How can businesses capitalize on the Pokémon Go craze?



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As Pokémon Go continues to ensnare users with its nostalgia-soaked augmented reality play, business owners are recognizing ways to capitalize on the mania.

The game has amassed more than 65 million users since its nationwide launch in early July. Created by San Francisco-based Niantic, Pokémon Go encourages players to go outside and “hunt” for digital Pokémon creatures in the real world.

“It’s good for businesses that use and need foot traffic to their locations, like restaurants, retail, even food trucks,” said Jolie Balido, president of Coral Gables-based digital PR consultancy Roar Media.

“Pokestops” are where the creatures roam, ripe for the taking, and they’re scattered throughout the physical world at major attractions such as public parks and museums. Businesses within Pokestops’ range have attracted potential customers through in-app purchases of “lure modules.” Available for about $1, lures attract virtual Pokémon to real-life locales, thereby attracting foot traffic.

Mizner Park is a case study in the efficacy of lures. The Boca Raton-based cluster of restaurants and retailers is home to more than 10 Pokestops and has seen a large influx of both young and adult guests since the launch of Pokémon, according to Kelsey Johnson, who handles PR and social media for the Boca Raton Museum of Art.

The game, based on a 1990s cartoon series, “has been a tremendous boon” to both the Boca Raton Museum of Art and the Art School on Palmetto Park Road, she said.

The museum has experimented with placing lures at three nearby Pokestops between 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. The effort yielded a 164 percent increase in guests during the typically idle hours.

“We only announced on social media that we’d be setting the lures up about an hour beforehand, so we were impressed that we saw so much impact so quickly!” Johnson said.

It raises the question of how location-based digital platforms could impact future business strategies and digital marketing tools.

Location platform Foursquare, which launched in March 2009, first popularized the idea of digital interaction with physical spaces. Pokémon’s roaring popularity later demonstrated the extent to which such platforms can benefit not just users but surrounding places of business. The game’s popularity may have peaked, with daily active users plateauing at about 20 million in the U.S. But the question stands: What effect will location-based online platforms have on how brick-and-mortar establishments work to increase visibility?

“What we’re seeing in terms of real, everyday practical solutions in leveraging augmented reality is at a really nascent stage at this point,” said Jacques Hart, CEO of Roar Media. “There’s been a groundswell in the retail community around things like iBeacon,” a technology that creates alerts to sales or products within users’ vicinities based on individual consumption behavior. Like Pokémon Go, it capitalizes on geolocation.

The challenge, however, is that the fledgling technologies of augmented reality, location-based apps and the like have not been centralized.

“There are none that have become household names, so as a result of that there’s been little traction with retailers or consumers to adapt it,” Hart said.

Progress in the space will require critical mass and consolidation, he added.

Future potential aside, Hart and Balido advise business owners to take advantage of the Pokémon popularity while it lasts.

“It’s a craze right now but it’s going to have a lifespan,” Balido said. “The time to engage is now.”

There are also downsides to the trend.

For one, Pokémon is poised to disrupt workplace productivity. Social media has long been contemplated as a distraction to productivity in the workplace. The game is no different.

There are other implications, too.

“If you’re a B-to-B company, having foot traffic from the general population won’t help. Or if you’re a coffee shop, people may not enjoy having swarms of teenagers playing the Pokémon Game. This could also create fire-code violation or accidents that could lead to lawsuits,” Balido said.

Her main takeaway?

“Marketing opportunities should be done in a tasteful way.”