Your Facebook newsfeed has probably blown up this week with references to Pokémon GO. You’ve likely already had a conversation this weekend with one of your friends about their kids already diving straight into the game. It’s no surprise that Pokémon GO is currently the No. 1 download and revenue raiser on the iPhone app store in Australia. The augmented reality game by Niantic Labs and The Pokémon Company is having a huge impact on the young (and young at heart) across the nation. And now that I’ve mentioned it, your sure to identify small groups of teenagers hanging out on street corners glued to their phones – only difference is that they’re there for a purpose. But how do I use Pokémon GO for Local Business?

What is Pokémon GO?

Pokémon GO is an augmented reality game for mobile phones (or tablets if you wish). ‘Pokémon Trainers’, or players, travel around the real world interacting hunting Pokémon. The app connects to your GPS and your camera. With the app open you will quite literally be walking down the street and an animated monster will jump out onto the footpath in front of you, at which point you will attempt to catch it by throwing Pokéballs at it. The game gets far more complicated that that with the opportunity to breed and train your Pokémon, join teams, defend ‘Gyms’ from other players, and interact with lots of in-game accessories. In short, it turns the real world into the backdrop for a multi-player and immersive game.

There’s much more to the features of the game itself, but there are a couple of really interesting elements of the game play for local business.

Pokemon Go Local Bike RackThe first is the vast array of Pokéstops. A Pokéstop is a public location that a player can visit to collect free items (extra Pokéballs, lures, incense, bonus eggs, etc). Once a player claims these free items they need to wait a period of time before they can visit it again. Now I live in a little regional town of only a few thousand people, but even so I have found literally dozens of Pokéstops around town, mostly in the main street. They include things like the local dog grooming parlour, a bike rack, the public notice board, the skate park, etc. I must admit that I am surprised that such a small town has so many Pokéstops baked into the game but each represents a location that players will return to over and over again.

The other element is that there are some in-game accessories that players can use that have an effect on the abundance of Pokémon, and thus the way that real life players interact with the real world. We’ll dive down on this in a moment.

The last thing that you need to know is that Pokémon GO is really in its infancy. In fact it has been released to Australia (as well as several other countries) ahead of the rest of the world to essentially iron out the last issues. What this means is that use of the game will continue to grow, and tactics for businesses to interact with it will continue to mature. That said, there is a wonderful opportunity right now jump in and leverage the crowds of young and young at heart who are already engaging with the game and visiting locations near you.

Four great ways to use Pokémon GO for Local Business!

Discover if there is a PokéStop or Gym near you.

Pokemon Go PokeStops on MapThere are hundreds of thousands of in-game locations in Pokémon GO. To give a brief history, Niantic Labs (who own Pokemon GO) previously created another augmented-reality game called Ingress. Niantic have said that the locations in Ingress have been “touched up” for Pokémon GO. Either way there are likely several locations near you, especially if you are in the middle of town.

Just to recap, a PokéStop or a Gym are locations that players are encouraged to return to regularly engage with the game.

While there is a growing map of Pokémon locations here, the most accurate way of discovering nearby locations is to look in the app itself. Either download it to your iOS or Android device or find out which of your friends (or friends kids) has the app. When you look in the game you see PokéStops as blue cubes floating on a stand, and Gyms look like giant bird feeders. You may also notice that the map is directly based on Google Maps.

Make the most of local PokéStops and Gyms

I’ve seen several references to businesses posting signs in their front door saying “PokéStop only available to paying customers” or similar. And while I appreciate that having a continual stream of people loitering in your store is a nuisance I’d challenge you to think of other ways you could use the foot-traffic.

Some suggestions are:

  • If you’re a coffee shop create a ‘Squirtle hot chocolate’, or some hot ‘Charmander wedges’. Its a great way of engaging with the foot traffic, even if the closest location is a few doors away. Take this a step further and give a 5% discount if they show you the app on their phone. While some people loathe discounting, it might be enough to turn a non-paying loiterer into a great return customer. By the way, not sure what a Squirtle is? Check the Pokédex.
  • Offer free wifi in store and a place to charge a phone. Pokémon GO uses (some) data and is heavy on the GPS usage. As such it is a real drain on mobile devices. If you can give people a free place to charge their phones (perhaps even supply a couple of USB cords) then chances are they’ll hang out in your shop for 15min which gives them a great chance to browse your store or buy something to eat.
  • Provide alternate entertainment for parents. While not all Pokémon GO players are young kids, it is a game open to all ages. Just this weekend I’ve seen a dozen sets of parents (or grandparents) walking around with their kids (who had phones in hand). I suspect many of these were parents chaperoning young Pokémon Trainers. So if the kids are going to drag the parents past your store, you might as well cash in on the ‘captive audience’.

But would you pay for foot traffic to your store? While there is no method for businesses to interact directly with the game is at least one work-around. One of the in-game accessories is called a Lure Module. In summary it is a feature that attracts Pokémon to a particular PokéStop for 30 minutes. This feature benefits any players that are near that PokéStop.

Let’s recap. Real players are out there searching for Pokémon, and you have the ability to attract more Pokémon to a specific PokéStop! This is great if your local business is nearby.

It’s important to know that a Lure Module will cost you 100 PokéCoins (worth about $1.49), but set up the right way it could be worth it.

Steps to Using a Lure Module for Local Business

  • Pokemon GO Lure ModuleOk, so you’ll need to actually sign up to the game for this tactic, but seeing the game is free that shouldn’t be a big issue.
  • Next you’ll need to ensure you’re next to a PokéStop (or near enough that the you’ll benefit from the additional foot traffic). See steps above.
  • Visit the in-game store by clicking on the red and white circle at the bottom of the screen, then clicking “shop”.
  • Buy a supply of PokéCoins inside the game. These will cost you real dollars and will be charged to your App Store account (or Google Play). As mentioned, 100 coins will cost you $1.49, and there’s discounts when you purchase in volume.
  • Purchase 1 (or more) Lure Modules. A single Lure will cost you 100 coins, or a pack of 8 will cost you 680 (roughly $10 of PokéCoins).
  • Plan when you will activate your Lure and then let people know. Post it on your Facebook Page, put a note up in store, scribble it on a sandwich board out the front. Better yet, decide when your flattest time is each week (and when Pokémon Trainers are most out such as weekends or after school) and plan to activate Lures regularly each week, such as 2pm every Saturday. This is the most important step! Remember, you are essentially saying “hey, anyone who plays Pokémon GO… there will be extra Pokémon right here outside my store at this particular time!”.
  • Activate the Lure at the planned time, and then use your creativity to turn these players into paying customers.
  • Bonus hint #1. Get together with your neighbouring stores. Imagine if you activated a Lure at 2pm and they activated another at 2:30pm AND you told both your audiences. Double the window of time and double the audience.
  • Bonus hint #2. Find a way to sign people up to your business. Perhaps it’s a simple message saying “Like my Facebook Page to find out when we’re setting off the next 3 Lures”, or better yet “Join my newsletter and be the first to know when we’re activating Lures near you!”. Either way, once they’re subscribed to you you can provide great information on your business, your offers and other reasons to visit you more often.

Pokemon GO Coin PacksBut there’s no PokéStops or Gyms nearby?

While Pokémon GO locations are great opportunities to cash in on additional foot traffic, its not ‘game over’ if you’re not nearby one. My suggestion is to just get in on the act.  You could do something as simple as put a poster of local PokéStops inside your front door, or even try and keep a leaderboard of the most often caught Pokémon in the neighbourhood. It’s not hard to become the ‘go to’ place for local Pokéemon GO information. At the very least its bound to leave a positive impression, and with the enormous amount of media coverage this game is getting it may even give you some exposure in the press.

What does the future of Pokémon GO look like for local business?

It’s hard to say. Although there’s no indication that the game is moving in this direction I’d love to see the opportunity for local business to register their location as a PokéStop. Even if you had to pay a fee for a period of time it would be an interesting partnership for both local business and Niantic Labs.

What I do know is that if the last week is anything to go by the numbers of players in the game is only going to skyrocket for the next few months. This means more and more people will be out and about with their mobile phones in hand interacting with imaginary Pokémon. And this means that there are more and more opportunities for local business to be creative in capturing this foot traffic and engaging with a new audience. It’s going to be really interesting to watch.

What now?

So what does this mean for the rest of us? The fusion of video games and ‘real life’ seems to be happening more and more often. And when you look at the levels of investment that Google, Samsung, Apple and other tech giants are pouring into augmented reality it’s clear that this gap will continue to close in the near future. We’ve often thought that video games are intrinsically ‘bad’ – they lead to anti-social behaviour, “square eyes” and take us away from the real world. I suspect that this perception is far from the truth. In fact, this article here outlines 12 Surprising Health Benefits of Playing Video Games. It’s definitely well worth the read.


But what about you? Do you know anyone playing Pokémon GO, or better yet any businesses already planning to leverage the platform? Let me know in the comments below as we would all love to hear your stories.