Tuck Ross is senior vice president for Digital Marketing at BBVA Compass. Ross helped shape digital content strategy for Disney, Hasbro, Ergo Baby, and Guitar Center before joining BBVA in 2015.
Pokemon Go, the location-based, augmented reality (AR) game is taking over the world, and it’s having a real-world effect, boosting visibility by creating foot traffic for innovative small businesses that are willing to play along.
What’s Pokemon Go?
The game essentially creates a playing field for the game using your phone camera and Google Maps. On the playing field, your character avatar walks around the map interface – as you actually walk around your neighborhood, a shopping center, or on a city sidewalk – hunting Pokemon creatures, “gems,” and other goodies. As you capture the wins, you move up in levels, engage in “battles,” and join a team.
You likely have seen people walking around, studying their phones, and turning this way and that. Chances are they were on the hunt for their next Pokemon, possibly inside your business. Players range in age from elementary school kids to adults and the only required tool is a mobile phone, making it accessible to a wide swath of society—and potential customers.
Within two weeks of its U.S. launch, Pokemon Go built an active audience of more than 21 million active daily users, with more than $1.6 million in daily revenue from in-app purchases. It’s already outpacing Twitter and Tinder in daily active users and WhatsApp and Instagram in usage, with users spending an average of 43 minutes per day vs. 30 minutes for WhatsApp and 25 minutes for Instagram.
Where Businesses Fit In
As a business, what’s your goal the Pokemon Go? Maximize your exposure and ride the wave. The game can drive foot traffic, and build positive brand awareness because you are engaging with something that interests customers and their children and that rewards them for visiting your business.
Who knows how long Pokemon Go will capture the national attention, but businesses that take advantage of its popularity now could build customer relationships that outlast the game. Here are some things to consider before joining the Pokemon Go craze:
- Check your business risk tolerance. People have already been injured playing Pokemon Go because players tend to look at the game, not where they are walking (or in some cases driving.) Check with your risk advisor and/or business attorney to see if inviting players to your business is manageable and worth it.
- Download the app. Go to your app store (iPhone or Android), and search ‘Pokemon Go.’ Unlike other ad campaigns or promotions, you cannot centralize the usage or spend like in Facebook Ad Manager — each app install is a separate instance so you will have to use an individual smartphone to run Pokemon Go. Using a corporate phone or a shared team phone could be the best option. Next, open the app, login with a Google account (idea: use a shared team Google account), and follow the set up steps.
- Set up your payment method. Make sure your payment method is stored in the app store of the associated phone . You will run the promotions for your location via in-app purchases. Depending on how you handle promotional expenses, you may want to add a different card to your app store’s payment options so it’s correctly charged for expensing or just have employees submit proof of in-app payments (eg screenshots and app store receipts) for reimbursement. Anytime you ‘shop’ in the app, you will use this payment method.
- Determine if you are a PokeStop. PokeStopes are desirable locations where in-game goodies are stored. Other than finding Pokemon creatures, players want to find PokeStops to score bonus goodies to help them get more Pokemon.
- PokeStops cannot be added at this time, but if there’s one at your location, it simplifies the next steps.
- If you are a PokeStop, drop a Lure. So your location is a PokeStop or very near a PokeStop. Now you can drop a Lure, an in-game tool used to attract more Pokemon and players to a PokeStop location.
- Activate a Lure and Pokemon generate at that location at an increased rate. Each Lure lasts 30 minutes, so purchase as many 30-minute increments you want the Lure live. For instance, if you want to run Lures for an eight-hour window, you need 16 Lures. Since Pokemon keep appearing when a Lure is active, you might actually see players hanging around, waiting for the next Pokemon to appear.
- Activating a Lure. Tap the red/white Pokeball at the bottom of the screen. Tap “Shop.” Scroll down and find the package of Lures. Once you tap, you will need to purchase. From there, tap the desired Pokestop module in ‘Items’ and then tap the purple Lure module to add it to the PokeStop. Pink hearts will float around the Stop, letting you know you are live and the 30 minute countdown timer has started.
- What’s the cost? Super low. Here’s the math. With $100 netting you 14,500 Pokecoins, the in-game currency to buy Shop items, and an 8-pack of Lures costing 680 Pokecoins: 14,500 PokeCoins / 680 = 21 eight-packs of Lures = 84 hours of Lures active = $1.19 per hour.
- Measuring results. Keep track of incremental foot traffic and watch behavior of new traffic (face down in phone with odd turning behavior is a good sign). The ROI here could be significant. Even if you add 10 people incrementally, that’s 19 cents per person.
Here are some other ideas on how to engage with the game, even if you aren’t a PokeStop:
- Offer discounts to teams that control Player Gyms nearby to reward their presence in the area and game participation. A player would just need to show their phone and which team they have joined for the credit to their purchase.
- Leverage the AR. When a Pokemon appears, capture it using your phone camera then share the image via social media with a comment about your location, promotions for that day, or even positive commentary about stopping by “to pick up a coffee and a Pokemon.”
- Be a rest stop. Offer your location as a Pokemon Rest Stop (you can provide A/C, free beverages, phone charge stations, and/or free WiFi)
Promote your Participation
Once you determine your concept, promote it via signage in front of your location and through a landing page on your website. Tag that page with a display retargeting for your mobile app, mobile shopping channel, or products you feature in your screenshots or promotion, and make sure to amplify your promotion via social media.
Pokemon Go may be a fad, but keep in mind Pokemon was supposed to be a fad 20 years ago and it’s still here. No marketing channel is evergreen. Pokemon Go has captured national attention in a happy and engaging way — but it’s hot right now. Now is the time to capitalize on it.