5 Ingenious Sales Tactics That Disney World Uses That Can Be Applied To Your Ecommerce Store

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My family and I just got back from a 2 week vacation to Disney World in Florida and a 7 day Caribbean cruise that went to Haiti, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and we had a great time!

disney world

This vacation was particularly special for us because it was the first time that we left complete control of our online store to our employees for an extended period.

Now we’ve been on short trips away before (2-3 days) but this was the first time that we did not have a good Internet connection on board the cruise ship so we couldn’t even keep tabs on what was going on.

Naturally, my wife and I were nervous as hell. When you own your business and you have to travel, it’s almost like leaving your kids behind.

And even though we prepared our employees for several months leading up to our vacation, things did not exactly go as planned. Here’s what happened.

An Internet-Less Vacation?

Busted

When we first landed in Florida, my wife and I made a pact that we would just try to have fun and not check email for the business at all. It was a great plan, but having a smartphone in my pocket and not checking email was almost impossible to do.

Within the first couple of days, I had a moment of weakness on the Dumbo ride at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. With my wife in the elephant in front of me, I secretly pulled out my smart phone for a brief moment and checked my email. Holy crap! As soon as I launched my gmail app, I saw a bunch of frantic emails from our employees.

It turned out that our phone lines were down at the office so no one was able to answer or return phone calls at all! Right away I started getting a little frantic. Mayday! Mayday! Stop the ride! Stop the ride! Dumbo needs to land right now!

Now you probably think that not having a phone line isn’t that big of a deal but a large part of our value proposition is predicated on providing great customer service. And in my mind, I pictured an angry horde of bridezillas storming our offices and demanding their hankies.

Anyways after calling AT&T, we found out that the billing address for our phone bill was not transferred properly when we moved to a larger office 2 months prior. So while we were getting our Internet bills from AT&T, the phone portion of the bill was still getting sent to our old address.

Because we buy Internet and phone service from AT&T, we assumed that we were already paying both bills. But while we were on vacation, the phone portion of the bill became delinquent so they cancelled our line.

Putting The Business Behind Us

tinkerbell

After resolving this issue with AT&T, the rest of my trip went smoothly in terms of our business and I finally had the opportunity to relax and enjoy some quality time with my family.

As I mentioned earlier, the first leg of our trip was to Disney World and I enjoyed it immensely even though Disney cleaned out my entire wallet. Seriously, hanging out in Disney World for 7 days was ridiculously expensive.

One of my best friends calls Disney World a prison and I can kind of relate to what he’s talking about. Once you are within Disney’s walls, it’s almost impossible to leave. And it’s very easy to spend money haphazardly if you are not careful.

In fact, you’ve got to hand it to them. They really know how to keep you on their property and siphon away your hard earned cash without you even realizing it.

So while I was staring at my empty wallet and waiting in line to take pictures with Tinkerbell, I decided to make a list of all of the tactics that Disney employed on me and how I could use them to improve my own online store. Heck if I was getting owned, may as well learn something right?

Here are 5 lessons I learned on my trip to Disney World that can be directly applied to your online business today.

It All Starts With Content

frozen

The lifeblood of Disney lies with their incredible content. And it continues to amaze me how they consistently put out great movies and make boatloads of cash off of their character merchandise.

Right now, my daughter is absolutely obsessed with the movie Frozen and any time she sees any merchandise featuring Elsa (the main character), she immediately wants to buy it.

Not only that, but she’s been singing the songs from the movie constantly and driving my wife and I nuts.

Daughter: Daddy, do you want me to sing the song “Let it go” from Frozen for you?

Me: Actually, I’m in the middle of writing a very important blog p….

Daughter: Let it goooo….Let it GOOOO….CAN’T HOLD IT BACK ANYMORE…LET IT GO!!!

Me: Oh, are you singing “Let it go”? Did you know that happens to be Mommy’s favorite song at the moment?

Daughter: Really Daddy?

Me: Yeah, why don’t you go sing it to her?

Daughter: MOMMY MOMMY!!, Daddy said that “Let it go” is your favorite song. I will sing it to you. LET IT GO!!!!

Wife: He told you what!?!? STEVE!!!!!!!!

Anyways joking aside, the content for your website is probably the most important aspect of your online store. You can’t just list a bunch of products online and hope to make a lot sales.

You have to generate interesting content to attract your customers and then sell them product along the way. For our store, we put up step by step craft tutorials on our blog to attract customers and links.

By putting out good content, we also position ourselves as an authority within our niche. So when push comes to shove with a competitor, a customer will more likely buy from our store even if prices are a little higher.

Make The Buying Process Quick And Easy

wrist band

The other thing that Disney does very well is they make the checkout process extremely simple and convenient. As soon as you check into the hotel, they issue you wrist bands that serve many purposes. For example, your wrist band can be used …

  • As a key to get into your hotel room
  • As a credit card to make purchases anywhere on Disney’s property
  • As a ticket to get into any Disney theme park
  • As a way to sign up for fast passes for rides (more on this later)

As far as ecommerce goes, having an arm band act as a credit card is pure genius because it completely streamlines the purchasing process.

At first I didn’t think that this was a big deal. But let’s just say that if I had to use cash or my credit card at the Disney theme parks, I probably wouldn’t have spent as much as I did.

However with my wrist band, it didn’t even feel like I was spending money at all.

Hey Jen, do you want some ice cream? (Flash the wrist band)

How about a pretzel? (Flash the wrist band)

How about an official Disney princess autograph book for $7.95? (Flash the wrist band)

How about dinner reservations with Princess Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine and Sleeping Beauty for only $230.80? (Flash the wrist band) Yes this really did happen BTW. Not my finest moment but my daughter was ecstatic.

So what can we learn from this? In order to facilitate transactions on your website, you need to make the payment process simple and smooth.

Especially if you are trying to make a sale to a customer on a mobile phone, you need to make them type as little as possible. Here are some ways to do that.

  • Pre-fill as much information as possible with your forms. For example, you can automatically fill in the city and state when a customer enters in their zip code.
  • Offer alternative payment services like Paypal Express that can pre-populate shipping and billing address information if they have an account
  • Use a credit card service that allows you to save customer credit card information (Stripe allows you to do this) so that they don’t have to enter in their card number again for repeat purchases

These little nuances might not seem like a big deal. But with more and more transactions occurring on mobile devices, you need to make sure your checkout process is as seamless as possible. Otherwise, a customer might get lazy and abandon their cart.

Don’t Make Your Customers Wait

fast pass

The other ingenious aspect that I noticed about Disney’s theme parks was the concept of the fast pass. For most regular amusement parks, you end up wasting a large portion of your day waiting in line for rides.

But not at Disney. At Disney, you can sign up for “fast passes” at the beginning of every day on your smartphone to schedule the rides that you want to go on ahead of time.

And during your designated time slot, you simply head toward the ride, cut straight to the front and get on with little or no wait.

Now here’s the ingenious part. By not having to wait in line anymore, you have a lot more time to roam around the park and shop. Since we weren’t stuck in long lines, we ended up spending a lot more money on ice cream, snacks and other souvenirs.

Well played Disney….well played.

These same principles apply to your online store. You don’t want customers sitting around waiting for webpages to load. You should make sure your website is as fast and as responsive as possible by optimizing your store for speed.

In fact, this was one of my major objectives in my last website redesign

Utilize Cross Sells And Upsells

crosssell

Normally, I have a pretty thick skin when it comes making frivolous purchases with my hard earned cash. But once I had started having kids, somewhere along the way my spending resistance went to hell.

Disney knows and exploits this inherent weakness in all parents. By the end of the day at the Disney theme park, you are tired and delirious from feeding and dealing with whiny kids all day. You just want the madness to stop.

So you get on the Toy Story Buzz Lightyear ride thinking that everything is all good. And then the ride drops you off at the fricking gift shop on the way out.

angels

Mommy, Daddy, can I have a new toy? I promise that I’ll be good for the rest of the day.

And I’ll eat my dinner without having to have you force feed me and tell me to stop crawling out from under the table and spilling milk all over the place and getting all of my clothes dirty.

If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ve been here before. It’s so very easy to succumb….so very easy…. Well played Disney….

The good news is that you can employ these same tactics in your online business. Make sure you display related products on all of your product pages.

Also, set up your shopping cart to automatically suggest accessories or add-ons whenever possible to upsell your customer.

Once a customer has committed to buying a single item, it is that much easier to get them to spend more, especially on accessories. Take advantage of this fact. Picture a worn out parent at the Disney store at the end of the day. This is how your customer feels:)

Keep Them In Your Shop

disney prison

Remember when I mentioned that Disney is like a prison? The reason is because once you land on their property, they pretty much force you to stay on their property.

When we were making reservations, we contemplated staying at an outside hotel about 10 minutes away from the Disney theme park because it was significantly cheaper.

But by doing so, you have to rent a car and you have to pay Disney’s ridiculous parking fees. In addition, staying at a Disney hotel offers numerous perks such as the “Magic Hour” which allows you to enter all of the theme parks an hour early.

Anyways once you arrive on Disney’s property, they have an elaborate and extremely convenient transit system that shuttles you anywhere you want to go for free.

Because getting around the various Disney properties is so quick and easy, you don’t want to leave. And if you were to try to eat outside, you would probably get stuck paying their exorbitant parking fees once again.

Moral of the story? If you want to make sales, you have to keep customers on your property.

Whenever I see shop owners place Adsense or other ads on their online store website, I always shake my head. Why would you ever want to send a customer away from your website for a few pennies when you can keep them on your site?

The longer you keep someone on your site, the more likely you’ll convert a sale. It might not be today. It might not be tomorrow. But if you can engage your customer with your products or content in some way, they will come back and they’ll tell their friends.

So fill your online store with interesting content and products and never put ads on your ecommerce website.

Conclusion

Wherever we go, we are constantly being marketed to by larger organizations. So sometimes it makes sense to take a step back, look around and analyze what tactics are being used against you. I’m sure that Disney has an army of marketers and sales people on their staff and they clearly know what they are doing.

After all, if they can get someone as cheap as I am to spend money, they must be doing something right. Hopefully, what I learned from my trip to Disney World will help you improve your online store.

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27 thoughts on “5 Ingenious Sales Tactics That Disney World Uses That Can Be Applied To Your Ecommerce Store”

  1. Thank you Steve for yet another informative article. I especially benefited from adding the related products piece. I always thought that it might confuse the customer, but after reading the article and comparing it to Disney, I can definitely see the benifits.

    1. Thanks Omar. Most carts have some sort of functionality for related products built in, but you have to do extra work to make sure that the suggested products make sense.

  2. The correlation between a fun family trip and optimizing the online store is pure genius. There are definitely a lot of good points made that everyone in the business can benefit from.

    Thanks for sharing them Steve!

    •○•●•○• TA.

  3. My family is planning a Disney cruise for next year… I’m sure it will be similar to your trip! And my daughters are stuck on the songs from Rapunzel – they sing the songs all day long on repeat. It’s funny, even if the songs get old after awhile!

    Disney didn’t have the wrist bands last time I went there (about 5 years ago). Whoever came up with that idea needs a massive bonus! I’m sure spending per customer increased with that move!

    1. Hey Ryan,

      We should talk. Last year I did a Disney cruise and this past year we did Royal Caribbean and we ended up enjoying the Royal Carribean cruise more.

      On the Disney cruise, you will see more kids than you have ever seen in your life packed into a boat and it will be very chaotic. Don’t get me wrong. The Disney cruise is well executed but it’s not the best place for parent relaxation:) But if your kids want to see the characters then it’s a must.

  4. Hey Steve, this is great advice. I saw the notification for this post in my email and was like “What Disney?! I gotta read this!” Everyone loves Disney World and it was nice to read your experiences and lessons from the trip. Sounds like an awesome trip by the way and if everything stayed cool with the business maybe you’ll be getting away more often!

    1. Thanks John,

      In many respects this was our first true test of business independence and it worked out pretty well. Hopefully, my wife will be further willing to let go of the reins in the future.

  5. Great post! I have been to Disney properties several times over the years and have to agree they can definitely teach business owners a thing or two about marketing and sales.

    1. Disney is the epitome of great marketing. In fact, it made me reinforce my plans to offer a podcast alongside the blog. Stay tuned.

  6. Steve, what a great analysis and thus advice for anyone wanting to build, or improve, their e-commerce online niche store!
    Thank You Much! It’s great useful content like this that makes a difference.

  7. LOL -> mayday mayday! Dumbo needs to land right now! Great post!

    1. You laugh Caroline, but I was ready to jump off that elephant:)

  8. Judy says:

    What a great article! Totally relatable and original. Really enjoyed the read and lessons taught.

  9. This was a great article! Informative and funny—great content!

  10. Are all the ads here affiliate links? Are they okay, versus Adsense?

    Great article!

    1. ALl of the large banner ads on this blog are ads and not affiliated with my site. But I don’t sell anything here either. In my next redesign, I will likely remove them. BTW, everything regarding ads that I mention in this post has to do with online stores and not blogs.

  11. Nick says:

    Great insights linking Disney’s tactics to your store (even brick and mortar). It did make me realize that an online business also requires a full time commitment and is not nearly as hands off as people would imagine. We love to travel at least 2 or 3 times a year for 1-3 weeks at a time, so have to take that into account for any future business plans. And we don’t go to Disney, so probably spend much less and see much more.
    Your honesty and transparency make your blog content invaluable. A bit of humor as well 😉

  12. hahaa well played Steve. Well played.

    Getting back to leaving your business to your employees, what type of training and system did you put into place?

    At the moment, I only have a part time VA and so I am unable to offload everything and find myself having to answer customers, emails etc.

  13. I haven’t yet hired any help, but with a planned 2+ vacation planned this summer in Europe, I’m getting nervous about “turning off” my online business for that long, but also not sure about handing someone else the reigns.

    You’re right, it’s like like having someone else watch my baby and I’m not sure I’m ready for that. lol

  14. Larry Schuett says:

    Hi Steve;

    I want to get into the paid for section of your lessons (videos) and can’t find the address of where to go. I have a password so once you send me the address I should be good to go.

    Thanks for your help.

    Larry Schuett

  15. Karen Trekell says:

    I too have had the pleasure of being sucked in by Disney. When I was there we did not have the bracelets yet, but your room key card did the same thing. They would also conveniently make sure your purchase was taken to your hotel room for you “so you will not have to carry it around all day”!
    Great job of converting their marketing into ideas for web stores!

  16. Claire says:

    After reading this, I’ll never look at any business the same way again.
    Wonderful insight – now I just need to find the “niche”!

  17. Tiara says:

    Great content! Informative and very entertaining. I laughed the entire time. Awesome!!

  18. Miles says:

    Great article! Just wanted to note one thing, though. You only have to pay for parking once per day at Disney World. So if you leave for lunch, you’re good to go when you come back. Still, I recommend staying on property for all the other conveniences you mentioned.

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