If you’ve recently noticed more people staring at their phones, wandering by your storefront, and appearing as though they’re taking pictures, congratulations — you’re now roped into the world of Pokémon GO, a new augmented reality smartphone game that’s rocketed into popularity and become nothing short of a cultural phenomenon.
The game presents players with an alternate version of their city’s map, ripe with item-spewing landmarks, competitive “gyms,” and countless Pokémon just waiting to be captured. The result? Swarms of kids (and nostalgic adults) taking to the streets with the hopes of catching ‘em all and claiming popular landmarks for their chosen team (of which Team Mystic is clearly superior).
But in addition to wild Pokémon grazing throughout your city, the game also designates certain parks, landmarks, and buildings as “Pokéstops.” If players are physically nearby, they can get access to in-game items to aid them in their quest to become the very best.
At first, business owners out of the “know” might find the whole thing annoying or disruptive. Unless you’re familiar with the game, it’d be fair to look at the added foot traffic (and lack of added sales) as a nuisance, or worse, loitering. Here’s one store owner's reaction to players catching Pokémon in her store:
Try not to think of Pokémon GO players as a nuisance, but rather local shoppers who haven’t yet interacted with your business. Added foot traffic from Pokémon GO is your opportunity to make a positive first impression with potential customers, and we’re going to show you how.
But before we start getting into the details, you’ll probably want to learn a little more about how the game works. There are dozens of guides available online, but the best we’ve found is from The Verge.
Once you’re primed on Pokémon GO, here’s how you can capitalize on it:
“Lure” in Foot Traffic
Lures are special items that can be added to Pokéstops. They work by attracting Pokémon to an area and making them easier to catch. If your business is near any Pokéstops, purchase (with in-game currency) a few lures and attach them to the nearest ones. One lure module, which is valid for half an hour, costs only $1. That's a relatively small investment to see a potential spike in foot traffic.
You may need to be at a certain level in-game to purchase items, but with a game this addicting, that probably won’t be a problem. Once you’re able, here’s a quick walkthrough on how to add lures to Pokéstops.
Players can see how many lures are active in any given area, and they’ll flock to places that present a high probability of easy catches. If you’re quick about it, the added foot traffic can seriously boost business. Now that you’ve got players in your area, you’ll need to capitalize on them.
Choose One of Three Teams
Once players reach a certain level, they’ll be asked to pledge their allegiance to one of three teams: Team Instinct, Team Mystic, or Team Valor. Each team competes to hold local landmarks (known as “gyms” in the game) and become the dominant superpower in their area. By publicly acknowledging a team on a window sign or sandwich board, you’ll endear yourselves to passers-by and catch eyes you normally wouldn’t have.
Photo Credit: Reddit
A Toronto bakery posted this tongue-in-cheek message on their window and racked up over 5,000 upvotes on Reddit and countless shares elsewhere. In an interview with BlogTO, the owner mentioned having to take the sign down in just two days. According to him, "the lineup was behind the building and I just can't make that many waffles." Don't forget to make sure your social media handles are clearly visible in case a photo of your sign gets passed around.
Offer Support for Players
If Pokémon GO players are short on anything, it’s battery life. The game takes advantage of smartphones’ GPS, graphics processor, and camera in order create a truly immersive augmented reality experience, which means players can’t search for too long without a boost (or a battery pack). If Pokémon GO foot traffic is high in your area, stock up on a few extra chargers or batteries from your local dollar store and offer a boost to weary travellers on a sign or sandwich board. The Bank of Montreal's York University location did a great job, pictured below:
Photo Credit: Reddit
Now that players are literally tethered to your business via USB, you can chat with them about the game, teach them how to preserve battery while playing, chat about your products, or even offer a discount or coupon code. They’ll also likely be famished from walking around all day, so if your business offers refreshments, this would be a good opportunity for an upsell.
Pop-ups at Meet-ups
Though the game itself is largely played solo, players often gather together at lure-enabled Pokéstops to increase their odds of catching Pokémon. Local meetups are happening everywhere, and if you catch wind of one in your area, it’d be a great opportunity to set up a small pop-up stand. Search Facebook for “Pokémon GO [city name]” to find local groups in your area.
Set up a promo stand or pop-up shop like these guys and hand out samples, snacks, power, or coupon codes.
What to Do With Players Who Have Entered Your Store
Now that you've got these coveted Pokétrainers in the confines of your store, you can encourage them to stick around to purchase your wares.
Some store owners have taken the not-so-subtle approach of mandating that players make a purchase while collecting Pokémon in store (much like the above sign, spotted at a Dairy Queen).
But considering trainers are there to play rather than spend, a softer sell is highly recommended here. This is an opportunity to start a positive relationship with a new set of potential customers. So, rather than turning them away, retailers can pique their interest with Pokémon-related swag and promos like:
- Offer promotions for players. Whether it's 15% off your feature product for members of Team Mystic or for other in-game achievements (just level up your Polywag? That's definitely worth a discount), get creative and offer promotions that sways players to make a purchase. You can also use beacon technology to send special promotions to the smartphones of targeted customers within walking distance.
- Spread the word on social. Is there a Pokéstop nearby, or has a particularly rare Pokémon been sighted in your store? Or perhaps you're running a special promotion for players? Share the news with your followers on social media to let your networks know.
- Incentivize players to join your mailing list. When players are in store collecting their Pikachus and Eevees, ask them to join your email list. Offer updates on player discounts, news on related products, or send out a special email with a "Sighting of the Day" section to highlight one Pokémon caught in store. This opens a direct line of communication to current and prospective customers and increases the likelihood that they'll return.
How Will You Use Pokémon GO?
Have any other strategies to bring players through your doors? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.
About The Author
Jordan Simas is a writer at Shopify, all-you-can-eat sushi fiend, and lover of sidechained supersaws.