The future of customer experience is on that cruise ship in the harbor
At CES, there was a lot of continued hype about “smart” homes and how it will change your life (eventually). The challenges of connecting all of it still leaves the customer experience to be piecemeal at best. CES also included dramatic demos on VR and AR, which have the potential to change customer experience in retail stores. But, perhaps the best demonstration of what is possible today for seamless, end to end consumer experience may have been Carnival Cruise’s CES announcement of the “smart cruise”. Carnival is launching their own version of a Disney like “magic band”, which creates an immersive personalized experience that follows you everywhere, and spoils you rotten … and it starts before you even set foot on your cruise ship.
Why this is important: Consumers expectations rise every time they have personal experiences which exceed the norm, and they bring those new expectations to retail with them. Retailers must now reach beyond traditional store design to start delivering personalized experiences that customers know are possible today.
The Magic of Disney brought on board to transform your cruise
The true joy of taking a cruise is being able to abdicate responsibility and just kick back to enjoy. The expectation is having everything taken care of, and being pampered every step of the way. Want a special seat at a restaurant? There should be a way to do that easily, without waiting in line. Don’t want to go to a restaurant? You should be able to click order food and have it brought to where you are on the ship! Have kids on board? You should be able to track where they are at all times.
Want to see what all the magic is about, take a minute to watch the smart cruise video!
John Padgett, who led the Magic Band team at Disney has transported the same concepts and technology to the Regal Princess ship in the Carnival line. Padgett describes the vision of creating the “smart cruise” as: “Our focus is the end-to-end guest experience being holistically delivered in a personalized way, a simplified way.” Said another way, Carnival wants to take away the pain points and provide customers whatever they want, when they want it, in easiest way possible. Literally their own personal, smart experience “portal”.
The magic of the “Medallion” brings amazing personalization to life
To accomplish that objective, Carnival has created the Ocean Medallion which enables an individual real-time connection to each specific guest on board. Like the Disney Magic Band, each Medallion is personalized for each guest. It literally has your name carved on it! You wear it on your wrist, or as a necklace, or carry it in your pocket. It tracks where you are on ship, what you’re doing, and what you might want to do next.
The Medallion room key literally becomes your portal to everything for your experience on board, and onshore. You can also interact via the Medallion with a network of 4,000 high res 55 inch screens scattered throughout the ship to find directions, see all the offerings and book anything your heart desires. The 7,000 sensors on board the ship know when you walk toward your room and personalizes the temperature and lighting automatically.
If they know everything about you what is the “creep factor” and risks?
The proposed level of personalized service could be downright spooky in some ways. A ship that knows who and where you are, as well as what you want and when you want it, could freak you out if you are not used to this kind and depth of personalization. However, it is a classic case of the growing consumer tradeoff of giving up some personal information in order to get unprecedented levels of service and personalization.
Carnival (and Disney) have compared the Medallion concept to a “license plate” that is used for identification to enable personalization, but individual’s personal information remains encrypted and kept in the cloud. Yet, some passengers might be concerned by the “ship” knowing too much. There is definitely need to inform passengers upfront of what is involved, and enable them to have some control over how much personalization they want for themselves. The ultimate option for passengers is simply not to wear their Medallion when they don’t want to be bothered, or tracked. However, Carnival is betting that once experiencing unprecedented levels of personal service, customers will opt in like they have with the Disney Magic Band.
Results Count: Will there be ROI on all of the investments required?
On Carnival’s Regal Princess, they had to install 72 miles of cable and installing 7,000 sensors is not cheap! Not to mention the 4,000 interactive 55 inch displays on board, and all of the systems an infrastructure costs. A huge investment cost for sure!
All of this investment is not totally about you the consumer and your experience. By having you wear the magic on your wrist enables Carnival to turn off lights and turn down a/c saving money when you are not in the room. And, imagine how many more margaritas, massages and shore excursions Carnival will sell by making it so simple to book by using a Medallion on your wrist that unlocks personalization for you everywhere.
7 Key learnings for retailers Carnival’s “smart cruise” test unfolding
The retailer C-Suite would do well to step outside of the box and book a cruise to explore what is now possible. While retailers can’t afford the same levels of Carnival and Disney investments, they can extract core concepts from the “smart experience” that can be adapted and applied online and in stores:
- The smart experience starts online – The genius of Disney and Carnival is the rich content they use to demo the personal experience you will have online.
- The smart experience arrives personalized at home – The smart Medallion technology arrives at home personalized with your names before you even depart.
- The smart experience begins immediately when you enter – On Carnival there is an immediate benefit of not waiting in line to check in and board your ship.
- The experience must be “seamless” and easy – No phones, no apps … you just wear the Medallion.
- The value is addictive when personalized across every area – Medallion works when your board, to enter your room, and everywhere for most everything on the ship.
- To be used it must be simple and omni-present – There are no staff dependencies … it works 24/7, everywhere, plus it even brings services to you where you are.
- The experience “sticks when it follows you home – The real value is when the experience follows you home and you start thinking about your next cruise, and becomes even more powerful when you become a brand advocate who can stop spreading your experience story by word of mouth.
While retailers might not be able to afford to replicate a Medallion experience, consumers will be drawn to the retailers who can adapt and create a differentiated experience like Carnival and Disney. Apple and GameStop are already applying personalized components in store.
There is a grand customer experience experiment unfolding at Disney and the cruise lines. Retailers would be very wise to take a ring side seat and extract best practices they can adapt to create a personalized customer experience, which will become their core differentiator, seamlessly integrating online and stores.