NRF 2016: In store or online – it’s all about the guest experience for Disney

Ensuring great customer experience – or ‘guest experience’ as Disney calls it – is the retailer’s strategy irrelevant of which channel consumers are shopping. 

Speaking at the NRF Big Show 2016 in New York City this week, Paul Gainer, EVP of Disney Retail, explained that a few years ago Disney’s strategy was connecting the customer with the brand in an omnichannel environment through bricks, eCommerce, social and mobile. “Now these have become the minimum barrier of entry and the minimum expectation the customer has to connect with your brand,” he said. 

Gainer said Disney Retail’s eCommerce proposition has more than doubled in the last three years as it allows the retailer to expand its assortment of products, as well as selling 2,000 products which are theme park exclusives. Gainer also noted that because 99% of Disney products are exclusive to Disney Retail, customers who go online are not showrooming, but looking to purchase directly.

Meanwhile, the retailer operates 340 stores around the world, and through bricks and clicks welcomes 200 million unique visitors per year.

“These are the touchpoints for our customer that in many cases can’t get to parks around the world – it’s their neighbourhood Disney store to connect with the brand.”

Gainer added: “People have been talking about the death of malls or eCommerce taking over the world – it’s really not that, it’s about focusing on great consumer experience.”

He explained this customer experience does not matter if it is great quality products, or store design in the physical world, or extended assortments of products and an easy to navigate website for eCommerce – “Whatever, they have to be high quality consumer experiences.”

When it comes to the store, Gainer noted that 50% of Disney’s employees – or ‘cast members’ – are millennials which provides an opportunity for Disney to rethink how they train their staff. 

“We think about retail disruption in the way we train our cast members in stores,” he said, explaining how Disney has introduced tablet devices to help staff better serve the customers in store. “We have to think about how we train and develop them, and how we use technology and how we become more successful on the front lines.”

Gainer also said how a few years ago store managers were viewing eCommerce as a competitor which was taking sales out of their stores. But Disney has used bonus plan incentives to help cast members embrace online using the tablet devices to sell the extended range on the shop floor. 

“I’m extremely optimistic about where the consumer is going and where we can take retail and deliver the great experience for the industry that we work in.”