“Pokemon Go,” the addictive augmented reality game that was released July 6, has quickly become a global sensation. It's genius: it encourages its players to go outside and explore, and in doing so, "Pokemon Go" is helping small businesses along the way. In order to play the game, millions of users have left their comfortable, air conditioned homes this summer. Day and night, approximately 20 million players visit local landmarks and monuments in their quest to “catch ‘em all.” With the aid of the smartphone camera, the game overlays 151 adorable animated creatures over real-world locations. A player’s walking is rewarded every few miles with the hatching of a Poke-egg, another Pokemon added to their Pokedex. The more powerful Pokemon duke it out at neighborhood "gyms," where the players fight to claim the location for either the red, blue, or yellow team.
The game has quickly managed to surpass many popular social media apps in downloads and number of daily users. For some lucky businesses, who happen to be by predetermined hotspots within the game (either Pokestops or gyms) the increase in foot-traffic can mean new customers and improved business. But how exactly are businesses capitalizing on the Pokemon trend? Here are some of the ways that the app is benefitting small business and how savvy shops have used "Pokemon Go" to their advantage and boosted sales:
1. People Are Going Outside!
With as many as 20 million downloads to its name and a high daily engagement, it can be assumed that "Pokemon Go" has encouraged thousands of people to face the summer heat who would otherwise be chilling inside. The game acts as a fitness initiative, and all that extra exercise combined with the summer sun can make you work up an appetite. Hungry or thirsty "Pokemon Go" players, who are tired of roaming the streets in their quest to capture a Bulbasaur, may be just the customer that local restaurants and markets have been waiting for!
2. It's Lure-ing in The Customers
Many small businesses are finding ways to game the game in order to increase sale. Tom Lattanzio, the owner of L’inizio Pizza Bar in Long Island City, Queens, has been a shining example of the new "Pokeconomy," using elements within "Pokemon Go" to bring in new customers. While the game is free-to-play, players can also visit the Pokestore to purchase additional beneficial items. A particularly popular one is the "Lure module," which attracts Pokemon to a specific location for 30 minutes a pop. Each Lure costs 100 pokecoins (or 99 cents in real money), and last weekend Lattanzio began stocking up and dropping them in his restaurant. Lattanzio told The New York Post that business increased by 75 percent. "The amount of people has been astonishing — all day long, from afternoon to evening this past weekend," said Lattanzio.
Other businesses have used these lures as a reward for customers. One California coffee shop put up a sign saying that for every 15 drinks purchased, it would drop a lure in the store; and nothing is more appealing to a "Pokemon Go" player than sitting inside and enjoying an iced latte while the Eevees come to them! Unfortunately, lure modules can only be set up at designated Pokestops, so not all businesses can take advantage of this tactic.
3. There May Be Forthcoming Sponsored Locations
"Pokemon Go" uses real-world locations as Pokestops, its infrastructure based partly on its A.R. game predecessor Ingress' model. Within Ingress, players are able to submit locations that they think would make good "portals" (similar to Pokestops) and companies are able to purchase "portals" from Niantic as well. In order to keep its sponsored portal, the company pays a couple of pennies for each visitor that is lured to them by the game. Since many of these portals have been used as Pokestops, the businesses have doubly benefitted. A similar sponsored location model specifically for "Pokemon Go" is in the works, but first Niantic reportedly wants to upgrade the game's infrastructure. Darn you crashing servers!
4. "Pokemon Are For Customers Only"
Businesses near gyms or popular Pokestops have been overrun lately with pedestrians trying to catch rare Pokemon, but crowds do not always spell profit. Some stores are now requiring that players spend a little money to gain access to that rare Pikachu.
5. Pokemon Merchandise Is Hot Again!
Thanks to the popularity of the new mobile game, toy and game stores are experiencing a resurgence of all that Pokemon gear we thought we had left in the '90s. USA Today reports that Target, Walmart, and Amazon all have seen increases in interest and sales of Pokemon-related merchandise since the premier of "Pokemon Go." Gamestop told USA Today they believe the game has lead to as much as a 50 percent increase in Pokemon-related sales. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and it seems Pokemon products are not just for kids anymore:
If you want to get your hands on some vintage Pokemon merch or a cute Pikachu backpack, you may have to wait in line.
6. Pokemon Offers New Marketing Opportunities
Businesses have been advertising their Pokemon on Facebook and social media, playfully interacting with their customers. Finding ingenious ways to lure "Pokemon Go" players in with special game-centric initiatives. There are countless ways businesses have taken advantage of it from giving discounts to those who belong to their current gym team color, or initiatives to those who take a screen shot of high-level Pokemon that they catch in the store, or have checked into the nearby Pokestop. Some have even created specialty Pokemon-themed products to lure players:
7. Politicians Are Even Capitalizing On "Pokemon Go"
"Pokemon Go" is so huge that it is even making a cameo in the election cycle. Last week, Donald Trump posted a short "Pokemon Go" themed attack ad on Facebook, while Hillary Clinton mentioned in a rally that perhaps "Pokemon Go" can somehow attract voters this November, making people "Pokemon go to the polls." I wouldn't mind catching a few rare pokes while filling out my ballot — but, sadly, I think you're not allowed to use your phone in the voting booth :(.