Skip to content
Back to eduMe Blog

5 Lessons Retailers Can Learn from Disney's Customer Strategy

Zac Francis
Zac Francis

There aren’t too many industries where the customer wields the power to make or break a business. But in retail, it’s the consumers who determine your success, and it’s important the industry acknowledges a simple truth: the customer is everything. 

With this in mind, retailers must do everything in their power to enhance and optimize their own customer experience. Doing so can bring about increased employee engagement, a loyal customer base, improved operational efficiency, and a brand reputation that rises to the top of a crowded field. 

Disney is the leading example of a brand that has achieved global recognition as a result of CX. Although not purely retail, the customer is a vital part of its business ventures that includes cinema, theme parks, and sports.

The US giant is known for providing an awe-inspiring CX across everything it touches. Whether it’s fulfilling the dreams of children in one of its many resorts or captivating an audience with its latest blockbuster movie, Disney stands out and brand retailers can undoubtedly look to and take notes from, boasting numbers like a 70% customer retention rate, and 4.7 star rating awarded by over 500,000 reviewers. 

Keep reading to find out why CX is so important and how Disney optimizes a customer experience.

1. The importance of CX
2. Disney's CX approach
3. Applying Disney's CX to retail


Understanding the importance of customer experience

When we say customer experience, we’re talking about the all-encompassing impression your customers have of your brand throughout the entirety of their journey. For retailers, touchpoints often include online services and support, in-store service, and product interaction.

CX can be traced back to the 1960s when the boom in consumerism led to the expansion of market research. This, in turn, caused businesses to conclude that pricing and availability were no longer enough to build customer loyalty. The consumer wanted something more.

During its infancy, CX had fewer moving parts as the customer’s experience was limited to in-store only. Today’s retail is very different, and CX has evolved alongside shifting consumer expectations. 

Navigating Business Challenges in Retail and Hospitality: Insights and Strategies for 2024

But the customer’s importance has remained the same, and 90% of CEOs listed the customer as having the greatest influence on their business. 

Below are some of the areas this influence touches:

Improved operational efficiency

CX optimization typically includes the optimization of store operations—processes and services are streamlined to better serve the consumers. This often results in superior resource allocation, reduced costs, and improved operational facilities. By prioritizing customer experience, retailers can identify and eliminate anything that impacts the smooth running of the store.

Increased customer loyalty

Retaining customers is vital to the success of your business. New consumers are valuable of course, but it’s your loyal customers who drive revenue through repeat purchases and word-of-mouth recommendations. Not only are existing customers up to 10x more profitable than new ones but acquiring a new customer can cost up to 7x more than retaining an old one. And a proven way to keep consumers coming back? Optimizing your CX. In fact, 1 in 3 consumers will leave a brand after a single negative experience.

Increased employee engagement

It might seem strange to suggest improving customer experience is good for your workforce, but it’s true. CX and employee engagement are closely connected, with one driving the other and vice versa. Companies that excel in CX experience a 20% increase in employee engagement. And companies with engaged employees have customer retention rates 233% higher than those who don't.

Differentiates you from your competitors

In the highly competitive retail industry, businesses are finding it difficult to differentiate themselves through products and pricing. Instead, CEOs view CX as the place to compete, and 39% of them selected CX as the best way to create a competitive advantage. Optimizing your customer experience can increase your brand reputation and make you stand out in an increasingly crowded field.

Disney's approach to customer experience

Walt Disney once said “Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” 

A lot has changed since Disney’s founder passed away, but the man behind the magic touched on a universal truth that applies to today’s CX approach: optimization is the key to success.

Let's take a closer look at how Disney approaches CX in 2023:

Optimizes its workforce via a common purpose

Disney knows that to optimize your customer experience, you must first optimize your workforce. After all, it’s your employees who deliver the experience. And one of the best ways to do this is to create a common purpose. Doing so tells your employees what you stand for and fosters a collective sense of belonging. All of which results in happier and more motivated employees.

Disney’s common purpose is: "We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages everywhere."  When their employees know to prioritize happiness, it empowers them to make their own decisions and create magical moments.

Views CX as an asset, not an expense

Some retailers might be guilty of cutting corners when it comes to CX in order to save money. However, the return on investment associated with an optimized experience almost always justifies the short-term costs associated with delivering an exceptional CX strategy. Disney knows that investing in their products and services will eventually benefit them in the long run.

Attention to detail and consistency

How does Disney provide magical moments? By believing every moment is magical. By this we mean that Disney tries to optimize every single moment, minimizing issues so that customers can fully immerse themselves in the world of Disney.

From theming to park cleanliness and merchandise, Disney ensures high standards and attention to detail across all touchpoints.  

Now let's take a look at how Disney expands on these principles with specific strategies and tactics.

Key strategies and tactics employed by Disney


Highly trained and engaged employees

We’ve touched on Disney’s use of a common purpose to engage and empower its employees. However, to ensure employees live by that, it uses a set of quality standards that assists employees through the decision-making process. This is known as Disney’s Four Key Basics: Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency.

Cast members should prioritize safety above all else. Next is to be courteous to all guests, and to exceed expectations. Cast members must remain in character at all times. All of this is to be performed with efficiency. The key basics are in priority order to further help employees when making their own decisions. 

In addition to the basics, Disney has seven service guidelines that, in true Disney fashion, are based on the seven dwarfs: 

Be Happy…make eye contact and smile!

Be like Sneezy…greet and welcome each and every guest. Spread the spirit of Hospitality…It’s contagious!

Don’t be Bashful…seek out Guest contact.

Be like Doc…provide immediate service recovery.

Don’t be Grumpy…always display appropriate body language at all times.

Be like Sleepy…create DREAMS and preserve the “MAGICAL” Guest experience.

Don’t be Dopey…thank each and every Guest!

With these standards in place, Disney ensures all cast members are providing the same high level of service across the globe. It’s this cohesive experience that has strengthened Disney’s brand reputation over the years and acts as a foundation for an optimized CX.

Personalization and customization

Personalization is a growing trend that consumers expect from all businesses, regardless of size. In fact, 66% of consumers expect brands to understand their individual needs, and 63% won't buy from brands with poor personalization.

Despite the millions of customers that interact with their brand every year, Disney has found a unique way to give everyone a personalized experience. 

Upon arrival, guests can receive a button that displays the reason for their visit, whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, retirement, etc. This allows them to treat each guest individually and personalize interactions. Guests also have the option to customize their day at Disney with various dining and entertainment options. 

Continuous innovation and adaptation

The Walt Disney Company was founded in 1923, and its first theme park was opened in 1971, meaning, by any metric, Disney has been around for a long time. However, it’s especially impressive when you consider the average lifespan of a business is just over 21 years. So, how has Disney remained excellent for practically a century? Through continuous innovation and adaptation.

The most obvious example of their ability to adapt is how they have embraced technology. For instance, the My Disney Experience App allows guests to place food orders, purchase ‘Fast Pass’ tickets, and track their live location via GPS. 

Besides tech, Disney continuously expands and improves its services, offers personalized experiences, and evolves its staff training—all of which contribute to an enhanced experience.

Efficient queuing and wait-time management

We can all agree that the worst part of theme parks is queueing. And despite Disney’s extensive number of attractions and rides, queues inevitably form once the parks reach peak capacity. This is problematic for CX as a significant portion of your time is spent waiting for the actual experience. This ties in with another problem— the modern consumer is more impatient than ever. In fact, 70% of customers are only willing to wait 15 minutes for a service.

Disney responded with a number of practical solutions. For an additional price, guests can purchase fast lane tickets for attractions of their choice, which allows them to join a separate, and much shorter, queue. And guests staying at a Disney resort can access the parks a full 30 minutes before the official opening. There are also single-rider lanes and a policy where visitors can join a queue at closing time and still be allowed to ride. 

Attention to cleanliness and maintenance 

With all of the attractions, rides, and sweet-smelling snack stands dotted around their parks, you would be forgiven for overlooking how clean the place is. However, Disney has developed a reputation for outstanding attention to cleanliness and maintenance which unquestionably contributes to an optimized CX. 

When it comes to cleanliness, Disney spares no expense, again, tying into their view that CX is a long-term investment. To isolate one example, bromine is utilized in place of chlorine as a pool cleaning agent owing to the fact it’s effective at killing bacteria while being less harsh on the skin.

You’ll also notice that Disney’s parks are full of trash and recycling cans. Walt Disney concluded that a person is unwilling to travel more than 30 feet for a trash can. For this reason, a trash can is always within at least 30 feet of every customer, essentially prompting customers to act as cleaners, or at least clean up after themselves. 

They’re equally thorough with overall park maintenance. Rides are regularly inspected, scuba divers are employed for underwater maintenance, gum is removed every night, and their extensive plant life is taken care of all year round.

Immersive storytelling and theming

We’re all familiar with Disney’s legendary storytelling through TV and film. And their ability to create an immersive experience extends to its theme parks— Harry Potter World, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios are among their most popular attractions. 

And when it comes to optimizing CX, Disney’s storytelling creates an emotional connection with its audience, evoking feelings of excitement, joy, and nostalgia. This strong response results in long-lasting memories that contribute to brand reputation and overall CX. 

With 83%of consumers stating they are more likely to purchase from a brand they have an emotional connection with, Disney is aware of the growing role emotions have on CX.

By leveraging immersive storytelling, Disney creates a magical experience that separates it from its competitors and leaves customers wanting another visit.

Applying Disney's customer experience principles to retail

Invest and optimize employee training

As mentioned, Disney invests in its employees, training them through the use of guidelines and standards so that they can deliver an exceptional and consistent experience across all touchpoints. Retail managers must do the same and invest in comprehensive training that empowers employees to provide a memorable experience. 

Apple’s retail arm is a great example of how to successfully optimize employee training in order to enhance CX. By investing in tech-centric training—such as the use of apps—Apple provides its ‘Geniuses’ with the knowledge and skills necessary to deliver outstanding customer experience. And it works—Apple’s customer satisfaction rates check in at 82 out of 100.

In an industry with a serious training problem— 32% of retail workers report receiving no training whatsoever—optimizing your own is a great way to differentiate yourself from the rest.

Optimize store layout for an immersive experience

Although Theme Parks are an almost perfect medium for storytelling, retailers can still learn from Disney’s emphasis on theming to elicit an emotional connection. In fact, by optimizing physical store layouts, retailers can weave a memorable narrative that enhances CX. 

LEGO stores are renowned for their impressive storytelling experiences. Walk into any LEGO store and you will typically see intricate themed displays that are an example of world-building on a smaller scale. Customers can walk around the store and interact with products, immersing themselves in a story and utilizing their own creativity. All of this helps foster an emotional connection and improves the customer’s experience, resulting in a customer satisfaction score of 89 out of 100.

Invest in the right technology to improve CX

Disney has maintained exceptional CX for decades due to their ability to adapt. Nothing highlights this more than their investment in technology. Today, consumers can navigate the parks through a state-of-the-art app, and reduce wait times by purchasing queue jumps online.

Technology is a great way for retailers to improve their own CX by offering enhanced convenience, personalized experiences, and seamless interactions. 

Take Amazon and their ‘Go’ Stores (also known as ‘Fresh’) - a chain of partly automated convenience stores that utilize ‘just walk out’ tech - advanced technologies including sensor fusion and machine learning. Customers enter the store by scanning an app, pick up what they want, and then walk out, providing unrivaled convenience, speed, and ease.

Leverage customer data for a personalized experience

Through personalized greetings to customized experiences, Disney manages to make every visitor feel special. Retailers can do the same by formulating their own personalization strategy. The best way to do this? Leveraging customer data.

Data can help create a working profile of your customer base, allowing you to understand their wants and needs. And although some view data collection as an invasion of privacy, 66% of consumers say they will share personal data about themselves if they think it will elevate customer experience.

Bringing it back to retail, Sephora offers some of the most personalized experiences. By getting customers to create a beauty profile and analyzing their purchase history, the beauty retailer offers personalized product recommendations, exclusive rewards, and even birthday gifts.

Prioritize attention to detail

It’s Disney’s attention to detail that keeps its parks clean and well-maintained, leaving customers to freely enjoy a seamless experience without any problems. 

There are a multitude of retail areas where attention to detail can enhance customer experience. These include providing high-quality products, optimizing layout for customer convenience, and improving customer service.

And who’s applying this principle in retail particularly well? IKEA pays great attention to both its in-store experience and product design. Their store layout is optimized, making it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for. And their products are functional, easy to set up, and aesthetically pleasing. 


 A key piece of learning is repetition as reinforcement, so to wrap things up - here’s a summary!

Disney has established itself as a leader in providing exceptional CX. In analyzing Disney’s approach, retailers can take away key insights and apply them to their own customer experience. These key lessons are:

  • Optimizing employee training

  • Enhancing in-store layout

  • Investing in the right technology

  • Leveraging customer data for a personalized experience

  • Prioritizing attention to detail

Ultimately, CX is the new battleground for retailers looking to stand out, and there’s no better example than a company that creates magical moments on a daily basis. Disney may not be a ‘pure’ retailer, but retailers can sure learn a lot from Disney. 

Ready to take your frontline training to the next level? eduMe is the platform of choice for your frontline workforce.

By seamlessly integrating into existing work tools and engaging users with bite-sized lessons when they need it most, eduMe optimizes your workforce without any hassle. Companies that have chosen us to improve their training are already reaping the benefits, including a 66% increase in sales and a 10% increase in customer ratings.