Walt Disney scales loyalty program with Oracle

Walt Disney Studios, which owns fan-favourite brands that also include Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar, is undergoing a transformation of its loyalty program to better engage with members through new channels and to capture data in order to deliver a better experience. The Disney Movie Insiders program was actually launched back in 2003 and was primarily built for the in-home DVD and Blu-ray market.

The aim was to create a direct connection with Disney fans, offering them rewards for their purchases. Ruth Walker, VP of CRM at Walt Disney Studios, was speaking at Oracle Live recently, where she explained that in 2020 the loyalty program needed to be deeper and broader, requiring a new approach to technology and data. She said:

I’m so excited to be part of this team, as it’s really an opportunity to build a CRM engine for the studio.

Disney Movies Insider And is a very popular programme and is very beloved by the members that are engaged. However, we really needed to upgrade the technology of the program and we also really felt like it was a great opportunity to be able to not only work on loyalty, but also use it as a way to reach our best customers. Have a direct conversation with them. Because in our in-home and theatrical markets, we don’t own that point of sale. It’s really through our downstream partners that those movies are delivered to our customers.

This was really a great opportunity to reach across, because our fans want to have a direct relationship with the brand that they love. Under Disney we have Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, our Walt Disney animation films – these are movies that people think of, they love and are part of their memories. So we wanted to build a mechanism so that we could establish that direct relationship.
Disney is using Oracle CrowdTwist to support this effort, with the newly established loyalty program launching last year. Oracle acquired loyalty marketing software provider CrowdTwist back in 2019.

Walker explained that data has been the primary focus of the program this far and is driving a lot of the development “under the hood”. The Blu-ray and DVD market still exists and there are still mechanisms to earn points from purchasing Disney titles in that format – namely, a unique code on the inside of the packaging that can be entered into a website to confirm the sale. However, more work is being done on the cinema/theatre side of the equation. She explained:

On the theatrical side, we’ve done a lot of work on upgrading that. We’ve implemented integrated ticketing on our site and on our app. So that for the most seamless customer journey, from purchase to earning points in our programme, we have that available. But we also fundamentally know that most of our customers are going to be purchasing tickets through their favourite cinema.

So we’ve added things in our app – now that we have an app – so that you can scan your movie ticket in order to get points. We also have a number of loyalty linking programmes with partners. These are ways to expand our network and make it easier for our customers to earn points and capture purchases in a variety of ways.
But it’s still early days and the first year of the relaunch, according to Walker, has been focused on getting the basics right. Going forward, Disney plans to become more sophisticated and targeted in its approach. Walker said:

That’s really the beginning. We are really excited to learn deeper with our customers. Typically at the studio we have looked at this more as franchise affinity – so, Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar. But I’m excited about going even deeper and learning about members in terms of their need states and why they buy movie tickets and when they buy movie tickets. Because that’s really going to allow us to be more personalised in our communications with them. And also in terms of offers that we feel at an individual level a member is going to like.

A lot of the investment in Disney Movie Insiders is because we want to scale. We want to capture more of our top bucks customers, which we know really are proportionally great when it comes to our revenue. We really want to reach out and we think that a lot of our scale goals can be achieved by really appealing to younger adults and also multicultural audiences that we know over index in frequent movie going. This is really a great time to not only keep our loyal members that have stuck with us, but also grow the programme to embrace a whole larger group of consumers.

I’m really excited about what the next year is going to bring. We are really looking forward to bringing some of those digital experiences to help engage a new generation of Disney Movie Insider members.
However, Walker is all too aware of the risks in using customer data – especially when those customers have a long standing relationship with a brand like Disney and have high expectations for how the corporation engages. She said:

I don’t think anybody feels like they have enough data. But for us we want to be careful too that we are being respectful of our customers’ data. It’s very important to us that we are. If we are going to capture data, we want to use it in a way that’s going to benefit our members. We want to be very careful about that. But as we go on we will really learn more and more.
Walker described that Disney’s loyalty agenda faces two key challenges – prioritising the opportunity and also establishing relationships with key stakeholders. On the first point, she said:

Overall, [one of the biggest challenges is] fitting our infinite dreams onto a finite roadmap. There are so many possibilities. We are very member first, so we listen a great deal every week. Our team is reviewing with our customer service team, calls and reports about what they’re hearing. We have a customer advisor advisory panel that our research team runs for us. Our insights team is providing social listening.

There’s a lot of information that we get from our memberships about what they want. But then also our technology team is thinking of things that they don’t even know they want that we think are so exciting. Also we want to work with partners that will help expand our reach and our relevance. Trying to fit a lot of that into a finite roadmap is really about prioritisation. A lot of those integrations to make this happen are challenging, just because you’re trying to get all these systems and partners to align.
On the point about stakeholder engagement, Walker said that this was a big reason she was brought onto the team. Walker has worked at Disney Studios for 25 years and has a network from which to engage with. This has been key to building out the loyalty program across the Studio. She explained:

A lot of my career has been working with a very diverse set of partners. That experience has really demonstrated the necessity to establish common ground and credibility and trust. For your partners to devote the necessary resources, and not only do that upfront integration, but keep supporting it, you really have to make sure you’re communicating that you’re going to help them achieve their strategic goals as well. That’s sometimes difficult for a loyalty function because loyalty sometimes doesn’t necessarily hold the key relationship with the partner.

We’ve really had to bring people like myself on board that had those direct relationships or bring people that were trusted by the key stakeholders that have those relationships. That’s why we have an integrated marketing function – so that we can really act as an extension of the marketing arms and distribution arms within our company.

This article originally appeared in Diginomica.

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