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Customer experience innovation at the Disney Stores

A major theme that I’ve been following for a while is that rather than conventional product or service innovation, companies that attend to their customers’ total experience with an offering can craft powerful, sticky, and long-lasting advantages.  I was intrigued, therefore, to learn that the Walt Disney Company is taking this seriously with respect to their retail stores.  In a New York Times story, reporter Books Barnes describes the million-dollars per store plan that Disney is hatching to create completely enchanting children’s experiences in their stores.  The new, rebranded stores are destined to become destinations in their own right – places where kids beg to go, rather than utilitarian mall display spaces with an unnerving number of unimaginative but Disney-themed playthings. 

My co-author and I actually picked up on the trend toward creating experiences in toy shops as part of our discussion in the book Discovery Driven Growth.  We use the example of Sacramento-based “G. Willikers” toys to show how a model that involves customer experiences has far more power than one that involves just moving piles of shrink-wrapped novelties.  Other toy shops capitalizing on experience include the “Build A Bear” workshop (suffering in the recession, but a powerful business model nonetheless) and the “American Girl” dolls. 

I’m looking forward to seeing if Disney is a harbinger of trends to come.  I mean, imagine how cool life could get if corporations actually focused on giving their customers rich, intriguing experiences rather than simply trying to lure them into buying more stuff? 

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