If you haven’t heard of Pokémon Go yet, you must be living under a Pokémon-free rock somewhere in the ocean, far away from a gym or Pokéstop.
What is Pokémon Go?
Pokémon Go is an augmented-reality mobile phone game based on the popular video games and animated series. The game allows players to become Pokémon trainers, catch Pokémon and battle with other trainers at gyms.
What is augmented reality?
Pokémon Go is an augmented-reality game. This means that it is based on reality, with a twist. Pokémon Go can add items to your reality. The game uses your location and smartphone camera to insert Pokémon, gyms and Pokéstops into your world. This means that you can find a Pokémon right in your living room (or at your local business). And local landmarks and businesses often are transformed into gyms or Pokéstops.
How does it work?
Once you download the game, you start walking around. (Don’t make me tell you not to Pokémon and drive.) As you walk, you may encounter:
- A wild Pokémon
- Gyms where you can battle other trainers’ Pokémon
- Pokéstops where you can get Pokéballs and other inventory items (such as potions)
- Your Pokémon-crazed neighbors, who are doing the same thing
To catch a Pokémon, you must be in close proximity to it. Once you’re near the Pokémon, you can aim and then throw a Pokéball, which should then open up and catch the Pokémon. Depending on the difficulty level of catching a particular Pokémon, you may have to throw several Pokéballs before you actually catch it.
(Be careful out there. It’s a dangerous Pokéworld with people walking around staring at their phones even more than usual. Last night, I saw a man walking in the middle of a high-traffic road catching a Pokémon.)
And it’s huge. The game has exploded in popularity. Everyone and their mother is playing it.
Pokémon Go is the most popular free app in both the iPhone app store and the Google Play store, surpassing even the most popular social media apps (Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram). And the game, which isn't even technically a Nintendo property, has caused the company's stocks to rise by more than 120 percent since July 6, adding $23 billion to its market value.
Why are we even writing about a Pokémon game?
Believe me, I didn’t think I’d ever be writing an article about Pokémon, but this could be huge for your small business. Many brick-and-mortar shops are already taking advantage of this trend, and so should you. Here’s how others are using the game to their advantage:
While you could ban all Pokémon catching from your store, why not use the game to drive foot traffic to your store? Many local businesses are already using the game to get potential customers inside their stores.
Like this indie clothing store that encouraged passersby to stop in and catch a Pokémon or two while checking out their clothing selection. Or this museum that wrote an entire blog post with screenshots of Pokémon near exhibits.
You will see an increase in foot traffic near your store if you are near a Pokéstop or gym, but there are other ways to lure in Pokémon trainers.
Here’s how small business owners can take advantage of the game:
1. Download it. (It's free.)
2. Create an account.
You can log in with your Google account or create a new Pokémon trainer account. (There were some security issues when signing into Google accounts for iOS users, but these seem to have been addressed Niantic Labs).
3. Check the map.
Walk around the area near your store. If you see Pokémon, gyms or Pokéstops in your area, you can use those to entice new customers to come into your business.
Meet Pidgey and Weedle, our newest hires!
4. Spread the word.
Take screenshots of Pokémon in your shop or nearby gyms and Pokéstops. Post them on social media so your followers know they can come to your business to catch Pokémon or battle it out at a gym.
Don’t forget to create some signage to let people who might walk past your store know you’re Pokémon friendly.
5. Offer Pokémon incentives.
If a consumer plays the game near your store and shares a screenshot on social media with your business tagged in the photo, offer them some sort of discount or small freebie. And advertise your Pokémon promotion on that signage I mentioned in #4.
6. Lure them in.
In the game, players can pay to purchase lures, which will attract Pokémon to the Pokéstop for the next half hour. If your business is near a Pokéstop, you can purchase a lure. Follow these steps to place the lure at the Pokéstop:
- Go to the map
- Tap the Pokéstop
- Tap the white lure slot above the Pokéstop (It looks like a pill)
- Tap the Pokéstop module at the bottom of the screen
- Finally, tap the lure
Don’t forget to share on social media that you have placed a lure near your business and that players can stop in for a break from the heat!
7. Get on Yelp.
Yelp jumped on the Pokémon Go bandwagon and added a filter that allows users to search only for local businesses that are near a Pokéstop. So make sure you've claimed and optimized your business's Yelp page. It is especially important to make sure your address is accurate on Yelp to give yourself the best chance of being featured in case you're near a Pokéstop.
8. Keep an eye out for the option to become a sponsored location.
While you can't currently submit a request to have your business turned into a Pokéstop, you may be able to in the future. Niantic, the company that collaborated with the Pokémon Company to create the game, has mentioned that brick-and-mortar businesses may be able to become sponsored locations in the future. This means you could potentially pay to turn your business into a gym or a Pokéstop, which could consistently bring in new customers.
Pokémon Go is so far only allowing McDonald's locations in Japan to become sponsored locations, but look for this option to be available to small businesses in the future.
Does any of this really matter?
Actually, yes, it does. It might seem like a silly game made for nostalgia-obsessed 90s kids, but this trend could teach us a lot about small business marketing. If you take nothing else away from this article, remember this:
Don’t be afraid of trends. Maybe they seem silly to you, but this app is extremely popular. A huge percentage of people in your area are likely playing the game. Why not get in on the action and make your business memorable for being the one in the area that allowed people to come in and catch Pokémon?
I’m not telling you to jump on every tiny trend that comes around, but when you have the chance to capitalize on something like this, don’t fear it. Use it to your advantage. Maybe you’ll even have a little fun bringing in new customers.