You’ve probably heard about Pokémon Go by now, and if you haven’t, perhaps you’ve wondered why more people than ever are staring into their phones! Pokémon Go is an location-based, augmented reality game for smartphones that features the franchise of virtual creatures that has been around since the 90s.

Whether you play the game, don’t play, or are tired of seeing Pokémon Go-related posts in your Facebook feed, there’s no denying the game is a worldwide phenomenon. As a business owner, there are a number of ways you can leverage its success to increase business, foot traffic, or at least win some esteem from customers. I’ve come across several already, and there is a lot to be learned from their examples.

Things to Know

The game involves real locations in two different ways, and Pokémon Go players benefit from visiting them in person. One is Gyms, which is where players “battle” their Pokémon to win and keep control of that location, king-of-the-hill style.  The other kind is PokéStops, where players receive helpful virtual items. The game used data to assign Gyms and PokéStops to real world locations – they are often landmarks or points of interest.

If your business was deemed a Gym or PokéStop, it can be a blessing or a curse. The blessing could be extra foot traffic for free, but the curse is that players might not actually purchase anything or could get in the way of your actual customers. Overall, I think it depends on how you look at it. You could be dour like this Dairy Queen (left) or enthusiastic like this clothing store (right). Which do you think will resonate better with customers, regardless of whether or not they play the game? I vote for being fun and welcoming.

You may know by now if your business is a Gym or PokéStop – you’ve probably noticed more people hanging around it glued to their phone screens and making an odd vertical swipe motion (that means they’re trying to catch a Pokémon!). If you’re not sure, install the game (it’s free), sign up, and take a look. Gyms are towering platforms, whereas PokéStops are circular. If you don’t have a smartphone, or this isn’t your thing at all, find an employee or friend or family member who does play and ask them for help. They don’t necessarily have to be 15 years old, either. We 80s and 90s kids are all grown up now and are playing the game in droves! So your 35-year-old niece may well have the answers you seek!


Gym Example: Game Store

Since Game Paradise in Indianapolis is a board game library and shop, it’s already very much tied into geek culture. So it is especially fitting and fortunate that Pokémon Go made it a Gym. In this Facebook post, Game Paradise incentivizes customers to come on in and become part of the Gym’s winning team for a discount. I really like the competitive aspect of this offer; as opposed to simply saying “Show us your best Pokémon for a discount,” customers actually have to win, so:

  1. They need to spend enough time there to either defeat an opposing team holding the Gym (players join one of three teams: Mystic/blue, Valor/red, and Instinct/yellow) or to strengthen their own team’s presence
  2. Only up to 10 people at a time can defend a Gym, so that makes this offer more limited and competitive.
  3. Pokémon Go inherently encourages face-to-face interaction among players, and for a store that rents out board games, Game Paradise can now have a even bigger role in bringing people together playing both Pokémon Go and board games from its rental collection.

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In Pokémon go, there’s an item called a “Lure” that attracts extra Pokémon to a PokéStop for 30 minutes. They’re visible to all players in the area, so if you set it, they will come… To set a lure on a PokéStop:

  1. You have to be close to it, within 100 feet or so
  2. Tap the PokéStop
  3. Tap the small pill shape above the circular photo of the PokéStop
  4. Tap the magenta PokéStop Module at the bottom of the screen
  5. Tap on the Lure Module
  6. A cascade of pink flower petals will indicate the PokéStop’s lure power for the next 30 minutes

You get a few lures for free when playing the game, but they can also be purchased, and for something that can potentially bring a lot of people in the door, they are very inexpensive.

In the shop, you first have to spend real money on PokéCoins, which can then be exchanged for items, including lures. Buying just one lure costs 100 PokéCoins, or $1.00. But the more you buy of both PokéCoins and lures, the more you save:

  • For $99.99, you can buy 14,500 PokéCoins – the equivalent of $145.00.
  • Then you can buy an 8-pack of lures for 680 PokéCoins – the equivalent of $6.80.
  • So for $99.99, you can get 168 lures, so that’s only $0.60 each.
  • At 30 minutes of luring power each, that’s 84 total hours you can attract Pokémon Go players to your location.
  • Since you probably wouldn’t use the lures 24/7, you could use them when business is typically slow to increase traffic, like the mid-afternoon if you’re a restaurant.
  • If you use 4 lures a day for a 2-hour block, you’re spending $2.40 a day, and your $99.99 would last you 42 days. Compare that to getting 1 or 2 clicks on Facebook Ads or Adwords per day, which don’t even guarantee location visits or sales!

At that bargain, the sale of just one small item a day will pay for your investment. Aside from setting lures themselves, why not post on social media and/or your website about when you’ll provide lures to let your Pokémon Go-playing customers know in advance?

PokéStop Example 1: Landmark

Home to the Nobel Prize author for nearly 10 years, the Ernest Hemingway Home here in Key West is one of the island’s most visited sites. Known for its literary legacy, architecture, and polydactyl cats, Pokémon Go bestowed not one but two PokéStops on the Property. The attraction is free to local residents year-round, but this Instagram post takes the hospitality even further, showing that the site is providing lures for Pokémon Go players. This post does everything right, including:

  1. Posting this on July 15th, just nine days after the game launched, demonstrates that the person behind this account is on the ball!
  2. A savvy use of hashtags for greater visibility on Instagram
  3. Referencing the legendary Pokémon Mewtwo and cleverly tying it into the Hemingway Home’s famous six-toed cats
  4. Helpful information about when players should come

Again, locals get in for free, so the chances of the attraction making lots of extra money on admission is low. Summertime is Key West’s slow season, so inviting locals won’t cause crowding, and fostering appreciation of local sights among local residents is ingenious.

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PokéStop Example 2: Coffee Shop

This Key West coffee shop, Sippin‘, does not have its own PokéStop, but a neighboring movie theater does. Apparently Sippin’ used this opportunity to kick off a text program, providing information about both lure drops and discounts. This move will help boost foot traffic for months to come. Also note how the post got 68 likes, far beyond its usual 2 to 10.


Staying Current

Even if your brick and mortar did not become a Gym or PokéStop, you can show you’re keeping up with the times with a clever post that ties into the Pokémon phenomenon!

Day spa

For my oldest and oft-mentioned client – Spaah in Bloomington, Indiana – I saw a prime opportunity to tie Pokémon Go into a Facebook post! With four arms, the Pokémon called Machamp would be an ideal massage therapist!

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This post by Caroline’s Cafe here in Key West is doubly savvy:

  1. It ties into Pokémon Go and uses the augmented reality view to show an adorable Eevee Pokémon “at” the restaurant!
  2. It features a staff member, which is always a great tactic for posts, as it shows how personable an establishment is!

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While not a business, the University of Delaware Police posted the best Pokémon Go-related post I have seen. The augmented reality positioning of the Pidgey is hilarious! Despite being about safety tips, this post was so witty, it even went viral! Check out the top comment with high praise. Apparently this isn’t the UPD’s only clever post, so it seems to be doing very well in building a favorable relationship with the community.

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Ride the Wave and Catch ‘Em All

It may seem that Pokémon has nothing to do with your industry or interests, but with some creativity, you could come up with something that really resonates with customers. The organizations I listed above have tapped into the craze, but most businesses are missing opportunities to increase sales and build rapport. Admittedly, the hype about Pokémon Go has waned since it launched a few weeks ago, but don’t think it’s just a passing fad. The game developers have said it’s only at about 10% of what they have envisioned for it, so the game will not be going away anytime soon. Though if you do opt out of catching this wave, staying in touch with what’s grabbing your customers’ attention can only help your business.

How Local Businesses are Jumping on Pokémon Go!
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