More Pokémon, More Customers

Have you noticed an influx of excited visitors wandering into your business, only to see them look around with their smartphones for a few minutes, swipe at their screens with a satisfied smile, and wander back out? They’re probably just trying to catch Pokémon. The much-anticipated Pokémon Go app was released in the United States on July 7, making the augmented reality game available for Android and iOS phones. This quickly led to a flurry of aspiring Pokémon trainers, from disheveled teenagers to off-the-clock professionals, exploring the world around them in the adventurous spirit of the game’s motto: “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!”

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What does this have to do with your business? The Pokémon Go map (shown to the right) relies on real-world data, like the locations of historical sites and local landmarks, to generate two important in-game features: Gyms, where trainers can battle for dominance, and PokéStops, where free Poké Balls and other items are obtained. Because these are more frequently generated in heavily populated areas, players are exploring urban landscapes, finding themselves in local parks, university campuses, museums, and even bars and restaurants. According to data from SimilarWeb, the newest Pokémon game is already rivaling social media apps in both popularity and usage time – which means there are thousands of potential customers headed your way. This increase in traffic might be a nuisance to some unsuspecting businesses, but it can also be a unique opportunity for increased sales from Pokémon Go players who will already be at your location.

Capturing the Crowd

Many players are young adults who grew up with Pokémon and are now experiencing a wave of nostalgia as modern technology brings creatures from their childhood to life. This means you can rake in a very grown-up profit while building great relationships with the people in your community. Here are a few ways you can use the game’s popularity to benefit your business.

Be welcoming. Some players are a bit self-conscious about running around town to catch monsters, much less about visiting a business solely because they need Poké Balls. By acknowledging your status as a game location, players are more likely to step inside and spend some time browsing what you have to offer rather than hanging around outside your door. In Salt Lake City, Utah, indie clothing store iconoCLAD paired a social media post with a colorful sidewalk sign encouraging players to stop by and, “Catch ’em all in style!” In addition to gaining popularity with local players, the marketing tactic has gone viral.

Offer a discount. Adventurers need provisions, and players are going to want to stop somewhere for food and drinks. Offering players a small discount, like a dollar off their purchase, can entice them to buy a drink or a meal and stay a while. In Orlando, Fla., Burger U, which happens to be a Gym, is running a buy-one-get-one burger deal for whichever team is in control. Many players are also wary of using all their monthly cellular data to catch Pokémon, so advertising that you have Wi-Fi available to customers can be another incentive for players to stick around and buy a snack.

Use a lure. In the game, players can set off lures at a PokéStop to attract Pokémon to the area, but the spike in Pokémon also lures players. Because lures last 30 minutes, players can stop in to rest, eat, or enjoy a drink, while casually catching Pokémon from the comfort of their seats. Brewer’s Pizza in Orange Park, Fla., advertised “non-stop lures” for four hours on July 11, an event so successful that a follow-up post indicated it will be immediately repeated. Lures cost just under a dollar, making them an economical way to boost traffic.

Host an event. From meeting teammates at PokéStops to groups of friends organizing hunting trips, Pokémon Go hasn’t just succeeded in getting players out – it’s bringing them together. With or without lures, your business can foster that sense of camaraderie and community by organizing an event for players to gather, socialize, show off their rosters, and trade tips. The Durham Bulls, a Triple-A baseball team, announced a $5, two-hour event allowing fans to scour the stadium and field in search of Pokémon, with all proceeds benefiting charity.

Tapping In (or Out)

If you aren’t sure if your business is at or near a Gym or PokéStop, the Pokémon Go app is free to download and play. There’s a good chance you already have an employee who’s playing the game, but if not, it’s easy to make an account and gain access to the map. This will let you see where nearby game features are located. If your business isn’t a PokéStop, it might be near enough to one to still benefit from the game’s popularity. The marker for an unusable PokéStop will appear as a cube, but if it turns into a circle, you’re in range.

Some businesses just don’t want to be part of the craze, and that’s okay, too. If you want to remove your location as a Gym or PokéStop, you can submit a request on the Pokémon Go website. However, most Gyms and PokéStops can be accessed without actually being inside the building where they’re located. If this is the case for yours, follow the lead of the Darwin Police Station in Australia and let players know, either by posting on social media or with a notice by the entrance, that they don’t need to step inside to access the game’s features.

For my fellow Pokémon trainers out there, remember to be polite and respectful when visiting businesses for your Poké needs. Avoid blocking walkways, entrances, and exits. If you don’t plan on purchasing anything, try not to loiter inside, and if you do go in, thank the employees for their hospitality. Smiles are good currency, but you can also show your appreciation by supporting local businesses with a purchase.

Ariana Keller
Ariana Keller

Ariana Keller was raised on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in south Alabama, where she learned to fish and love football. She moved to Knoxville with her family when she was 12 and later graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in English. Passionate about Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, and all things geeky, she spends her free time playing tabletop and video games, collecting beer caps from craft breweries around the country, and celebrating the Cubs' 2016 World Series win. She is an advocate for animal rescue and lives in Knoxville with her husband and their two adopted pets: a hound dog named Beau and a Maine Coon mix named Vesper.

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