Ask someone why Disney’s Magic Kingdom is “the most magical place on earth,” and they’re likely to answer the characters or the rides. But having just taken my kids there for the first time, I would argue it’s Disney’s masterful merging of the digital and physical worlds. They’re capitalising on this “digical” trend to create connected, convenient and truly memorable customer experiences.
The merging of the physical and digital worlds is being driven by the rapid proliferation of connected sensors and devices, aka the Internet of Things (IoT). Gartner predicts that by 2020, there will be as many as 25 billion things connected to the Internet. That’s a staggering three connected devices for every person on the planet!
While early IoT hype was focused largely on consumer-oriented devices like wearables, there’s a rapid shift underway to enterprise IoT. Digitally savvy organisations are beginning to harness connected devices and the big data they generate to create innovative new products and services—and fundamentally transform their customer experience.
Disney’s MagicBand bridges the physical and digital worlds
Disney’s secret to merging the physical and digital worlds is the MagicBand, a colourful, waterproof wristband that uses Radio Frequency (RF) technology. MagicBands seamlessly connect your physical experience at Disney parks and resorts to the MyDisneyExperience web and mobile apps, integrating pre-trip planning, on-site activities, post-trip memories and more.
Let’s take a look at a few examples:
- No tickets, no keys, no problem – MagicBands are automatically loaded with all of your hotel and reservations, park tickets and more. They can be instantly activated at a resort or park, simply by touching the MagicBand to a sensor called a touch point.
- Skip long queues – Remember wandering around the Magic Kingdom, searching for rides with tolerable queues? Now, Disney allows you to book FastPass+ timeslots for popular rides through the website and mobile app. Show up at your scheduled time, tap your MagicBand and skip to the head of the line.
- Cash and card-less payments – MagicBand also serves as a payment mechanism, which means you no longer need to carry cash and credit cards around the resorts or parks. And because MagicBand payments require a PIN, you don’t have to worry about someone charging up your account if you lose your wristband.
- Instant digital memories – Photos of your family taken at the parks show up automatically in the MyDisneyExperience app a few hours later. With the Memory Maker add-on, you can instantly download these digital photos to cherish forever.
Replicating Disney’s “Digical” magic requires fast, iterative development
While Disney is clearly at the forefront of the digical trend, there’s enormous potential for organisations across industries to leverage the Internet of Things to deliver differentiating customer experiences. Success hinges upon their ability to rapidly and iteratively build new custom software applications.
Because digical is unchartered territory, companies need to be able to test new ideas quickly, flexibly and at low cost to see what works and what doesn’t. Development teams should collaborate closely with business stakeholders to build functionality in small chunks, share it with users and iterate based on their feedback. The goal should be to bring a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to market as quickly as possible, and once success is proven, scale it instantly and enhance it constantly.
As your organisation begins to explore the Internet of Things, it’s important to keep the following in mind to ensure you’re able to exploit its full potential:
- Connect all the things – The more sensors you can embed in your physical assets, the better - even if you don’t know how you’re going to utilise them yet. If you already have the sensors in place, you can immediately utilise the past (i.e. historical data) to take advantage of new opportunities once you think of them.
- Turn data into insight – Sensors are just a means to an end: data. But that data is only valuable if you can extract meaning from it and make it actionable for your employees, partner and customers. Once your devices are connected, you’ll need to leverage predictive analytics and machine learning to transform data into dynamic algorithms upon which new products and customer experiences are built.
- Build smart apps – These algorithms need to be made available to the right people at the right time and through the right channel. Consider how you can build smart apps that combine contextual awareness with algorithms to deliver intelligent, predictive recommendations. Instead of the user telling the app what to do, smart apps tell the user what to do when, even further optimising the customer experience.
- Think omnichannel – Supporting web and mobile is a good starting point but savvy businesses are leveraging emerging channels like smart watches, smart glasses, digital displays, kiosks, etc. The key is delivering an omnichannel experience that delivers personalised, intelligent recommendations anytime, anywhere, while enabling users to move seamlessly from one channel to another.
From Internet of Things to Internet of Experiences
Disney has done a great job of merging the physical and digital worlds to make their customer experience both more convenient and more memorable. In exchange for shorter queues and one of the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen on your kids’ faces, Disney is able to collect a vast amount of real-time data that they’re undoubtedly using to fine-tune their operations, increase share of wallet and innovate new products and services.
While Disney’s Magic Kingdom may be “the most magical place on earth,” your retail store, shop floor or airline could soon give it a run for its money. The key is to take advantage of the Internet of Things to merge your customers’ digital and physical worlds, and rapidly create innovative and differentiating customer experiences.
Ed Hadley is director of content marketing at Mendix.
About Ed Hadley
Ed Hadley is director of content marketing at Mendix, an application platform-as-a-service provider enabling rapid application delivery. He is an advocate of agile and iterative digital innovation techniques towards the continual improvement of customer service and digital business.