Is Pokémon Go good for business?

In case you haven’t heard, Pokémon Go has taken the United States by storm.

Released earlier this month it became the top free downloaded app in both the Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play store. There have been over 15 million installs on Apple and Android devices so far this month, according to App Intelligence provider, Sensor Tower.

Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game. It grew out of the 1996 video game from Nintendo. An augmented reality game is a live direct or indirect view of physical environment whose elements are augmented by a computer-generated sensory input as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. Basically, the user is experiencing the game in real time with Pokémon characters appearing on their smart phone screen using the GPS and camera.

Individuals or teams of people can be seen wandering around landscapes with smart phones out looking to capture Pokémon characters. You need a smart phone, downloaded app, good data plan, and willingness to explore in order to play. There are two types of fixed locations: PokéStops where users go to places of note picking up Poké balls, and other items, that are needed to catch Pokémons or Gyms where players battle their Pokémons in a bid to gain control of a location just like in the video game.

So, what could this mean for local small businesses? A lot.

It’s pretty easy to draw Pokémon Go players to your business. In fact, Peter Shankman, author of “Zombie Loyalist: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans” and an avid Pokémon Go competitor — or in a Pokémon term a “trainer” — says that Pokémon is yet another way that tech is allowing companies to grow their business and expand to new markets.

Shankman — who the New York Times has called, “a public relations all star who knows everything about new media and then some,” — suggests that companies wanting in on the action should start small. Download the app and play the game. Spend $10 and install a “lure” near your business. See what happens. Don’t try to force it, let it come to you. If given the opportunity, people will come.

With a modest purchase your business’s “lure” should attract users to a location for 30 minutes. Don’t worry if you aren’t near PokéStops or Gyms, Pokémons can show up anywhere. There is talk that Pokémon Go developers will have sponsored retail locations coming soon, opening up more opportunities for businesses to participate.

The key to success for your business, Shankman says, is to not force people to buy once they come around you. There is nothing worse than luring people in then forcing them to do anything. Let it happen naturally.

Kind of like it did last week at the University of Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium opened up Pokémon players and 1,366 people showed up.

UK Athletics spokesman Guy Ramsey said since so many people are playing the game, the athletics department saw an opportunity for community outreach. Officials for other football teams, including Nebraska and Texas A&M, have also opened up their stadiums for Pokémon Go players.

OK, so your small business isn’t Commonwealth Stadium, but here are some fun things you could do:

▪  Host a “lure” party. Advertise it and offer a discount to trainers.

▪  Host a Poké-hunt event that starts and ends at your business.

▪  Give Pokémon Go social media specials to trainers.

And remember this: Pokémon Go crosses generations, gender, and race. Everyone seems to be playing and those playing are spending more time on the Pokémon Go app than Facebook or Snapchat. On average, they are on the app for over 30 minutes a day.

It is the summer of Pokémon Go, but what is next for augmented reality games?

Shankman said Pokémon Go may or may not grow more successful, but augmented reality will. That’s here to stay, and companies who take advantage of it will do very well.

This column was originally published in the Lexington Herald-Leader on June 26, 2016 and nationally distributed  to over 300 media outlets through the Tribune Content Agency. 

A little humor with the beloved character, Mr. Bean:

 

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