Pokémon Go - the augmented reality game - has attracted much attention since its release in July. On the face of it the virtual monster collection and battling game offers a recreational activity that enables social interaction with other gamers in the physical, not just virtual world.
On closer inspection, could it now also offer a new retail opportunity?
The answer to reviving a business?
Gary Dear, the owner of Mad Hatter’s ice cream, is thanking the game for its part in reviving his struggling business. Since a Pokéstop was added across the street (a place where players can collect rewards), Dear has seen players of the game begin to travel to the area. Since then his business growth has tripled!
Since this rise in business, Dear has extended opening hours and taken on more staff. He tells local news KDSK “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect it to end up like this!”
Many businesses have since also benefited from being near a Pokéstop with the use of “lure modules”, enabling them to bring customers closer to their stores. A lure module is a feature that can be bought or won within the game, and once used will cause wild Pokémon to appear by nearby Pokéstops, thus attracting players to explore. This has helped increase the popularity of smaller businesses near Pokéstops, especially as it can be activated for 30 minutes, allowing the small businesses to enhance foot traffic near their store at the slower periods of the day.
Can all businesses benefit from being a Pokéstop?
John Hanke, chief executive of Niantic, encourages sponsorship within the game to enhance revenue and footfall for retailers and businesses. He told the FT that 'sponsored locations' would provide a new revenue stream, in addition to in-app purchases of power-ups and virtual items.
Since the release of Pokémon Go in Japan, we saw the first sponsored Pokéstop. Niantic is now teaming up with big brands as sponsors within the game - and where else to start than with a fast food giant, McDonalds.
Increased Pokémon Go Sponsorship provides the gamer with more places to collect Pokéballs and potions. A recognisable Pokéstop enhances the gamers experience, and leaves gameplay unaffected.
For a retailer, like McDonalds, it draws gamers to a specific place, driving additional footfall– an opportunity to market or tailor products, and drive additional revenue.
Can we expect more retailers to ‘play’ Pokémon Go?
Though there is no timetable yet for the release of more sponsored locations, sponsorship deals within the game would mean a significant increase in the purchase of Lure Modules for Niantic, and an enhancement of customer footfall in places the sponsors may choose to use them. Surely a benefit for all concerned?
Retailers are continuing to get to grips with the challenging world of multi-channel where customers, armed with the power of information at their fingertips, are using mobile more and more in their buying decisions. Couple this with the continued increase in mobile phone sales, with annual growth at +81%,, - could games like Pokémon Go be a new way to revive bricks and mortar stores?
By providing players personalised offers through the augmented reality game, retailers can begin to drive footfall back into struggling stores and grow sales revenue. Furthermore, it also opens up new opportunities for store staff to interact with customers on product advice – something that is often lost when customers make a pure mobile purchase.
The future looks bright
Pokémon Go is certainly the first of its kind, and won’t be the last – Niantic has already announced it is developing an augmented reality game for the Harry Potter franchise for release during 2017. This new and growing opportunity to connect to an entirely new customer base in a new way is an interesting opportunity to better integrate mobile and store.
As we see more innovative games come to market it will be essential for retailers to develop new partnerships and marketing strategies to remain competitive in a digital world that continues to show no boundaries.