Pokémon Go Includes Small Business

Initially one might think it a stretch that a virtual reality game, which appeals to a ‘gamer’ demographic, could gain such widespread acceptance among other groups.

Yet, Pokémon Go seems to have done just that. Today, it is not only capturing the zeitgeist of millennials at play, small firms are beginning to see the advantages as to how to capitalize on the craze for business. In fact, after a little over a month since its inception in the U.S., market research shows that it’s not a passing fad and that the hype is the real deal.

Case studies demonstrate that Pokémon Go can attract customers and boost sales for small businesses, particularly retail.

VoIP as a Catalyst

This phenomenon originated online in Japan in 1996, which provided gamers with the rules of play to catch, train and trade 151 creatures to become a Pokémon master. The franchise has continued to evolved over the years by reinventing itself regularly, so its core group would not lose interest. Many iterations followed and most notably in 2007, the Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl games took a leap forward and reenergized the game play.

Then with the introduction of a Wi-Fi connection, Pokémon players around the globe began to communicate with each other for the first time via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) — in essence breathing new life into the franchise.

VoIP-capable Pokémon games became a big hit, where users could  engage while chatting with new friends via this new communication channel. And while widely successful with fanboys and fangirls, it wasn’t until Pokémon Go was introduced in 2016 that small business owners began to sit up and take serious notice. Perhaps for nostalgic reasons since many remembered their time spent with the game as kids, or perhaps due to savvy business acumen, Pokémon Go is no longer just for recreation.

Foot Traffic

By now, it’s common to spot a Pokémon Go player. They’re sort of like extra cast members from the Walking Dead. They meander with a awkward stop & go gait as they attempt to catch Pokémon, which surface as augmented reality characters on their smartphones.

For business marketers, they quickly saw an opportunity to redirect those avid users to their shops, dining establishments and other local places of business.

The Pokémon Go mantra “gotta catch ’em all” now serves dual purpose. For gamers it refers to catching the characters, for business owners it can be used to capture more customers and boost revenue.

According to Revel System, a company that builds mobile point-of-sale systems for iPads, their research found that 82% of businesses with nearby PokéStops reported a spiked increase in weekly foot traffic.

Chris Ciabarra, co-founder and CTO of Revel Systems, says:

If I were a store owner with a PokéStop nearby and I was attempting to increase traffic at a specific point in the day, I’d activate a Pokémon lure on the PokéStop.

Ciabarra adds:

Lures attract Pokemon for 30 minutes, and can significantly increase traffic, which is especially good to use during slow times. It’s an easy and cost-effective way to use technology to your advantage. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel to increase sales, you are using what you have access to in order to generate results.

More Likely to Frequent Small Businesses

Extending Revel’s findings to a wider audience, the Slant Marketing agency conducted a survey of 500 Pokémon Go players to learn how they engaged with businesses while out hunting for Pokémon. Their study reinforced the fact that PG is leading players to patronize small, local businesses they otherwise might not have have had interest.

Slant Marketing’s research discovered that most Pokémon trainers play from 1 to 3 hours each day, most prominently during weekday evenings and weekend afternoons [prime shopping time.] In addition to retail, players visited restaurants, and it was found that 56% reported visiting local operations versus national chains.

Chris McGuire, VP and general manager of Slant, says:

Whenever we see new technologies — or existing technologies used in new ways — in our culture, we look for how we can engage consumers to interact with brands.

McGuire adds:

That search starts by finding out how consumers are currently interacting with brands/businesses using the new technology, which is why we were excited to conduct the survey of Pokémon Go users. We hope its results will allow business owners to better understand players and how they can use it to help engage customers with their brand.

Ways for Small Business to Capitalize on Pokémon Go

Small businesses can benefit from PG by deploying a few tactics that Business Daily News suggests are effective and cost-efficient marketing tools for business owners.

1. Host a Lure Party

A digital item placed at a PokéStops is called a “lure module.” Once activated, lure modules will attract wild Pokémon (and, more importantly, players) to that location. Consider purchasing a package of lure modules and advertising a night as a “Pokémon Go Lure Party!” If your business is on or near a PokéStop, hosting a lure party can demonstrate to a new clientele base that you indentify with their interests and preferences.

It’s an inexpensive form of marketing. To start, create a “Pokémon Go” account by downloading it for free from the Google Play or the App store. Then buy a package of lure modules for a few dollars [this is real cash, not virtual], and install them near the closest PokéStop to your store, restaurant or place of business. Each lure is active for 30 minutes, so the trick is to use them in succession to create a lure party that lasts as long as you’d like. Then coupling a lure party with some special promotional deals and discounts could be a great way to bring in some extra revenue.

2. Tie Your Social Media to “Pokémon Go”

You can increase your visibility on social media with PG, while showing your followers you are glued into this popular phenomenon. Offer your customers ‘dollar-off’ discounts when they shoot and upload a screenshot of a Pokémon found in your establishment. Post those offers on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn to widen the net. This not only reinforces your brand online, but it also motivates customers to perhaps visit your place of business for the first time.

3. “Pokémon Go” Gyms

A PG ‘Gym’ is where players battle their Pokémon in a bid to gain control of the location for their team. [Note: think of how Foursquare use to appoint ‘Sheriff’s years ago.] So if your business is closer to a Pokémon Gym versus a PokéStop, consider hosting a gym tournament that pit winners against winners. Then, on game day, those players who successfully become gym leaders [with proof of gamer ID] will be entitled to PG discounts.

Not only is this a unique opportunity to harness those intense “Pokémon Go” rivalries for your business, but also allows you as a business owner to get in front of the gym leaders’ teammates who will join the engagement, most likely as full-paying customers.

4. Poké-Hunt

Hosting a neighborhood Poké-hunt that starts and ends at your business’s doorstep is a strategy that’s not contingent on the proximity of gyms or PokéStops. Instead, by deploying this tactic, all you have to do is advertise the date and time of your family-friendly Poké-hunt, wait for players to gather, and then depart together for a physical and virtual ‘scavenger-type-of-hunt’ around your local community.

Your business staff members could even join the hunters in branded t-shirts to advertise your companies throughout the entire event. At the finale, schedule a party where you invite the participants back to your establishment for a wrap-up session to discuss and compare the hunters’ respective hauls. This is an especially effective tactic for restaurants, where meals and cocktails can be served.

Is Pokémon Go a “GO” for Your Business?

At first blush, PG might have seemed extraneous from any type of business application. But hopefully today’s blog has not only given you pause to look a little closer, but also to deploy some of the tactics outlined here to build your clientele and boost sales.

Since the game is geographically based, it’s not difficult to start thinking up new applications. Consider holding brain-storming sessions to create some additional ways to use the game to attract local players to your place of business, and hopefully convert them into paying customers. And by all means, let us know your creative ideas and what successes you have, so I can do a follow-up story in the months ahead.

Ron is part of the marketing team at Telzio, covering everything from tips and tech for growing businesses to customer success stories for the Telzio blog.