Aravind S
Aravind S 1 September 2016

Pokémon Go: A Blockbuster In The Making For Retailers

The Nintendo’s Pokémon Go, a free augmented reality (AR) based mobile game is on fire. Its popularity has already added billions to Nintendo’s market capitalization.

The installations of the game even surpassed Tinder, the popular dating app. There have also been records of the users spending a lot more time on the game than all popular social media apps including Twitter and Facebook. In US around 25 million users played this game at its peak on a day.

Attracting gaming and technology enthusiasts alike

Pokémon GO’s instant popularity has been a result of nostalgia for the classic 20-year-old cartoon franchise. Since its inception in 1996, the Pokémon brand has enjoyed strong recognition through video games, a card game, an anime series and other media. In addition, because of its unique game mechanics, Pokémon Go is also attracting users who have never played a Pokémon game but those who are keen to try out new technologies.

Augmented Reality (AR) technology is not an unexplored territory. Automobile players like Ford and Audi has allowed users to preview cars with AR apps. Retailers like House of Fraser use AR technology to let consumers scan shoppable windows. Pokémon Go, however, has finally made it an everyday thing and even provides new opportunities for local businesses to capture new customers and bring existing customers back through their doors.

Lure the ‘hunters’

Leave aside the resistance of some retailers to those who visit shops to hunt the virtual monsters. Many shops are attracting the ‘hunters’ by advertising themselves as ‘Poke Stops’, where they can grab new Pokémon balls and up their levels. Local businesses can more aggressively court players by activating a “lure module” feature that attracts virtual Pokémon characters to the store, thereby tempting in nearby players. It is only a matter of time that even the bigger retailers would follow suit. The lure for the hunters combined by Pokémon GO-specific messaging and promotions and mobile wallet offers that players download as they pass by a business while searching for Pokémon could be a new lease of life for bigger brick and mortar stores.

Traditional retailers have already been in a tough position with ecommerce giants eating away at their customer base. These traditional stores have long been deploying the likes of Foursquare, Groupon and LivingSocial to drive traffic by tying promotions to check-ins, using geo-location to provide relevant coupons.

Turn ‘hunt’ to ‘conversions’

However, Pokémon Go did what the likes of Foursquare have been trying to do for years. There hasn’t been another geo-location social platform that can lure so many people all at once! This stems from the sheer popularity of Pokémon franchise because of which the location-based game has captured pop culture’s attention. More importantly, it fuses the real world with the virtual world – a la Foursquare’s check-ins.

It drives people into new locations and provides an opportunity for retailers to do marketing which is more ambient and goes beyond just the digital. For example, they can sponsor a game location or simply put a sign outside the store window advertising it as Pokémon friendly. They can host a hunt in their brick-and-mortar space and even put phone charging points (The game uses GPS which drains a lot of juice!). All of this will only build goodwill with the players, but keep them in the store for a longer period. In other words, keep customers in and happy to increase possibilities of sales conversion.

With all the things that are being done and can be done, retailers should remember not to shoot in the dark. While it is a good idea to lure the hunters, a smarter one would be to reach out to the right hunters in the right location too. The idea is to harness the power of reach and relevance to a creative geo-location platform. This can be done with partners who have access to Telco’s reach and who have the right intelligence to build demographic and behavioral data of the likely footfall in the location. The retailers can then look to even combine their Pokémon offers with their own product offers befitting customer’s persona and needs.

Pokémon GO may only be a tipping point of the iceberg

While Pokémon GO is the current favorite, a few skeptics might dismiss it as a passing fad. A more sustainable idea would be to create a Pokémon-style themed ecosystem where retailers can explore multiple channels – images, videos, voice which would open door to a plethora of opportunities to engage with customers. Customers on the other hand can have fun and value in doing so. Monetisation options are most likely to be offered within the platform for retailers and advertising partners to make use of in the near future.

The game based on capturing virtual animals has already captured the attention of millions of users all over the world. It is time for retailers to realise that they gotcha catch em all!

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