In case you missed it (ICYMI), “Pokémon Go,” a free smartphone app that uses Google Maps to overlay reality with Pokemon creatures, was released in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand on July 6th. It topped the U.S. Apple Store’s free and top-grossing download charts within 24 hours of its release, making it the fastest-growing mobile game in history.

The runaway dominance of “Pokémon Go” has inspired several business leaders to ponder aloud if we’re seeing the materialization of long-predicted trends that could reshape industries, even as many marketers scramble to fulfill short-term goals co-opt to phenomenon toward their own ends. As the New York Times put it:

“Pokémon Go” represents one of those moments when a new technology—in this case, augmented reality or A.R., which fuses digital technology with the physical world—breaks through from a niche toy for early adopters to something much bigger.”

Why should you, the business owner, care?

Because the app forces players to go out and walk around towns, cities, and neighborhoods, which means potentially increased foot traffic in your area. It works like this; the players main goal is to catch lots of Pokémon, and to catch better Pokémon, they have to go out to new and different locations.


What do this mean for your business?

It might seem trivial or irrelevant to your business at first glance, but since the game is geographically based, there are a number of ways you can use it to attract local players to your location and, hopefully, convert them into paying customers.


PokeStopHow does it work?

There are two types of fixed locations in the game that are important to most of these strategies.

  • The first are known as PokéStops, which are buildings or places of note around a city where players swing by to grab some extra Poké Balls and potions. Many of these stops are businesses, but even if yours isn’t one a PokéStop is still likely nearby.
  • The other type of fixture is called a “gym,” where players battle their Pokémon in a bid to gain control of the location for their team. Both of these locations regularly attract players multiple times a day and can be leveraged into generating more patronage for your business.


NYC-PokeStopsHow do you use the tool to benefit your business?

First, create a “Pokémon Go” account by downloading it for free from the Google Play or App stores. Then, it’s up to you to set up reasons for players to visit your location. Here are a few tips:

  • Host a lure party – One item that can be placed on PokéStops is called a “lure module.” Once activated, lure modules will attract wild Pokémon (and, more important, players) to that location. Consider buying a package of lure modules and advertising a night as “‘Pokémon Go’ Lure Party!” If your business is on or near a PokéStop, hosting a lure party could be a great way to bring players to your establishment. Within your Pokémon Go account, buy a package of lure modules with a few dollars of real-world cash, and then just set them up at your nearest PokéStop. Each lure is active for 30 minutes, so you can use them in succession to create a lure party that lasts as long as you’d like. Coupling a lure party with some special deals could be a great way to bring in some extra money.

“Lures increase the rate of Pokémon generation in the area around the Pokestop where they’re placed for one half hour. That may not sound that powerful, but Pokémon are scarcer than you think. Luring is an insanely powerful tool that you really have to see to believe. … For a little more than a dollar an hour, you can bring virtually guaranteed crowds to your business. The ROI here is ridiculous, so if your business is anywhere near a Pokéstop, this is something you absolutely have to try.”

  • Gym battle tournaments Maybe your business is closer to a Pokémon Gym than a PokéStop. In that event, there’s another way you can incentivize players to come patronize your business. Advertise that you’ll be hosting a tournament in advance, perhaps even offering discounts to gym battle winners. Then, on game day, players who successfully become gym leaders (with proof of gamer ID) will be entitled to that discount. Not only is it a great way to harness those intense “Pokémon Go” rivalries for your business, but to hold gyms teams need multiple members to defend it. So, while you’re giving discounts to the gym leaders, their teammates will be there alongside them as well, most likely as full-paying customers.
  • Host a Poké-hunt – Hosting a community-wide “Pokémon Go” hunt that starts and ends at your business’s doorstep is a strategy that’s not contingent on the proximity of gyms of PokéStops. Advertise the date and time of your family-friendly Poké-hunt, wait for players to gather, and then depart together for a stroll around your neighborhood. Your staff might even join the hunters in branded shirts to make sure your business is visible through the entire event. Of course, as it is with any good Poké-hunt, there’s an after-party. Invite the hunters back to your establishment for some trainer talk and to compare their hauls. This is an especially effective tactic for restaurants.
  • “Pokémon Go” social media deals – Use “Pokémon Go” to increase your visibility on social media. Offer customers a few dollars off to take a screenshot of a Pokémon in your store or restaurant and then post it on social media with a tag to your business. While it might just be a few dollars off for them, it spreads your brand online. It also shows other nearby players how many rare and exotic Pokémon are crawling around your establishment, and it might encourage them to come visit and maybe spend a few dollars of their own.

Not Without Controversy

Elements of the “Pokémon Go” experience invite controversy by using real-world space but discarding all other context. Of course, the most immediate concern is users can place themselves and others in danger by being unaware of surroundings, as evidenced by many reports of people crashing into trees while driving, walking off cliffs or into traffic as they are so absorbed by the game. But the good news is, it provides a caveat for fighting obesity through exergaming – the term for combining technology/video gaming and exercising which relies on tracking body movements and reactions using the latest technology – helps fight adult and childhood obesity in a fun and exciting way.


What’s Next?

The rumor mill is swirling with talk of future “Pokémon Go” updates that will allow trainers to trade Pokémon and items. If and when these updates come, these new features will open new doors for businesses to harness the immense appeal of this augmented-reality phenomenon. And if more AR games prove to be as popular as “Pokémon Go,” businesses might have an entirely new marketing strategy at their disposal which cost virtually nothing to employ.