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WHAT RETAILERS CAN LEARN FROM WALT DISNEY WORLD

At a time when one after the other retailer shuts down, you are flooded with advice and strategies on how to make your company future-proof. Besides beacons, omni-channel strategies and other new technologies, there is one word that invariably returns: experience. But how do you turn your stores into experiences? In this respect, retailers can learn a lot from amusement parks. A look behind the scenes at experience champion Walt Disney World yields five valuable lessons.

1. Storytelling

Many amusement parks are no more than a collection of rollercoasters. The difference at Walt Disney World is that every attraction tells a story. From Adventureland to Fantasyland and Mickey Mouse, they are all supported by their own compelling story. Take for example the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Without the story about a ghost-ridden gold mine in the 19th century, it would not be more than a thrilling rollercoaster ride. Using storytelling, the rollercoaster now captures the imagination, making people talk about it, online and offline. That is the effect of storytelling. Now look at your stores. Are they just a collection of products or is there a story that the visitors can experience?

2. Impressive visuals

At Disney World they realize that their visitors are there for the experience, so everything has to look fantastic. An attraction is always designed to tell a story to add to the experience. The same should apply to stores. Stores are no longer the exclusive outlet for your products, since consumers can buy everything online. The store is a unique sales channel, offering the opportunity to directly be in touch with your customers whilst offering an impressive experience that is stronger and more intense than offered online. Therefore, do not leave your stores unbranded or with uninspiring visual branding. This will spoil the experience and leave a dull impression.

3. A reason to come back

Why would people return to your store if nothing ever changes? Give them a reason to keep coming back! Disney World does this regularly on a grand scale, for example with the announcement of a new attraction, coincided with a comprehensive campaign of online teasers and an impressive opening. This is a great opportunity to come back, especially for those that haven’t been to the park for a while.  It teaches us that your visitors demand something new every now and again, a fresh story to experience. So make sure that your shop is flexible in appearance and easy to adapt with new visual branding. The frequency depends on the type of store: a DIY-shop can easily organize something every weekend, whilst it is more relevant for a garden center to adapt the experience to the season.

4. Enthusiastic employees

Anyone who has ever been to Disney World, can attest: there is never a disgruntled employee walking around. Okay, how cheerful the person in the Donald Duck custom really is we will never know, but there are smiles all around the amusement park. It has a huge effect on the mood of the customers. Your employees are a critical part of the entire customer experience of your store.

5. Feedback from visitors

Disney World’s right to exist depends entirely on its visitors. It is only natural that the amusement park is open to questions and comments from visitors and using that to make the experience even better. This is not different for a retailer: where would you be without your customers? Nowhere. So ask them for their opinion on what you can do better, what they want to see more and the reason for coming to your store. Along with the above lessons, the feedback is essential to create the best shopping experience and not end up on the overcrowded retail cemetery. 

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Image John Faas

AUTHOR 

JOHN FAAS

COMMERCIAL MANAGER

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.