Small businesses: 5 reasons to tap into the Pokémon Go craze

Technology trends come and go, but rarely does one catch on as quickly as Pokémon Go. Released just last month (July 2016) it has now been downloaded by over 100 million people worldwide, receiving an unprecedented amount of media attention.

Just in case you have missed all the hype, Pokémon Go is a mobile phone game based on the classic 90s phenomenon of Pokémon, which involves collecting Pokémon characters, building up a team and taking on other players’ teams. What’s got people excited is the way the game merges digital with the real world, made possible using Augmented Reality technology. Using the GPS and camera on each player’s mobile phone, the Pokémon characters appear on the map of the player’s surrounding location and then, once the player gets close enough to attempt a capture, appear on the screen as if they were right in front of them.

So far so good – if you’ve got the free time to chase pixels across parks. But if you’re wondering what possible relevance Pokémon Go has to your business, here are five things to consider:

  1. Your customers are (probably) playing

Pokémon Go has a wide appeal. Yes, it’s popular with teens. But a recent survey1 revealed that 46% of players are aged 18-29, with a further 25% aged 30-50. Over 50s actually make up 6% of players! Perhaps surprisingly, women are keener than men, accounting for 63% of players. So your customers could be playing!

  1. It’s surprisingly easy to get involved

Pokémon Go offers potential to businesses both big and small. At the top end, the game’s developers, Niantic Labs, are in talks with a number of brands2 to introduce sponsored in-game locations, with McDonalds Japan the first partnership to be officially announced. But for smaller businesses, there’s a still big opportunity to get consumers to take notice of you by engaging with their passion.

Want to entice customers into your shop, café or restaurant? Players will go where the Pokémon are. To get these virtual reality creatures into your real-world location, you need to join the game and buy a ‘lure’3 (costing approximately 79p). Can’t be bothered joining yourself? Offer a reward (e.g. a free coffee) for any customer who drops a lure on your premises. Even offering players a rest-stop for their tired legs is paying off for smart businesses. Whatever you choose to do, don’t forget to publicise it on social media.

  1. If you don’t, your competitors will

Businesses around the world are already jumping on the wagon, with Tanghui, a high end Chinese restaurant in Sydney, announcing that they will be activating lures daily at lunch and dinner times.

Another example is Virgin Active, the UK chain of health and fitness clubs, which is using the Poké-obsession as a motivational benefit, creating the first Pokémon Go-based 5K run in London. And as this article shows, lots of businesses are just using their sandwich boards out on the pavement and seeing a surge of Pokémon fans coming in.

  1. It’s your chance to get in on virtual reality

Virtual reality and Augmented Reality, or VR and AR respectively, are emerging technology areas that create ways to merge digital with physical locations. Here on YRB, we’ve talked before about how small businesses can utilise Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, for example for educational purposes to showcase product and services in a new way and for more creative customer interactions. But new technology always requires something to take it into the mainstream. Pokémon Go is a good example of how AR and VR technology is gaining widespread use.

  1. It’s here to stay

No, really. How long people will want to chase Pokémon is debatable, and probably depends on how effectively Niantic roll out game developments to keep them interested. But what Pokemon offers will remain. As Jamie Gallo, President of ad agency Wunderman New York, says, “Pokémon Go essentially breaks down the wall between technology and real-world experience. So as brands drive people into new locations, there’s a real opportunity for them to do more ambient marketing that isn’t exclusively digital.” Business has waited a long time for this kind of technology – it won’t be fading away any time soon.