Pokémon Go gives us a glimpse into retail’s augmented future

by Infor Retail July 19, 2016 Converged Commerce

If you’ve decided not to pay any mind to the latest outbreak of Pokémon hype, it’s time to start: not only has the franchise’s new Pokémon Go video game built up a user base to rival those of major social media networks like Twitter, but it’s also increased Nintendo’s stock by $23 billion—all in the course of about a week.

For the uninitiated, Pokémon Go is an augmented reality (AR) game developed by Niantic Inc. that allows players to interact with and even “catch” Pokémon that are superimposed on real-life scenarios. Using GPS data, the game overlays the player’s current environment with a Pokémon-themed overworld, tapping into the series’ massive fan base to draw numbers that already have businesses turning their heads and trying to figure out how to get in on the action and drive sales.

Many stores and restaurants looking to take advantage of the Pokémon Go zeitgeist are offering rewards to visitors who play Pokémon Go. One Arizona Mall attracted customers by purchasing an in-game “lure module” that brings Pokémon to the location. The technique works: at a pizza bar in New York, foot traffic jumped 75% after purchasing a lure module of its own.

While the game currently doesn’t offer any form of explicit paid advertising, there are already indications that Niantic will soon be teaming up for partnerships with businesses like McDonald’s—perhaps as a way of offering players an incentive to stop in at the fast food joint in an attempt to gain special items or rare Pokémon.

In a 2014 interview with Kill Screen, Niantic CEO John Hanke outlined the potential value of AR marketing for stores that learn to use it well: “With these kind of ads, the physical location of the retail partner becomes an active location in the game so there are incentives for users in the game to visit those locations. It’s in the early stages for that kind of a business model but I think it’s a very promising one. Retailers want store traffic. They want consumers to be aware of where their locations are. They want consumers to be engaged with them, and I think these games are a powerful tool for that.”

The incentive here for retailers is massive: Pokémon Go players are hyper-engaged, often using the app more than they use popular networks like Facebook and Snapchat.

While Pokémon Go is already drawing lots of attention in retail, it’s only the first in an upcoming wave of AR apps that will break down the barriers between our physical and digital spaces. As brick-and-mortar stores try harder than ever to drive traffic to their locations, Pokémon Go is evidence that there are some incredibly effective AR apps that can do just that—as long as they can help passersby in their quest to catch ‘em all.

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