You might be familiar with this sight on the streets: People anywhere from age 10 to 30+ concentrating intently on their smartphone screen, as if they’re taking a video or a picture, occasionally swiping their finger in upward motions. People walking in herds or alone; especially concentrated around various landmarks downtown. Chances are they are the latest users of Pokemon GO, released as a free app on Apple iOS and Android has taken the world by storm, catapulting itself since it’s launch two weeks ago to #1 on both app stores, greater daily active users than Twitter, Instagram, and other social media outlets.
This video on the other hand directly illustrates the power of the game to draw people to a geographic location. Taken at Central Park (NYC) the reports of an appearance of a valuable Pokemon caused a mini-stampede!
But, what is it exactly?
Pokemon GO is the first major smartphone video game installment of a billion + franchise spanning the last twenty years. It was generally restricted in the past to dedicated handheld Nintendo consoles involving “trainers” who travel the world to catch varied monsters called Pokémon — rats, dragons, and other cartoon characters — and use these critters to train and fight each other…still following along?
Interestingly, its userbase is not typically your adolescents and teenagers, in fact, considering the heyday of the Pokemon game series was around 15 years ago, the most prominent userbase is 20-35-year-olds. Early reports also suggest that more than 40% of adults who have downloaded the game are 25 and older. Nostalgia amongst these older Millenials has been cited as a major driver for its smashing success.
Unlike previous versions of the game that were self-contained within an imaginary universe, this utilizes “Augmented Reality” and GPS to overlay the game mechanisms directly on top of physical streets and landmarks in the city. Which means players have to walk/bike/drive extensively across the streetscape to track down the Pokemon and are especially visiting pre-identified landmarks (e.g: Gore Park, Churches, City Hall and other landmarks have special value) where Pokemon cluster in higher numbers and value.
The game officially launched in July and has shot to the top of app store rankings. There are several opportunities for businesses to engage with this foot traffic, especially in concentrated downtown districts or near prominent landmarks.
Here are some suggestions from other communities:
Location, Location, Location: While Pokemon can generally appear anywhere on a street or physical location, the developers of the game are also utilizing crowdsourced maps from other games they’ve previously worked on, in particular, Ingress. This means that major landmarks (Municipal Buildings, Churches, Malls, Public Art) and points of interest (businesses) around the city are already pre-identified as a “Pokestops”, where players can get special game-play enhancing items. Similarly, Pokémon gyms are places where trainers can battle each other with their virtual monsters to gain control on behalf of their virtual team. If your business is near one of these hotspots, it might be easier to take advantage of the foot traffic.
Lure in the Users: Businesses are utilizing creative physical advertising (e.g: Chalk boards welcoming users to your business vs being seen as a nuisance, discounts for teams within the game) & social media: posting screenshots of Pokemon in your area to bring in the foot traffic and incentivizing your customers for tagging you in their posts.The game also has an in-game feature called “lure” which for a $0.99 charge publicly signals the availability of extra Pokemon and subsequently players to your immediate vicinity for the next 30 minutes.Buzzfeed and Forbes have stories out with examples of businesses with successful creative marketing. As an example, via the Forbes article: “Food and drink sales spiked by about 30 percent compared with a typical weekend, according to pizzeria manager Sean Benedetti. It was part luck—the game chooses which public locations to imbue with special significance in its virtual world—but there was also savvy strategy. Benedetti, 29, spent about $10 on “Lure Modules,” an in-game purchase that attracts Pokémon to a specified location. Players soon picked up on the fact that L’inizio’s was well worth visiting. “People are coming out of the woodwork because of this game,” he said.”Anecdotally, we’ve heard similar success rates in Hamilton of a several of users showing up after a lure drop. Businesses can also pre-advertise timeslots where you will be putting out lures. Alternatively, businesses who aren’t comfortable with the game are also offering % discounts or free drinks to users themselves who offer to throw in lures while they are at the establishment.
Allow users to recharge with water and charging stations. Specifically for food and beverage providers, the game is high on battery usage, needing players to require a battery refuel. In the heat of the summer, a free water break will easily lead to walk-ins sticking around to for a full meal, drink or retail purchases!
Get recognized as a Pokespot. It has been hinted by the developer that they hope to monetize the game further by allowing businesses to pay to be sponsored as a special in game location. Currently, you can also self-submit a request to the developers to be recognized as a landmark.
Join the Movement! Business owners and staff can post about Pokemon they’ve caught on their location (especially if they are considered “rare”), engage with users on social media via hashtags, identify themselves with one of the three teams within the game. You can also use the app’s in-game camera to take pictures of Pokémon in your business.
Before we conclude the blog, there is an inevitable “Is Pokemon GO a temporary fad?” question.
Experts are divided on this subject but the majority are optimistic on its longevity after considering Nintendo’s deep collection of gaming intellectual property that hasn’t moved over to the mobile verse yet. However, regardless of its shelf life as a viral phenomenon, the unprecedented adoption curve has created an immediate opportunity for businesses to open their doors and build bonds with brand new foot traffic for a low cost.
Enhancing retail foot traffic has been a major advocacy goal for our Chamber and the impetus for our ongoing leadership on Urban Renewal and Transportation Infrastructure issues.
Even if Pokemon Go traffic fades after several months from now, the customers that you meet today are going to remember you tomorrow.
Thank you to Huzaifa Saeed from the Hamilton, Ontario Chamber of Commerce for allowing us to share his article.