If you had told me that Pokémon was going to make a serious comeback at any point in my life, I would have laughed at you and replied “Right, and I should probably dig out my slammers in preparation for the POG resurrection”.
But it’s happening. And way faster than anyone can comprehend.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two weeks, you know that the popular 90’s franchise has been reincarnated as an augmented reality mobile app known as ‘Pokémon GO’. In summary: it’s now possible to capture Pokémon “in real life” using your smartphone. Subsequently, the entire world has lost it’s damn mind – even countries that haven’t been able to download it yet.
A mere 13 hours after its July 6th debut, Pokémon GO found itself at the top of US charts, making it the most successful mobile game ever to hit the United States. It quickly surpassed reigning social media platforms Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook for iOS user engagement and has shutdown servers with its more than 15 million Apple and Android installs.
Upon initial assessment, Pokémon GO is the new kid on the mobile gaming block that everyone wants to be friends with. So much so, that app users – aka “trainers” – have flooded the news with stories of falling off cliffs, crashing into trees, and even solving crime – just to ‘catch ’em all’. Others are crushing their step goals by venturing up to 10km, just so their incubating Eevee will finally hatch.
Despite its staggering popularity amongst a largely millennial audience, the inevitable question for any overnight celebrity application remains on the table: Will Pokémon GO stick around long enough to join the ranks of successful mobile games before it, or will it fade faster than Heelys? It’s too early to make any long-term predictions about the game’s future, but one thing is for certain: While Pokémon GO is here, small-medium businesses (SMBs) should strike while the iron is hot and capitalize on the app’s million daily users.
Here’s how to do it.
First Thing’s First: Be A PokéStop.
A trainer’s quest to catch as many Pokémon as possible is sustained by his/her access to Eggs and PokéBalls – two items that make the catching part happen. Such necessities are found at stations cleverly referred to as “PokéStops”, which include neighborhood tourist attractions like historical monuments, parks, statues, and – you guessed it – local businesses.
SMBs may have no prior knowledge of their PokéStop status, which is predetermined by the game’s developer, Niantic. But if you’re an SMB with a storefront presence, you’re going to want to do a little research to figure that out pronto. Simply put: serving as a source of virtual replenishment for the biggest mobile game in US history will undoubtedly generate some additional foot traffic for you.
There are two primary ways to determine if your business is a PokéStop. The easiest of course, is to download Pokémon GO and see if the signature blue emblem that designates a Stop is floating in or around your venue. The second, less-known method for identifying PokéStop locations is to tap into data originally collected from Ingress, an earlier AR exploration game also developed by Niantic. By downloading Ingress and creating an account, users are able to unlock the application’s global intel map, which highlights not only its own locations, but also portal locations for (surprise!) Pokémon GO.
Once you’ve secured your position as a PokéStop, you can enjoy increased exposure to an audience that may have never heard of you before, as hoards of trainers will identify you as a Stop and come to collect the goods. As great as this is, a trainer’s mission is simple: go out and find Pokémon. If there are no Pokémon to be seen near your business, you can expect that most people will be on their way. But if you familiarize yourself with one of the app’s features (and best-kept secrets), you will quickly discover how easy it is to change that.
‘Lure’ Pokémon (and your Customers).
In addition to providing trainers with the tools they need to succeed in the game, PokéStops also serve as a hub for attracting Pokémon through what are referred to as “lures”. Anyone accessing Pokémon GO has the ability to purchase and drop a lure at a PokéStop, which will give themselves and any trainer in the surrounding area the opportunity to capture. Two important things to reiterate here: 1) lures may only be released at PokéStops and 2) multiple trainers can catch Pokémon drawn to a single lure.
Is a lightbulb going off yet?
As an SMB-turned-PokéStop, you are essentially able to leverage Pokémon GO to effortlessly bring customers into your business. Once a lure is purchased and released through the game, it displays within the GPS-integrated map as a purple cloud of flowers and remains active for 30 minutes. During this time period, several Pokémon will storm the area, making it crucial for avid players to stick around once they’ve discovered a lure has been released.
Get creative during those 30 minutes. Drop a sign outside your location that eludes to recent Pokémon sightings and offer discounted appetizers to trainers who are weary from their travels. Remember that those who are really committed to the game will probably stay until the timer runs out on the lure. As the talking cornfield in Field of Dreams so eloquently put it, “If you build it, they will come”. #Preach
How to win when you’re not a PokéStop.
Eager to jump on the Poké train, you do extensive research and to your great disappointment, learn that you are not a designated PokéStop. What a buzzkill. Short of sponsoring a PokéStop, which so far has only been permitted for McDonald’s locations in Japan, that leaves you with seemingly limited options to cash in on the craze.
Fear not, my friend and consider your neighbors who do have that title.
Let’s say that Ralph’s Pizza, which is two doors down from you, has been labeled as a PokéStop. Ralph may be taking advantage of this and purchasing lures up the wazoo, but he also may not be as tech-saavy or as “in the know” as you are. You can do both of you a favor by sauntering over to Ralph’s and tossing lures in his general vacinity. At the very least, you will draw attention to your location from trainers who may not be familiar with the area. They may also pass by after collecting supplies or Pokémon at Ralph’s PokéStop and decide that they feel more like seafood tonight than Italian.
If you’re one of those people who adamantly refuses to install Pokémon GO but is still intrigued by the insanity it is evoking, you can take the less aggressive sidelines approach and just pretend that you know what you’re talking about. Use that sidewalk signage or take to your Facebook business page and highlight specials you are running if customers can come in and furnish proof that they are on the hunt for Pokémon. Offer a special discount specific to a certain team’s color.
If you do not have a physical location for your SMB, but have serious FOMO (fear of missing out) on the Poké-craze, take your business to the streets and work remotely from a PokéStop. You don’t even have to steal another business’s glory; the statue of your smalltown highschool football coach that overlooks a bustling street will work just as well.
- Pokémon GO is exploding. It’s the fastest-growing mobile application in history and is showing no signs of slowing down – especially since many countries are sitting on the edge of their seats in anticipation of when they will be able to access it.
- The app attracts a mostly millennial audience. According to a recent study, 18-34 year-olds account for roughly 83% of all Pokémon GO users; Not entirely surprising, considering Pokémon 1.0 peaked during a chunk of that group’s childhood.
- Lures deliver a crazy ROI and require little effort. All you need to do to increase sales as an SMB is purchase a reasonably-priced lure package. Investing just $50 will get you roughly 44 hours of lure use. That’s $1.24 per hour. $50 is nothing when you consider that you barely have to lift a finger in order to attract Pokémon (and visitors) to your business for a total of 44 hours.
- You don’t need to be a PokéStop to be successful. Rely on your neighbors, go remote with your business, and gamify the experience. The opportunities are endless!