Take a Closer Look at the Shop Disney Parks Appby Gregg Jacobs, contributing writer
Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger, in talking about Disney, famously said, "The heart and soul of the company is innovation." During his tenure, we have seen the company make great use of modern technology in bringing its product to consumers.
In this vein, Disney has taken great advantage of the Internet, as well as the explosion of smartphones in the last several years. The most obvious example is "My Disney Experience." Through this "magical" smartphone application, you can manage your entire Walt Disney World vacation, including your hotel reservations, dining priority seatings and those all-important Fastpass+ reservations.
In continuing its takeover of your smartphone, Disney came out with a companion app of sorts late last year, called "Shop Disney Parks." Unlike the Disney Store app, the Shop Disney Parks app allows you to purchase real-time inventory sold at the retail stores in Walt Disney World.
The Shop Disney Parks app makes the experience of shopping for your favorite Walt Disney World merchandise easier. The app also makes it more fun by turning the experience into something of a game.
It's 2:00 in the afternoon. I've just enjoyed a morning of fun at the Magic Kingdom. Before heading back to my hotel for a dip in the pool then an evening at the Animal Kingdom, I duck into the Emporium on Main Street, USA to pick up that 2016 Walt Disney World logo sweatshirt I've been eyeing.
I find the sweatshirt and still love it, but they don't have it in my size. Should I just give up, or have a cast member check the backstock and call around to other shops to see if one of them might have it? With the Shop Disney Parks app, I don't have to do that anymore.
When you first open the app, you see the intro screen, which essentially acts as the search function.
The selections of categories are usually related to general products, as well as the current season and current movies, TV shows, and so on. that Disney has out. In a recent example, choices offered at the intro screen were:
- New at Disney Parks
- Valentine Gifts
- Celebrate 2016
- Vacation FUNdamentals (suitcases and such)
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
You can click on any of these and see a screen full of products related to your selection.
There is also a search bar on top, where you can type in the name or category of any of the thousands of items that are available. This is where we're headed.
Type "2016 sweatshirt" into the search bar, tap the magnifying glass, and voila—the sweatshirt appears in the result page. At $39.95, this is the same price I just saw at the Emporium.
The available sizes are listed underneath. Tap "Medium."
There are a number of options to choose from in completing a purchase, but let's go to my personal favorite, "Find on Map."
The Find on Map feature lets you see where an item is available at WDW. In our current example, my plan was to visit the Animal Kingdom later in the day. I navigate to see if the sweatshirt is for in stock there, and see a checkmark over the Animal Kingdom on the map.
With the knowledge that The Outpost Shop has the sweatshirt in stock, I can now relax and enjoy my time at the pool, knowing that the perfect sweatshirt, in the right size, is waiting for me.
When I'm ready, I can head over to the Animal Kingdom, make a quick stop at The Outpost Shop, pick up the sweatshirt and then I'm off to see Rivers of Light.
While I believe the Find on Map feature is the most fun, there are actually several choices in terms of ordering and shipping. If you don't have to have your item immediately, when you come to the screen with ordering options, you can choose "Order Now." If your credit card and shipping information are on file with Disney (you can add them through the app if they aren't), these will pop up, and you can very simply select "purchase" at the bottom of the screen, and your item will be shipped to your home. When at the checkout screen, you can also select "Edit Delivery Options."
If you need to have an item shipped, you can choose either Ground or Express shipping.
If you are physically located in a Disney park, you can have the item shipped to the park gate. To select this option, you must be in that particular park and there must be at least three hours before park closing. You will be charged on ordering, and your package will be waiting for you at the front gate within a few hours.
As Disney resort hotel veterans know, Disney also offers the option in its shops to have your purchase sent back to your hotel room if you are staying on property. If you have a valid resort reservation and are logged into the app, you can have your item sent back to your resort hotel. Pickup is typically at a counter within the hotel gift shop, and is generally available by the end of the following day.
The search function will work no matter where you are located. That can be inside a Disney park, in your hotel, or in your living room in Peoria, Illinois (I did our example while snowbound at home in New Jersey).
The app works based on product availability and where in the resort they are located, as opposed to where you are and how far away you are from the resort. If, in our example, you made it all the way home before finally deciding you had to have that sweatshirt, you can use the app just like you did while in Orlando, and Mickey will very happily ship the sweatshirt to you at home.
Also, while I won't reimburse you for the difference if any of you prove me wrong, pricing should be the same whether using the app or buying at one of the shops. I spot-checked this while at WDW and found this to be the case. In fact, I'd recommend checking the app before you make any purchase. In our sweatshirt example, the app actually offered me a discount that may or may not have been available on property.
From this reviewer, the app gets a solid 9 out of 10. I don't believe anything replaces the experience of walking into the Emporium, Art of Disney, or any classic Disney shop, but this great innovation is a definite plus in enhancing the shopping part of your Walt Disney World experience. I found it extremely easy to use (almost too easy), and far more bug-free than My Disney Experience when it first launched.
I had fun playing with the map function, and for my own experience, there were a few collectible items I was interested in buying on my last visit, and I used the app to see which shops carried them. I did this before I left for my trip, and in every instance, the items were available exactly as promised. The only downsides were a slightly cumbersome search function and some minor limitations on delivery capabilities.
- The app fills a definite need and fills it well. In the past, it was a largely a matter of "what you see is what's available." Cast members were always willing to help, but there was only so much they could do to find what you wanted. Now, anything that is sold is any corner of the kingdom is available to you.
- The search function will work no matter where you are located, whether at WDW or not. The app shows you in-resort product availability and location.
- The multitude of shipping options while at the World (pretty much anywhere on property or to your home) is terrific.
- The full selection of parks merchandise is now essentially available to you online. The Disney Store app also has parks merchandise available, but not nearly as extensive a selection as the Shop Disney Parks app.
- The search function, while good, isn't perfect. While testing, I found I often had to use exact wording, so multiple tries were sometimes needed. Often, a search would also turn up items that weren't related to the item I was seeking (I smell a little Disney marketing going on—"if you like this item, you'll also like this one"). Also, if the search didn't turn up what I wanted, going back wasn't easy. I had to delete my search and basically start over again. It wouldn't let me just go back a step.
- The menus at times were a bit confusing (for example, is my item under "Art & Collectibles" or Home & Decor"?). The sheer volume of products can be somewhat daunting in doing a search.
- The shipping options are terrific, but in our example above, would have liked the option of shipping to the Animal Kingdom gate while still at the Magic Kingdom. It would be great if they take that final step and remove all ordering barriers by location.
App at a glance
The app is available both on iOS and Android platforms:
- App Name: Shop Disney Parks
- Seller: Disney Electronic Content, Inc.
- Category: Shopping
- Updated: Feb 4, 2016
- Version: 1.2.0
- Size: 47.3 MB
- Rating: Rated 4+
- Family Sharing: Yes
- Compatibility: Requires iOS 8.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch
- Languages: English
- App Name: Shop Disney Parks
- Offered by: Disney
- Updated: Feb 3, 2016
- Version: 1.2
- Size: 21.0 MB
- Content Ratiing: Everyone
- Compatibility: Requires Android 4.0 and up
- Installs: 100,000 to 500,000
Enjoy the app. I would love to know your thoughts.
As always, Happy Disney Shopping.