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Why Disney’s Magic Bands Are the Future of Mobile, Big Data and Personalization

Apr 09, 2014 3:00 pm

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Wearable device like the Magic Bands make it easier for companies to give you what they think you want while also making it easier for you to pay them for the insight.

— Jason Clampet

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Disney's new MyMagic Plus bands. Skift


Pity the parent trying to do Disney World on the cheap these days.

Last summer, Disney introduced MagicBands into the theme park experience. For starters, the RFID-enabled wristbands function as tickets, and as “FastPasses” to cut long lines and hotel room keys.

But they also store personal information and preferences — meaning that Elsa from Frozen can approach a little girl knowing she is her favorite character and greet her by name. If it’s the girl’s birthday, she’ll know. The nearby gift shop attendant can steer the birthday girl to the Elsa replica doll, and her parents can just show their wrist to pay for it (the MagicBand also has credit card information stored).

But think of the upside for the family. The kids would be delighted at the more personalized experience with their favorite characters. Parents would appreciate notifications signaling the line for Space Mountain is moving right now.

And even if parents had resigned themselves to their wallets taking a hit, at least that wallet isn’t packed with paper tickets, room keys, credit cards, and separate FastPasses. With MagicBands, the Disney World experience is easier and more seamless.

MagicBands represent what’s coming in digital: the convergence of mobile, big data, and personalization to drive truly superior user experiences. Mobile — whether smartphones or wearables — provides geodata in real time.

When companies combine those components with the wealth of customer information they possess, the result creates powerful solutions for users, resulting in increased engagement and ultimately more sales. Soon, customers will likely expect that level of integration and prefer the brands sophisticated enough to offer it.

For example, Lowe’s, the home improvement retailer and a Huge client, has incorporated mobile elements into both its customer and salesperson in-store experience. On the consumer side, the store’s mobile app includes a store-specific product locator, which tracks real-time inventory down to the aisle and bay.

The Lowe’s Associates feature, meanwhile, built for employees helping customers, features updated product info, reviews, and for customers who have a MyLowe’s account, past purchase information. Its “line-busting” feature allows the associate to scan the customer’s items, capture identifying info and then send the data to a cashier, who finishes the transaction with the customer.

Other brands are catching on. Virgin Atlantic has begun experimenting with Google Glass for its first class lounge attendants at Heathrow Airport. While anecdotal evidence suggests unsuspecting passengers have been a bit creeped out by the development, the benefits behind the trial run — giving attendants instant and more seamless access to passenger itineraries, travel and dietary preferences and frequent flier status, among other actionable data — are compelling.

Ultimately, regardless of the form factor, increasing customer expectations of improved user experiences will force every brand to invest significantly in mobile convergence. While the cost, at least for early adopters, can be high (analysts estimate Disney’s MagicBands investment to be $800 million to $1 billion), the potential payoff could be bigger.

Aaron Shapiro is the CEO of the digital agency Huge.

This article originally appeared on VentureBeat.

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