Unless you have been living under a rock for the last week, you have probably at least heard something about Pokémon Go. It was released on both the Apple and Google Play stores last Thursday, and it quickly became one of the top downloaded apps on both platforms. The app has become a viral sensation among teens and young adults, already overtaking Twitter in number of daily users. Of course, all the '90s kids are geeking out over this app, but, surprisingly, this app has actually attracted an even broader audience than the original games ever did. However, you don’t have to rely on the amount of downloads this app has to judge its popularity; just head downtown on any given evening and you are sure to see twice as many people as normal hanging out down there, phones in hand. This is a very interesting trend where Google and others are diving foot traffic via gamification: give people a game to play and they will beat a path to your door.
I know, you might be groaning at yet another app that has young people’s faces buried in their phones. But, this app is actually different! It is one of the first games that is actually forcing people to get out and about. There are a lot of features in the game that require the player to actually go outside and walk around! It is also bringing people together as people are walking around, gathering in ad hoc groups and just stopping each other to start up conversations about Pokémon. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself! Take a walk downtown and start asking random strangers to explain the game and help you get started and you will be sure to meet some great new people.
In case you haven’t already checked the game out for yourself, the Pokémon Go app turns the real world into a massive Pokémon hunting ground using your phone’s camera and GPS. Players use little red and white balls, which are called Pokéballs, in order to catch the Pokémon and build their collection. This app also transforms local landmarks, and businesses into Pokémon Gyms and PokéStops. Pokémon Gyms are places where higher level players can train their Pokémon and battle against other players and teams, while PokéStops are places where players of all levels can stock up on Pokéballs and other necessary game items.
While this phenomenon is cool and all, what does it mean for small local businesses? Simply put, there are going to be a LOT more people out and about, walking, biking, and visiting areas that have a high concentration of landmarks, like downtown. You will see these people wandering around phone in hand looking for those rare pokemon characters which can spawn in a variety of locations in the real world.
Here are some things to do in order to utilize this opportunity:
1.) Download the app and take some time to check it out, so that you know what it is all about. If you are unsure about some of the games features, or how to play, you can always ask some of the young people hanging out to help you.
2.) Check out what PokéStops or Pokémon gyms are located at or near your business. If your business location is within range of a gym where Pokémon battles are fought that is even better because people will want to hang out longer.
3.) Welcome them. You may not know what to do with a bunch of people hanging around faces buried in their phones but instead of looking at them skeptically, why not welcome them and make them feel comfortable. Why would you spend money for a downtown retail location if you didn’t want to have a lot of foot traffic?
Check out what Orange Leaf in Holland did on their Facebook Page:
4.) Use lure modules! Lure modules make a regular PokéStop into a hyper wild Pokémon spawning location for 30 minutes attracting Pokémon hunters to your doorstep. You can buy a Pokemon Go “Lure Module” through the game or you can offer some free product to anyone else who drops a lure module on your stop. Store owners can also purchase lures for as little as $1.19 an hour.
5.) Organize events, contests, scavenger hunts, and post them on social media. One person without a lot of planning or forethought posted a Pokémon gathering at Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids on Facebook, and within 4 days, 5,000 people said they would attend. Realize that since Pokémon is really hot right now, anything that you do that you can tie to the Pokémon craze will probably be big right now, too.
6.) Use social media to strike while the iron is hot. Before people begin experiencing Pokemon burnout on Facebook and Instagram, post to your page or account rare or unique Pokemon that have been found at your place of business.
7.) If your business is a Pokemon Gym, or close to one, people will probably spend more time there having battles, so what about allowing them to come inside? Set out refreshments, allow players to connect their phone screens to a TV during battles, so that everyone can gather around and watch. The app tends to drain phone batteries and use up data pretty quickly, so you could even allow people to come in and charge their phones or use your Wi-Fi.
If you are still reading, I have to acknowledge that these ideas might be a little crazy, and that they are just that: ideas. This is a craze, it’s a fad, which means you can sit back, watch all these crazy people, and wait for the dust to settle on this fad. That’s a perfectly rational thing to do because you, with your years of experience, have seen these things come and go. But why not leverage these things, why not take advantage of this gift? Realize that if you wait until it’s figured out, until you have all your ducks in a row, then the opportunity to leverage it will be gone.
So try being an early adopter of this craze and use it to your advantage.
Seth Getz is a small business strategist in Holland, Michigan. Check out his blog here.