Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve heard of Pokemon Go, the wildly popular mobile game. Time will tell if it’s just a flash in the pan but one thing is certain – with Pokemon Go, Nintendo has managed to capitalize on four uber-trends that define modern retail: mobile, geolocation, social media and augmented reality.
Originally popular at the turn of the century, the Pokemon franchise has made a stirring comeback with the free mobile app that allows users to capture Pokemon in the world around them.
I’ve been playing the game since it was launched and if my experience is any indication, Pokemon Go (and other such games likely to follow) will present a golden opportunity for retailers.
Case in point: Last weekend, while visiting friends in New York and looking for a place to eat dinner, our phones weren’t open browsing restaurant reviews or even Google Maps. We were playing Pokemon and chose our dinner spot based on a burger place that doubled as a Pokestop.
For those unfamiliar with the game, a Pokestop can be virtually any landmark, pinpointed by the app’s geolocation feature, where players can collect free items and place a “lure module” which will draw a Pokemon character to the Pokestop location for 30 minutes. This is in turn draws other players to the location and in the process, makes the Pokestop an incredibly popular and valuable location within the game.
We dropped a lure while waiting in line to order, and proceeded to catch Pokemon while waiting for our food. As the Pokemon in the app swarmed to our location, the previously empty restaurant began to fill up, becoming crowded with customers also looking to catch Pokemon while grabbing a bite to eat.
We chose our dinner spot based entirely on that Pokestop, and the restaurant benefitted not only from our business, but from the other players my friends and I helped draw there through the app.
If the food industry can leverage the game to draw traffic, other businesses surely can too. Here are a few suggestions of how retailers might take advantage of Pokemon Go:
- If you’re lucky enough for your business to be near a Pokestop, drop a lure! It’s an easy, practically guaranteed way to drive foot traffic to your store. Lures are in-app purchases that offer 30 minutes of Pokemon for an entirely worthwhile investment of 99 cents. One thing we’ve learned over the last few weeks, if Pokemon are present, people will come.
- Consider developing a Pokemon rewards or incentive program. What if the restaurant I visited offered me a free beverage for placing a lure module? I wouldn’t have hesitated, and based on the customers who followed my friends and I in the store in pursuit of Pokemon, the cost of a drink would have been very worthwhile.
- Even if your business isn’t near a Pokestop and you can’t place lures to drive foot traffic, there are ways drive players (potential shoppers) inside. A sidewalk sign welcoming Pokemon players or offering free bottles of water, for example. Every touchpoint can lead to a transaction and by appealing to players, retailers can create brand loyalty and may even drive sales.
- Support the game’s players by moving relevant merchandise towards the front of the store. If you carry phone chargers, water bottles, sunscreen and other “grab-and-go” merchandise, players who may only be visiting your store for the Pikachu in the men’s section may be driven to make a purchase.
- Stay current on Pokemon Go updates. The game’s developers may offer the option to sponsor Pokestops soon, allowing retailers to easily drive traffic and potentially monetize that traffic. By staying tuned in, you can cash in on this opportunity as soon as it’s available.
In the summer of Pokemon Go, every interaction with players presents an opportunity for commerce, even if that opening may not be immediately obvious. With the popularity of the characters and by maximizing the mobile, social, augmented reality and geolocation trends, the app has taken off, becoming more popular than Twitter.
Retailers would be wise to implement any of the aforementioned suggestions. It can help drive traffic to your store and help a brand appear cool to the coveted millennial and Gen Z generations.
As someone who falls in that demographic, I’m well on my way to “catching ‘em all,” but are you ready to catch my business?