Early Lessons from Disney’s MagicBands


Disney launched MagicBands—RFID wristbands—at its Orlando parks in 2013. They were developed to replace ticketing and hotel room keys, to enhance and personalize experiences at the parks and, of course to make it easier to spend money on Disney property.

Disney shared a few of their observations about how people use the wearable technology in an article entitled A Billion-Dollar Bracelet Is the Key to a Disney Park. We can learn a lot from their comments:

1. When you launch a new technology for visitors, training staff is critical. Disney’s 70,000 employees had to be trained on the smartband system — the pilot was extended partially to complete training.

2. You can learn a lot from pilot tests. Disney launched this project with a “test-and-adjust” phase which they had to extend to learn as much as they could from the initial visitor interaction. First, only selected visitors who stayed at Disney resorts were able to opt in to the Magic Bands—now all visitors to Disney World can use them. Over the course of the pilot, about 3.5 million visitors used the technology.

3. Visitors prefer smartphones to kiosks in this case. “A faster-than-expected consumer shift to mobile devices had actually saved Disney money; most guests are using their smartphones to gain access to the system while inside the parks, reducing the need for Disney to install costly kiosks.”

4. It is very difficult to pinpoint return on investment on technology that improves the visitor experience. “we’re still trying to figure out how to measure the return on what is a rather large investment. That’s where the frustration is.” While they know that the system allowed 3,000 more visitors to enter the Magic Kingdom (frictionless entry to the park), they do not know the overall impact of the system.

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