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Pokemon Go for business


In the past two weeks the mobile gaming world has been turned on it’s head by the unexpected success of Pokemon Go. The new augmented reality game utilising Google Maps data where players search the real world for virtual little creatures to capture. People are actually getting off the couch to play video games. Even the developers struggled to cope with the popularity, with the app failing multiple times in the first week presumably from load issues. Just check out any major tourist attraction and you will notice the increase in 15-35 year olds, generally in groups, walking around with their heads focused down on their mobile phones.

Whilst it’s an amazing change in gaming culture, it’s also an opportunity for businesses to embrace new customers. It could be easy to be narrow minded and consider Pokemon Go players as an annoyance, but understand how the game works and you might be able to capitalise on it. It’s of course not for everyone. Not every business wants 15-35 year olds hanging out not necessarily actively shopping. Hospitality is the obvious beneficiary here.

The lucky ones

Within the game players hunt for Pokemon characters that seem to appear anywhere in the world, but there are ‘Pokestops’ and ‘Gyms’ that are generally landmark locations that players can gather at to collect items and wage battle against each other. There is also the ability to place a ‘lure’ at these ‘Pokestops’ which will attract Pokemon to that location for everyone in the game. If you run a cafe or retail store that happens to be within range of one of these locations, think yourself lucky.

Chadstone shopping centre was quoted as noticing a marked increase in shoppers of all ages playing Pokemon. The head of marketing at Pancake Parlour in Melbourne couldn’t understand why they had such a spike in patronage during the weekend. They discovered that their stores were actually sitting on seven ‘Pokestops’.

My regular lunch zone in Geelong is littered with ‘Pokestops’ and I’ve seen a noticeable increase in foot traffic, and patrons in restaurants. So how can you bring more and more people into these areas? Drop lures down on the adjacent ‘Pokestops’ yourself. A lure lasts for 30 minutes, and can be purchased for as little as $1.10 if bought in bulk. So for around $25 a day you could build a reputation of being a regular Pokemon hunting ground and attract a gathering at your business.

Pay to play

Frustrated that your business isn’t near a ‘Pokestop’? Well developer Niantic’s CEO, John Hanke has come out and said that sponsored locations with Pokemon Go are a possibility in the near future. With this much attention Niantic will of course be looking at ways to further monetise the game outside of it’s in game purchases. So far they have been so overwhelmed with requests for this feature that they have been unable to respond to support requests.


Within the game there are some 150 odd characters to collect. Some rarer than others. Another clever way to jump on this craze is to offer customers a promotion in store by presenting rare Pokemon. I’ve seen one business offer a half price meal if they had a specific character with an exact combat power (an in game strength indicator). A lot of people play the game in groups so there is certainly potential to generate paying customers from these types of offers.

Promote your support of Pokemon

If you are getting on board, make sure you let your customers know about it. You should certainly be posting on social media, but perhaps even a physical notice in your store. If you are near a gym, show which Pokemon team is currently in control, encouraging other teams to come in and battle.

If you are not near a gym or ‘Pokestop’, why not advertise the latest rare Pokemon that was seen in your area. People will flock to your area if they hear that a rare or super strong Pokemon was spotted. Then if you are ready to take things to the next level, you could even promote a Facebook post to users within your geographical radius to get an immediate response.

Go with it


Don’t be that business that gets called out for hating on Pokemon players. Things will surely die down a bit soon (maybe). If you’re open to having a bit of fun and be accepting of this amazing change in social culture you may be able to benefit from a business perspective too. Get creative with your marketing and don’t forget to ‘catch em all’.