January 17, 2013
Disney’s MagicBand opens door to Hyper- and Predictive Personalization—and privacy fears
Last week, Disney caught headlines with its announcement of MyMagic+, set to debut this spring at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. The new system—part of a larger effort that’s estimated to cost between $800 million and $1 billion—includes a new website and app, My Disney Experience, designed to give visitors a quicker, less stressful experience at the park (e.g., letting people preselect FastPasses for shorter wait times and VIP seating). The feature that’s capturing the most attention, and raising a few eyebrows, is the optional RFID bracelet, or MagicBand, which can function as park ticket, FastPass, room key and credit card if users opt in. Those who do so will enable Disney to create a highly personalized experience—for example, employees will be able to address guests by name, thanks to sensors that pick up MagicBand data. Robotic seagulls will even strike up conversations with MagicBand wearers in line for the new ride Under the Sea.
Whether the birds will chat about the weather or local sports is unclear, but it’s not hard to imagine topics tailored to a user’s data. As more MagicBand data is collected, the more sophisticated Disney can make its personalization, eventually evolving from Hyper Personalization (one of our 10 Trends for 2011) to Predictive Personalization, one of our 10 Trends for 2013. For customers who gravitate toward souvenirs, for example, Disney might send alerts about new merchandise (and avoid aggravating patrons who don’t care to shop). Going further, it can promote appropriate offerings based on the age of a family’s kids.
The question is how many people will opt in. When the news broke, many expressed serious privacy reservations. Even with safeguards in place (e.g., requiring a PIN for purchases $50 and up; remote deactivation), it may take a leap of faith to provide a company with an array of personal data and then let it track one’s movements and purchases, especially when it comes to tracking children. With its considerable investment, Disney clearly sees potential in this system, but anything new is likely to have some kinks. The MagicBand will need to have a strong opening and then maintain the integrity of its users’ information over time if it’s to persuade visitors to follow the early adopters.
Image credit: Disney