It’s 2016 and the digital age has just about come full circle. Nearly everybody has their heads in the phones, but now they’ve taken to walking around new places while they do it and restaurants, cafes and small retailers are starting to see the potential marketing power of a new app that has taken the world by storm.
Pokémon Go, the augmented reality mobile game where players walk around the real world to hunt down virtual cartoon characters, already has more daily active users than Twitter and is set to surpass Snapchat next.
The game, from Japan’s Nintendo, skyrocketed to the top of Apple and Android stores in record time and has become one of the most viral mobile applications of all time. It’s now taking up more of people’s time than Facebook.
Other viral fad-games like Draw Something and Candy Crush are no competition for its popularity. Unlike its viral predecessors, Pokémon Go has a unique feature that is key to its carry-on success: it forces users to explore outside.
Pokémon Go uses a phone’s GPS and camera to turn the real world into a massive hunting ground. It also turns local landmarks and businesses into Pokémon Gyms (where players can train Pokémon and battle other teams) and PokéStops, where players stock up on free accessories.
These new virtual worlds are good news for the businesses that host them and it could mean great things for retailers, according to Retail First managing director Chris Wilkinson.
“Anything that gets people out and amongst the community is fantastic, we want people outside and rediscovering their environment.
“With Pokémon Go, people are going to places they’ve never been before and that’s a real opportunity for retailers.”
Some stores are already getting in on the action, taking to social media to post pictures of Pokémon found in the changing rooms, on clothing racks or at the point-of-sale machines in store.
Karen Walker’s Instagram account yesterday posted a picture of a Charmander in its Ponsonby store.
Shopping district Britomart also got in on the trend, promoting the area as a prime Pokémon hunting ground.
Even if there are no Pokémon found inside a store, tapping into the Pokémon market is still a possibility. Farmers used a much-coveted Pikachu to promote its range of Pokémon toys and trading cards, with the Instagram caption “Catch one in store today and take home a Pokémon of your own.”
While the locations of PokeStops and Pokémon Gym are predetermined, there is the opportunity for businesses to have their location considered for future ones, by filling out an application on the game’s website.
The potential for new foot traffic is exciting to some retailers who might find getting people through the door to be hardest part of the job.
Wilkinson says because the success of Pokémon Go was so sudden, retailers are now playing catch up on how to act.
“Usually retailers see things like this on the horizon and are able to strategize, with Pokémon Go retailers have been trying to get on top of it.
“It will be a question of who is quick enough into the market, because it is going to have a window of success, but I doubt it will be sustained.”
The key for retailers is to look for maximum potential in the short-term from capitalising on the game, rather than looking for a long-term solution.
A restaurant in New York claims its sales jumped 75 percent over the weekend, by activating a “lure module” and tempting nearby players. The lure module is an in-app purchase, which attracts Pokémon to a PokeStop for 30 minutes. According to the New York Post, the store’s manager spent $10 to have a dozen Pokémon characters placed in the location.
The biggest potential of Pokémon Go for retailers is getting younger shoppers off Internet shopping sites and into bricks and mortar stores. Some retailers won’t see increased sales by having random young people walking into their shop, but for others, it will have a positive effect.
“We need to be looking after younger shoppers because they are the ones that are equally happy to jump online.
“Retailers need to be talking to each other and teasing out ideas of how Pokémon Go [marketing] is going to work.”