Moving deeper into personal data collection, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is introducing a MagicBand tool for park visitors. Worn on a visitor's wrist, the rubber bracelets will enable Disney for the first time to track guest behavior in minute detail.
For kids, the "Wow!" factor is that the RFID tracking bracelets may contain extensive details to significantly personalize interaction with Disney employees. Through hidden sensors that read MagicBand data, a Snow White character, for instance, can address a child waiting in a line by her or his name. Without prompting, the character may also wish the child a Happy Birthday.
"We want to take experiences that are more passive and make them as interactive as possible — moving from, 'Cool, look at that talking bird,' to 'Wow, amazing, that bird is talking directly to me,'" said Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, to The New York Times.
The MagicBand will also serve as a guest room key, theme park ticket and provide instant access to pre-selected FastPass+ selections that lets customers skip lines. It also can serve as an optional payment method. The tool is part of Disney's new MyMagic+ vacation management system that includes an enhanced online reservation system designed to let guests book rides, shows and dining prior to the visit. An accompanying mobile app enables visitors to change event times within the park and also alerts them when their table or ride time may be ready.
While seemingly improving the guest experience, Disney also stands to benefit by being able to track each guest's movement throughout their parks. As the Times review of the tool stated, "Did you buy a balloon? What attractions did you ride and when? Did you shake Goofy's hand, but snub Snow White? If you fully use MyMagic+, databases will be watching, allowing Disney to refine its offerings and customize its marketing messages."
Guests don't have to use the MagicBand system. Those using it can also choose how much information to share. An online menu may ask whether they want a park employee to know their name or their child's name, as well as whether they want special offerings during their stay. But if guests are using the MagicBand at all, Disney's sensors will monitor their movements in the park.
Privacy advocates were particularly sensitive to news of such a device that could condition kids to being tracked throughout their lives. Likening the perks to a "class system" seen more with personalized perks at airlines, Laurianne McLaughlin, editor-in-chief at Information Week, lamented that it could alter what had generally been the same park experience for everyone. She wrote, "How crummy will you feel as a parent when your little kid asks you why some kids are jumping the line to meet a princess? Very unmagical."
What's the likelihood that in-store customer tracking will become commonplace in retail over the next three to five years?