Brands and retailers are streamlining the ability for cruise passengers and theme park visitors to make seamless purchases that complement the experience.

As both destinations and experiences, Disney’s theme parks and cruise companies such as Starboard Cruise Services are focusing on experience-oriented retail. These companies often utilize radio-frequency identification (RFID) wristbands, which house all of a customer’s data—including preferred payment methods—in one easy-to-reach place. But perhaps more importantly, theme park visitors and cruise passengers spend ample time in one enclosed space. Essentially “held captive” on board a liner or in the confines of a park, many consumers turn to shopping—either to shake up a routine or to avoid standing in long lines at an amusement park. In turn, retailers and brands in these unique spaces are innovating new ways to facilitate and stimulate more transactions, creating interactive retail opportunities that lure in potential customers.

1) Disney, a trailblazer in experience retail, optimized for seamless purchases at its theme parks and is now imbuing the magic of Disneyland in its brick-and-mortar stores.

For decades, Disney has stood at the forefront of experience-based commerce. Its cartoons, beloved on a global scale, are the favorite stuffed animals and toys of many, and its theme parks invite Disney fans to live in the world of its characters. In 2013, Disney adopted RFID wristbands—“MagicBands”—at its parks, which house each visitor’s data on a bracelet: a MagicBand acts as keys to hotel rooms, park admission tickets and fastpasses, and each is linked to a visitor’s credit card so they can make seamless purchases throughout the property. Because each guest also has a Disney Experience Profile that includes all past purchases and preferences, Disney can send custom offers.

A leader in venue-related retail, Disney parks are full of souvenirs and gifts ranging from home goods, clothing, toys and luxury products from around the world. Epcot’s World Showcase, for instance, houses 11 pavilions, each inspired by a different country with corresponding items for sale—Main Street, U.S.A. is a one-stop shop for nostalgia-inducing American goods. Other shopping experiences include The LEGO Store, Orlando Harley-Davidson and Disney’s Days of Christmas. Taking a break from the long lines for theme park rides, shopping is also one of the only activities guests don’t need a ticket for at Disney’s parks.

Disney is now incorporating more elements of the theme park in its brick-and-mortar stores to fight falling foot traffic and diminishing retail sales—in Disney’s fiscal year ending in October 2016, retail sales dipped 6% to $1.71 billion and in the first nine months of 2017, it plunged 10%, down to $1.21 billion. Now, the company is reimagining the in-store experience to mirror a trip to Disneyland.

The new store design features a minimalized floor plan without its traditionally elaborate displays, and includes a movie-size screen that streams the biweekly Disneyland parade (during the livestream, sales associates put out mats for children to sit on and wheel out carts of souvenirs, reproducing the Disneyland experience). These screens are also interactive—if a child is celebrating her birthday, she can watch Donald Duck sing to her. Others can “fight” a virtual Darth Vader. Though inventory levels are lower, the stores are now more integrated with ecommerce—sales associates can also direct shoppres online if something is not available in-store. Disney is also doubling the items it sells online, with an emphasis on growing its product assortment for adults, and the company will stock its best-selling online items in the stores.

For a brand founded on entertainment, this new brick-and-mortar concept allows Disney to emphasize its strengths and combat its weaknesses. Disney began testing its new model at four locations before broadening to more, in order to first experiment and build up a positive track record before uprooting its retail experience entirely. In January 2018, Disney also announced it would end its licensing agreement with Netflix in 2019 and start its own video streaming service—this will allow the company to feature its own video streaming brand in-store, which will likely amplify its shopping experience and attract more in-store customers to subscribe. Stores could also screen new movie releases, which would bring in more foot traffic and boost sales.

2) Cruises are growing their retail square footage to offer exclusive products and shoppable experiences that entice more passengers to spend.

Like Disney’s theme parks, cruises create an opportunity for retailers and brands on board to tap into passengers in a confined space and conduct higher sales per capita. In 2017, Starboard Cruise Services, the largest cruise company worldwide owned by LVMH, rebooted its Carnival cruise liners with two decks of shops. The company is planning to incorporate the expanded retail space to other ship models by 2022—up to 360,000 square feet of ship retail per liner—which will bring more than 750 brands, often in the realm of luxury, to 90 different ships.

Many brands and retailers already sell exclusive items aboard cruises, but Carnival’s shops—including Pandora, Victoria’s Secret, Swarovski and Kate Spade—are starting to host more interactive experiences, which the company refers to as “retailtainment.” Some ships will offer passengers the opportunity to make their own jewelry—others will host designer fashion trunk shows. Passengers will be able to have High Tea with Tiffany & Co. at Sea, and eat cake and drink champagne with Kate Spade when the store unveils a new collection.

Similar to Disney, each passenger on the Carnival cruise liners has a bracelet-like device called an OceanMedallion, which personalizes and facilitates on- and off-board experiences: setting up port activities, listing on-board interests and food and beverage preferences, unlocking their rooms, ordering items on-demand. And, just like airport shopping, cruise-goers fall victim to “captive retail.” They are stuck on the ship, have nowhere else to go, and often little else to do, aside from shopping.

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