NRF Big Show 2016: Disney - It’s not just our customers who are changing, it’s our workforce

Disney retail executive vice-president says that the firm had to re-think its in-store training programmes for a digitally enabled millennial workforce

Disney is seeing an increase in the number of digitally savvy millennials joining their stores as “cast members”, according to Disney retail and consumer products executive vice-president Paul Gainer.

Speaking at NRF 2016 in New York, Gainer claimed the firm is adapting its in-store experience to reflect both the customers who expect to use digital and the millennials who are increasingly joining the workforce.

“Not only is our consumer make-up changing, but for the first time more than 50% of cast members in our stores are millennials,” said Gainer.

“We’ve had to think about that and how we train and develop them, how we use technology, and how we provide the information that makes them more successful on the front lines.”

Customer expectation has changed, and Gainer said a combination of consumer focus on mobile and online has forced Disney to adapt its in-store and online experience.

“Mobile is playing a much bigger role and, similar to industry trends, recently around half of traffic and a quarter of our business has been coming through mobile platforms,” said Gainer. “They’re using mobile in a variety of different ways.”

For Disney Retail, more than two-thirds of consumers using mobile to purchase goods have made a recent purchase in brick and mortar stores. More than a third of those using mobile have also made a purchase online, and many are using mobile in store.

However, Gainer said that because more than 95% of the merchandise sold in Disney stores is exclusive to bricks and mortar, the use of mobile in store is not for “showrooming” or price comparison, but more for extended franchise experiences.

“Omni-channel or seamless channel is a great concept, but it’s only one part of what we’re looking to do to meet the needs of the future consumer,” he said.

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Gainer explained that his division recently underwent some restructuring of its vertical business, and consolidated its different brick and mortar offerings and e-commerce under one Disney Retail division to ensure an easier single customer view.

“In our division is the consumer products and interactive media. Not only have we combined all physical and digital together, but we’ve taken virtually every area in our organisation and created a franchising orientation,” said Gainer.

“It’s about the brand and about the franchises because what we know about our guests and our consumer is that they love a character, they love a franchise, they love a story and they connect to that.”

Disney’s data insight

The utilisation of data is becoming increasingly important for gaining consumer insight. Gainer explained it was the use of data, rather than the volume, that allowed businesses to really connect with consumers, provided they utilise the data properly.

“How are you going to apply that with the sole goal of making that consumer experience and connection to your brand great?” said Gainer. “The future consumer is going to expect a quality experience and we want to deliver on that.”

Disney is one of the world’s largest licensees. It’s known for its “unprecedented content” which creates a unique brand experience, but customers are constantly forcing retailers to change.

“We see the content moving forward,” said Gainer. “Our focus really is on guest experience and guest services, and it’s a big part of the heritage of our brand.”

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