Carnival Corporation Cruises Towards IoT

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The cruise company’s chief experience and innovation officer discussed how Carnival Corporation is creating more personalized experiences for guests at Forrester’s CXNYC Forum.




Carnival Corporation & PLC sells more than just cruise packages; it sells memorable experiences.

“When you’re in the vacation business, you’re in the experience business,” John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer at Carnival Corporation, said at the Forrester CXNYC Forum in New York.

Padgett knows a thing or two about delivering prime customer experiences. Before working at Carnival Corporation, he worked for The Walt Disney Company where he led the invention, development, and implementation of the MagicBand: a wearable that lets guests unlock their hotel room door, buy food and merchandise, enter the park, and expedite the lines.

Now, he’s taking a page from his Disney playbook and helping Carnival Corporation create its own end-to-end guest experience wearable: the OCEAN Medallion.

The customer’s cruise journey

Announced at CES 2017, OCEAN stands for the One Cruise Experience Access Network, and this kind of seamless, connected experience is exactly what Padgett and his team are aiming to deliver to Carnival Corporation’s guests.

Padgett knows that the limited vacation time guests have with their family and friends is precious. So, he said it’s up to Carnival Corporation, home to brands like Carnival and Princess Cruises, to maximize this time by increasing personalization and decreasing friction before, during, and after the cruising experience.

Like with the MagicBands, customers receive their OCEAN Medallions before their cruise vacation. The Medallions serve as unique identifiers and are included in guests’ vacation packages; however, guests can purchase complementary accessories for wearing the Medallion, such as watchbands or pendant necklaces.

Once they receive their Medallion, guests can go through the OCEAN Ready experience where they fill out an online profile and indicate their preferences. This is all done through a digital portal called OCEAN Compass. Through Compass, guests can make reservations for dining experiences, spa treatments, and shore excursions and even upload their necessary passport information.

When vacation time arrives, the Medallion uses Bluetooth low energy and near-field communication to connect with multiple sensors and digital portals throughout the ship. In fact, at the Forrester event, Padgett said that there are about 7,000 sensors, 4,000 portals, and 75 miles of cable aboard a ship.

But this isn’t the industry’s average use of beacon technology. At CES 2017, Michael Jungen, VP of design and technology for guest experience and innovation at Carnival Corporation, said this model flips the traditional beacon experience upside down. Instead of having stationary beacons with mobile readers, he explained, the Medallions serve as mobile beacons and the sensors and portals throughout the ship are the stationary readers.

Through this combination of technology, guests can use the Medallion to board the ship quickly, unlock their cabin door, and purchase food or merchandise. They can also use Compass and its digital concierge tool, OCEAN Concierge, to make additional reservations, play games, interact with digital displays throughout the ship, locate travel companions, or just view their itinerary. In addition, Compass can use guest and behavioral data to make recommendations, like shore excursion suggestions. Plus, it’s available across multiple touchpoints, including guests’ mobile devices, in-room TVs, and interactive display portals throughout the ship.

“It’s all about taking the experience up a couple of notches,” Padgett said at the Forrester event.

But Compass isn’t just for guests; it’s a staff tool, too. Crewmembers can use the tool to communicate with guests and assist them with reservations or requests. For instance, a guest can use a feature called “Here and Now” to order select foods or beverages and have a crewmember deliver them to their current location. Or, they can use a feature called “There and Then” to have a crewmember deliver a beverage to a certain location at a certain time, such as a pre-show drink when guests arrive at the ship’s theater. Staff can also use Compass to provide surprise-and-delight moments for guests, as well as drive operational efficiency, such as by seeing the number of open tables at a restaurant or how many rooms need maintenance.

While Padgett said it can be easy to view the customer experience and the backend operations as separate entities, he said they actually go hand-in-hand. If the operations run smoothly, then the guest will have a better experience, he explained. And if they have a frictionless experience, he added, then the guests are more likely to spend more and make repeat purchases, which makes shareholders happy.

“Your [customer] experience is only going to be as good as your operational experience,” he said.  

As for the post-cruise portion of the customer journey, guests can view vacation photos through the Compass Constellation feature and share them on social media. They can also watch OCEAN’s new media series, including Vacation Creation or Good Spirits. These series also serve as acquisition tools for new customers.

The inner workings of the ship

From a backend perspective, the OCEAN Compass is built on a series of layers. At CES 2017, Jungen, another Disney veteran, said the first layer of the OCEAN ecosystem is the interaction layer, which connects the Medallion to the guests and crew through Compass. Then, there’s the experience layer, he explained, which embodies all of the dining, entertainment, relaxation, and activity options guests can have onboard the ship, at the ship’s destinations, and through content. Carnival Corporation can change and update this list over time.

“Once it’s in place, it’s absolutely limitless,” Jungen said at CES.

On top of the experience layer is the signature service layer, he continued, which consists of OCEAN Concierge and OCEAN Ready. The final layers, he said, are the Medallion itself and the “experience ecosystem’s” operating system.

Even the design of the Medallion itself is frictionless and personalized. The token-sized wearable snaps into a number of complementary accessories without any screws or tools. And if the medallion isn’t inserted securely, it will adjust itself, Padgett noted at Forrester’s CXNYC event. It’s also waterproof, doesn’t need to be charged, and comes personalized with the guest’s name, cruise ship, sailing date, and in the color of their choice.

At both CES and Forrester’s CXNYC event, Padgett compared OCEAN to a smartphone. With a smartphone, there’s the phone itself (the hardware), the operating system, and the apps that sit on top, he explained. OCEAN works the same way. The ship serves as the hardware, he added, OCEAN and its ecosystem serves as the operating system, and all of the activities and guest engagement opportunities serve as the apps.

Following its innovation North Star

During his Forrester presentation, Padgett said Carnival Corporation has been working on OCEAN for about three years, with the first year being dedicated to “crystallizing” and articulating the vision.

“Once senior leadership can engage in a vision, they can’t go back because they’ve seen it,” he said. “But if you haven’t seen it, you’re not committed.”

But cruisers won’t have to wait long to experience the technology. Carnival Corporation plans to officially debut its OCEAN experience on its Princess Cruises ships in November.

Padgett said it was important for Carnival Corporation to offer the Medallion and OCEAN experience to everyone as opposed to an elite segment. Failing to do so, he said, would create two different guest experiences and further burden the crew.

Still, guests don’t have to fully participate in the OCEAN experience if they don’t want to. According to the Princess Cruises website, all guests must carry their Medallion while onboard the ship; however, they can switch their privacy settings to “safety only” to avoid leveraging its features.

As for guests who are concerned about privacy, the Princess Cruises website says that the Medallion itself doesn’t contain any personal information, only a guest’s profile picture. So, if someone finds a lost Medallion and tries to use it, Carnival Corporation can see if he or she doesn’t match the associated image. The site also says that all of the data is encrypted and that guests can opt out of the OCEAN experience at any time.

Even though the official launch date is in sight, Padgett considers this the start of Carnival Corporation’s innovation journey rather than the end. When it comes to innovation, Padgett views it as a longer term strategy play and not something that should be done just for innovation’s sake.

“Innovation is not something you do,” he said. “Innovation is a method to achieving your strategy.”  





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