How Pokémon Go Has Undergone A Meteoric Rise And Its Huge, Untapped Potential For Businesses


Since it’s release on July 6th, Pokémon Go has become a global phenomenon, taking the mobile gaming scene by storm with a meteoric rise like we’ve never really seen before. The augmented reality game has continued to smash records, change perceptions, and has created an almost endless amount of opportunities for businesses to increase awareness, customer engagement, foot traffic, and sales.

Pokémon Go isn’t Niantic, Inc.’s first foray into the augmented reality genre, having mastered their craft with the release of Ingress in October 2013 – which still has 15,372 daily downloads and pulls in $2100 per day from their seven million active daily users. With a firm, tried-and-true platform to build upon, the addition of a property like Pokémon was sure to be a successful combination. However, no analyst could’ve predicted the insane and instantaneous success the application has seen in this first month.

Despite being 20 years old, Pokémon (“Pocket Monsters” in Japanese) continues to be a popular franchise of video games, trading cards, comic books, and TV shows with a large cultural relevance, significance, and impact. During Super Bowl 50, a teaser advertisement for the game was released, resulting in Pokémon being the fourth-most mentioned topic on social media. Pokémon Go brings to life the classic handheld gameplay of roaming the countryside, finding new monsters, leveling them up, and battling others at special gyms. The game uses the GPS in your device to track your location and makes Pokémon available accordingly. Players swipe on their screen to throw Pokéballs and can transfer caught Pokémon in exchange for “candy,” which is used to level up your monsters. Real life landmarks and locations (mostly historical) are either PokéStops where players can receive in-game items, or Gyms where players can battle other real-life players for control of the location, or leave a monster to help your team (one of three) keep control.

While any Pokémon property is bound to be popular, no one could’ve predicted the way Pokémon Go has taken off. The game has already raked in $14 million in profit from the App Store, and it officially passed 100 million downloads over the weekend (with no signs of slowing down) while surpassing Candy Crush Saga in daily active users with over 22 million to become the most-used mobile app ever.

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Additionally, earlier in July Go surpassed Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and others with daily active users on its way to the top, and now mobile users are spending more time playing the game than using ANY other social media app or game.

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As you can see, 84% of Americans between 18-65 have heard of the game, while 15% have played the game, and another 12% say they plan on playing the game soon. 78% of players are 18-34, with the game’s core demographic being 21-27 (34%). This is in direct conflict with many detractor’s cries of “It’s a child’s game, grow up!” When in reality the game is marketing nearly exclusively to adults. Social media mentions of Go are dominated by millennials, obviously – but surprisingly, 33% comes from ages 35-75+. This perfectly illustrates that the game is accessible to any age group, and is helping bridge the generational gap.

With such wide use and engagement across all demographics, Pokémon Go has opened a plethora of opportunities for businesses, both big and small, to take advantage of. Go can directly increase customer interaction and engagement, foot traffic, and sales with just a little bit of effort. A recent survey by AdWeek shows a huge increase in foot traffic for businesses near hotspots for player activity. 67% of people surveyed said they had visited a business they normally wouldn’t, specifically for game-related purposes, and most players are overwhelmingly comfortable with corporate branding and sponsorship tie-ins.

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As of now, business cannot apply to be a PokéStop (which is likely to change soon) but that doesn’t mean they can’t get in on the action. Small businesses appear to be the ones who could benefit the most and easiest, but almost any size business could find a way to take advantage of the game and drive sales. Below are just some of the myriad ideas of how different businesses could make the most out of this booming new venture.

General Ideas

  • If you’re lucky enough to be within reach of a PokéStop, or eventually apply to be one, dropping a lure (a device, only applicable at PokéStops, which attracts Pokémon to the area for all players for 30 minutes) or two is the simplest way to attract customers and instantly increase foot traffic. Having a “Lure Hour” a few different days per week, with heavy social media and word-of-mouth advertisement is a great way to get a ton of people through the door, and engaging with each other; as well as employees.
  • No PokéStop nearby? No worries, find a park, memorial, library, or other public place with a stop or two and host a PokéSafari event. Set off lures, invite customers, have special promotions, refreshments, etc.
  • Time sensitive sales, only while lures are active.
  • Sales based on possession of a specific Pokémon or membership of a specific team, or even based on medals earned.
  • Service and health industry businesses can drop a lure while customers wait, which they can advertise with mailers and appointment confirmations.

Coffee Shops/Bars/Restaurants

  • Advertise as a comfortable respite from the elements (cool in the summer, cozy and warm in the fall and winter) and offer applicable refreshments.
  • Have a charging station, or outlets available to paying customers. Obviously advertise this heavily.
  • Drop a lure during happy hour with associated Poké-related sales.

Cell Phone & Electronic Stores

  • Push products like portable battery packs, spare batteries, solar chargers, rugged cases, and other helpful accessories.
  • Set a lure and offer free refreshments and limited-time sales.

Museums & Libraries

  • Host PokéSafaris and community gatherings.
  • Have special tours allowing players to hunt while they learn.
  • Have a summer children’s program with the promise of lures and prizes at the conclusion.

Community & Tourism/Chamber of Commerce

  • Post heavily on social media about historical landmarks that are also PokéStops.
  • Host a “PokéStop Walk” with the route coordinated to pass many stops, with random lures set along the way.
  • Have a scavenger hunt for lures, posting clues on social media.

These ideas are just the very tip of the iceberg. Now that Pokémon Go has eclipsed Candy Crush Saga as the most used daily app, it will be interesting to see if it can mirror CCS’ four-year (and counting) stint of 20 million-plus daily users. If early customer and business reports are any indication, this historically huge game isn’t going anywhere soon. How Niantic handles the budding and promising partnership between Go and businesses in the coming weeks and months could have a monumental and lasting effect on how developers and app companies monetize their product. History very well could be made and precedence set – especially if we see things like free game items redeemable only after purchases; special items only available at specific locations; rare and specific Pokémon unlocked via purchases; or special corporate branding for avatars. The possibilities are nearly endless, and I, for one, cannot wait to see the results.

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