Will a window to Disneyland bring Disney fans to the mall?

Photo: Disney
Sep 28, 2017
Matthew Stern

Disney’s theme parks continue to offer unique, immersive experiences and the entertainment juggernaut’s branded properties are popular with audiences of all ages. That hasn’t kept Disney’s retail stores from experiencing the same pains as most other mall-based retailers, however. To address its challenges, the company is redesigning the Disney Store with technology meant to lure customers back with a window into the Magic Kingdom.

Disney’s newly redesigned stores feature a giant video screen at the front, which streams live footage from Disneyland’s daily parade down Main Street, according to Bloomberg. The prototype stores also offers visitors birthday celebrations with Donald Duck, and will soon stock the type of Mickey Mouse ears and cotton candy available at the theme parks. At present, four of the six stores slated for the new layout have gone live with the new attractions. The article did not state if other events besides the daily parade might be streamed in the stores and along what schedule.

While enjoying a visit to a parade by way of a live feed may seem like a pale stand-in for the real thing, this type of entertainment-by-proxy has grown surprisingly common.

For instance, live streaming footage of people playing video games has grown in popularity, with GamesRadar noting that one popular YouTube playthrough channel has more than 250,000 subscribers. Viewers treat watching the action on today’s graphically advanced video games almost like watching movies.

Given Disney’s penchant for creating experiences, it seems the store could go further to tie in-store entertainment to what was happening on the screen, beyond just cotton candy and mouse ears. There’s the potential for creative uses of video chat or touch screens to enable back-and-forth interactivity, for instance. With virtual reality growing in popularity, that too could be implemented to put Disney Store visitors closer to the real action.

Fans do appear to be visiting the Disney Store to experience the on-screen parades, according to Bloomberg, with around 50 people sometimes showing up during mid-week hours at the prototype stores.

In keeping with the theme of tying its various experiences together, Disney has also redesigned its e-commerce website, according to Bloomberg.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has Disney created an effective bridge between its theme parks and retail outlets? How can the company successfully strengthen that tie to drive store traffic? How can other retailers without a Disney World-esque presence leverage in-store streaming to attract and keep customers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"In-store streaming might not bring more people to the stores, but will definitely get kids in-store begging their parents to take them to Disneyland!"
"It seems like a good way to upsell visits to Disneyland to customers, but on the whole, the video in stores concept isn’t that innovative..."
"The company would do far better to focus on Disney magic than Disney slight of hand."

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16 Comments on "Will a window to Disneyland bring Disney fans to the mall?"

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Ken Lonyai

For Disney, this seems exceedingly low-tech and uninspiring. For a young child, the difference between watching a live parade vs. a YouTube video is imperceptible. Neither compares to real Disney entertainment. I can’t imagine parents being motivated to bring the kids to the stores because of that.

The company would do far better to focus on Disney magic than Disney slight of hand.

Lee Kent

Right Ken, I would have thought Disney would at least have gone for AR or something that would create more thrill. On the other hand, it might get more people in the store. Just to check it out. But, will it last? For my 2 cents.

Jeff Miller

This synopsis and the Bloomberg article give the makeover at Disney stores a bit of a short stick. Their CTO and SVP of Interactive and Consumer Products Michael White share a more detailed vision of what they are doing to bring experiences into the store at his Shop.org keynote on Tuesday. Still has some work to do; the vision was much more than screens showing the parades.

Mark Ryski

This is a very interesting way to bring the theme park experience to their stores. The impact should very easily be measured in store traffic and conversion rates. While new concepts can have an immediate impact, the true test will be whether or not Disney can sustain interest over the long-term — time will tell. In any event, I see no downside from the test and applaud Disney for playing to its theme park strengths.

As for other retailers, this is a far more difficult challenge to overcome. The question becomes, in-store stream of what? Content needs to be relevant to the audience for it to have impact, and I would caution other retailers to think very carefully about the content they intend to use. Big screens and flashy images are cool, but they won’t have much impact if the content isn’t relevant to the shopper.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

The magic of Disney theme parks is how they make you feel. I’m not sure if a video screen can capture or recreate that same emotional experience with a live feed.

Kudos to Disney for trying something different to engage customers. I agree with Matthew that there is much more potential to differentiate the experience with AR, chat and touchscreens. What little girl wouldn’t want to talk to a princess?

In-store streaming might not bring more people to the stores, but it will most definitely get kids in-store begging their parents to take them to Disneyland!

Art Suriano
I think this is smart with a lot of opportunities. However, Disney must keep adding new ideas to make sure the customer keeps coming back. Ultimately what is needed is a playful environment in-store with products that customers will want and plenty of interaction between the customers and in-store staff, in particular with the kids. Get the young customers asking their parents to bring them into the store and you’ll have a big win every time. As for other retailers, they need to look at themselves and figure out what they can offer that is different than their competitors. Live streaming is excellent, but sometimes just good old fashioned well-trained associates making customers feel special and wanted can also go a long way. I have often said that today too many retailers are suffering from “sameness.” Price and product alone will not let you build brand loyalty. Focus on what makes you unique and how you can be different than your competitors. That’s how you build your brand. It’s not the live streaming that will… Read more »
Brandon Rael

Disney certainly has won the hearts and minds of consumers of all ages and is universally loved by all. Focusing on the experience side of retail should be natural for Disney, yet it is challenging to translate this over to the mall stores. These days, the customer expectation of going to a store and having a multi-sensory, immersive experience is the standard all retailers have to live up to.

Perhaps as Disney continues their retail transformation, they could take a page out of Lego’s book and consider a hybrid smaller-scale Disneyland/Disney World model, similar to what Legoland has evolved into. Legoland has been well positioned in “town squares,” offers a few hours of multisensory entertainment for the family, and the retail presence is naturally integrated within several stations.

Now that is a competitive model Disney may want to consider.

Adrian Weidmann

“Entertainment-by-proxy” is an interesting concept. In a culture that expects instant gratification and wants to experience everything, there are opportunities to cater to this mindset. Rather than showing a video of the parade (easy and lame), Disney should be showing a live “narrowcast” of the parade (with full HD and surround sound fidelity!) and should be promoting this unique “in-store” experience. They could include some “live” interaction between the stores and the Disney characters. C’mon Disney! You can do better.

Ryan Mathews

I guess this won’t hurt anything, but I’m a little underwhelmed with the idea. Yes, maybe kids will be encouraged to goad their parents into taking them based on 20 minutes of live streaming, but my guess is that if they are in the store a trip is in their future anyway. In order to really drive traffic the link has to involve active participation somehow. And as for other retailers, is the problem in our lives that we really don’t have enough screens to view? VR displays, some form of interactive media — sure. More television, even live television? I’m not sold.

Harley Feldman

Disney has made a bridge between its theme parks and retail outlets with the parade live broadcasts and fireworks electronic displays. How effective this is remains to be seen, but if any company can do it well it would be Disney. The big challenge for Disney is that these events are scheduled at various times during the day, but the shoppers come at a time that is convenient for them. However the excitement that the live visitors at the Disney parks have each day will carry over to the stores, turning into excitement for Disney-branded items.

Other retailers will have difficulty doing the same thing. What makes Disney unique is the experiences almost everyone personally has had at a Disney theme park and the nostalgia the visit creates when remembering it.

Neil Saunders

Wow, they put a TV in a store! Hold the front page!

Certainly Disney deserves credit for trying something new and I guess this is a cost-effective and quick solution. However it is disappointing that a wonderfully creative company cannot come up with something more immersive and engaging.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

It might be fun to watch for a few minutes but why would it make me want to enter the store? This does nothing to improve the experience once in the store. Watching others play a video game which I could purchase and play is not the same as watching people have fun at one of the theme parks which I can not afford to visit, can not persuade my parents to visit or know that I can not get to for the foreseeable future. I do not see the draw.

Cate Trotter

It seems like a good way to upsell visits to Disneyland to customers, but on the whole, the video in stores concept isn’t that innovative — even with live-streaming. I think it’s great that Disney is leveraging more of the fantastic content/experiences that it has across its empire, but I would like to see it doing something more innovative.

Ed Dunn
3 years 26 days ago

It is almost guaranteed a disaster to use live stream or any stream for digital signage in a commercial environment. Disney would have been just as effective using a pre-recorded file.

Naomi K. Shapiro

Re: … technology meant to lure customers back with a window into the Magic Kingdom… yes, it’s an effective bridge, more to create a hankering to go to the real Disneyland than back to the store to watch the same video again — and shop.

Jeff Miller

This article is a bit misleading. Disney announced and showed at Shop.org during a keynote a lot more in the works than just some live video screens in the front of their stores. It was part of a much larger effort including a new e-commerce site and update to the stores to bring the magic of Disney storytelling to retail. Their CTO Michael White was excited about the screens in the test locations, but also touted new layouts and future looking ideas around AR/VR. But it was interesting that he did not touch on something that Disney does so well in the parks and resorts- customer service. What they really need in brick and mortar retail is that same kind of “Disney cast” mentality that shines at the hotels and theme parks. This is the main lesson for all retailers in this day and age. Real people who are educated and passionate about the products helping people get what they want.

"In-store streaming might not bring more people to the stores, but will definitely get kids in-store begging their parents to take them to Disneyland!"
"It seems like a good way to upsell visits to Disneyland to customers, but on the whole, the video in stores concept isn’t that innovative..."
"The company would do far better to focus on Disney magic than Disney slight of hand."

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