preferences, shopping trends, traffic patterns and a host of other information only Big Data can provide.  The customer gains convenience in shopping and a customized park experience:

MagicBands can also be encoded with all sorts of personal details, allowing for more personalized interaction with Disney employees. Before, the employee playing Cinderella could say hello only in a general way. Now — if parents opt in — hidden sensors will read MagicBand data, providing information needed for a personalized greeting: “Hi, Angie,” the character might say without prompting. “I understand it’s your birthday.”

The privacy concerns raised in the article are, I believe, bunk.  How many thousands of customers already use one of the many mobile theme park applications, check in and out of attractions on Facebook or post geotagged ( pictures to Flickr, Facebook or a blog?  Hint: it’s a large number and if you have been to the Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World in the past 5 years, your face is probably already in somebody’s terribly framed and cropped vacation photos.  Your privacy train called.  It left the moment you entered the park and you gave your seat to that one guy without a cell phone.

The way I look at it, Disney’s MyMagic+ is no more or less than strapping on “cookies” as you walk around.  If the only output were more advertising in my face I could complain (and wouldn’t use it) but the opportunity is so much larger for Disney I cannot imagine their thinking being so small as that.

Maybe in here they think small, but otherwise the marriage of Big Data with the Big Ears holds some promise.  I’m interested to see how this endeavor plays out.

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