The Magic of Customer Experience: Lessons from Disney on How to Improve the Customer Journey

8 min read
Dec 20, 2016
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Disney castle illustration customer journey

Christmas is just around the corner.

Last customers make their last-minute shopping. Those who didn’t decorate their Christmas trees yet, decorate them with lights, garlands, and ornaments. Homes start to smell with cinnamon, nutmeg, and pine. Lovely, right?

But is Christmas time all about spending wonderful time with family and friends? About a dinner party, happy children unwrapping their gifts and a cozy night by the fireplace?

Unfortunately, in many cases, Christmas time is also about stress. Are you going to be on time with everything? What if you’re late? What is your mother in law going to say if she doesn’t like dinner? And who’s going to sit next to grumpy uncle Simon?!

But then, an idea pops up your head. What if instead of having a stressful and formal dinner, your family spends Christmas in Disney World? You could attend in Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, visit Cinderella’s Castle turned into a glimmering ice castle by Elsa and watch the Christmas parade.

Sounds like ideal, stress-free Christmas!

And you know what? There are plenty of people who think exactly the same way. Christmas time is one of the most important holidays, it’s associated with family, friends, love, warmth - and people want to spend it in Disneyland.


Because they love it!

They love the fact that every single time they stay at Disney World or Disneyland, they will have an amazing time and nothing is going to spoil it.

That’s why today, I’m going to show you lessons from Disney, the king of customer experience, on how to improve your customer journey so people also fall in love with your brand.

Build a cross-channel strategy

From marketer’s perspective, Disney’s marketing strategy is brilliant. Their movies sell their toys, their toys sell the idea of movie characters and Disneyland, Disneyland sells more movies and more toys.

But it’s more than just branding.

It’s also about Disney’s cross-channel strategy that makes them unique. From Disney’s movies, through songs to Disneyland toys - everything is made to preserve the atmosphere of magic. The way people are hired, their looks, the language they speak - everything is carefully thought out.

Disney fun fact:

Do you know that all Disney Cast Members are given guidelines for character "autographs" so each autograph resembles the same one written by a predecessor a few years ago?

Thanks to that, it doesn’t matter if you took an autograph from Mickey Mouse 6 years ago in Disneyland in California or last summer in Disney World in Paris, they’ll be the same!

Lesson for you:

Ask yourself a couple of questions regarding the consistency of your marketing strategy:

The above questions are examples of business road signs that will help you to unify all your marketing actions and to build a strong, recognizable identity.

If you’re able to respond to these questions, it means that your marketing strategy is well thought out. If not, it means that you should focus on gathering more data and building it.

To build your cross-channel strategy you must make sure that every employee knows what your organization’s mission and strategy are and that every piece of your business. It means that whether you send emails, post on social media channels or a live chat app, every message should fit this strategy.

Thanks to that, your brand’s voice, tone, and actions will head in the same direction.

This post can help you to build a consistent content marketing strategy: How to Kickstart Your Content Marketing Strategy in 3 Steps.

Build your customer journey map

Probably “user experience optimization,” a term from the age of Internet, is the last thing coming to your mind when thinking about a 60-year-old theme park.

Well, surprise!

Disney marketing strategy customer journey

The above picture is the Disney marketing strategy from 1957.

At the center of Disney’s universum, we can see theatrical films. It’s obvious as films are something that Disney is best known for. Other key elements are TV, music, publications, merchandise and - of course - Disneyland.

This huge marketing machine works persistently for over 60 years now and although you might think it’s outdated, it’s far from it!

Just take a look how simple and yet how brilliant it is.

Every point a customer can come across information about a new Disney product is covered. TV commercials, music soundtracks, merchandise and publications. Whether a customer is at home watching TV, in a bus reading a magazine, or in a store browsing through products, there’s a big chance they will find information about Disney.

Disney designs an entire journey, not just a single interaction!

Disney fun fact:

It takes 150 semi-trailer truckloads full of decorations to decorate 24 resorts, 4 theme parks, Downtown Disney and other Disney locations in Orlando during Christmas.

That requires a lot of planning! Probably that’s why first strategic decisions regarding Christmas decorations are taken in early spring.

Lesson for you:

While promotion is the most important thing in the movie industry, you’d probably think about something slightly different. You have to identify and research your customers touch points to make sure they are happy every time they come across your brand.

Here’s an example of a basic SaaS customer journey:

Even a basic customer journey mapping can give you a couple of crucial touch points you can work with!

Disney castle top sky clouds

Design user experience

Do you know how huge Disney’s empire is?

For example, Disney World located in Orlando, Florida, is about 43 square miles and that’s about twice the size of Manhattan. It’s home to 4 theme parks: the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

If you want to visit any of these parks, you can get there not only by bus but also by a monorail, a boat or a ferry! It all depends on the hotel you’re staying in. Oh yeah, you can choose between two dozen hotels available if you want to stay for a night!

And you know what? The Disney empire is one, huge, living product tailored for the needs of its audience. Every aspect of a guest’s day is optimized. The Disney staff delivers a seamless experience and work to have you back as soon as possible from the purchase to the moment you leave.

Disney fun fact:

Every Disney employee, regardless of if a janitor or a manager, is obliged to pick up a piece of trash once they see it. All that to preserve the magical atmosphere in the park.

Lesson for you:

Since your website is in most cases the first-choice channel for your customers, providing seamless website experience is the most essential.

Can you imagine what would happen if your website visitor wanted to browse through your website and encountered some problems? No responsive design, poor readability, bad navigation or payment gateway timeouts!

Imagine your website is a theme park. There is a customer on every path, so you should make sure all of them are clean, eye-catching and all of them lead somewhere.

This post can help you to build a user-friendly website: What Makes a Good Website: 4 Secrets of Website Design.

Christmas tree palms

Design the entire customer journey, not just a single interaction

The reason why Disney is such a well-prospering organization (to put it mildly, Rogue One earned $155.5M on the opening weekend) is that Disney’s marketing team knows that seamless customer experience is the key to success.

But not all of us know that behind the park magic there are decades of hard work to making this magic come true.

Disney World might be a theme park, but it’s also a huge and profitable organization that makes serious business decisions to get more visitors and turn them into loyal, returning customers.

Sounds familiar?

And although you might think that it’s not possible to repeat such a success, let me recall the words of Walt Disney:

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.

Post pictures by courtesy of PCwallart, The Walt Disney Company and Thomas Kelley via Creative Commons.

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