Pokémon Go isn’t just a smash hit game — it’s a massive marketing opportunity.
The app’s groundbreaking feature is the fact that it locates Pokémon in the real world and uses real world locations like shops and churches for things like gyms, where you can battle, and “Pokéstops”, where you can get items like Pokéballs and healing potions. To get Pokémon and items, you actually have to visit these locations in real life.
Small business across the UK are exploiting their status as Pokéstops to try and pull in new customers. BI knows of at least 3 businesses that are using lures — in-app features that turn Pokéstops into magnets for Pokémon — to attract more customers. There are probably many more doing it.
Andy Harris, a business development director at retail software company Symphony Gold, wrote in a recent blog post:
“It is smaller retail outlets, restaurants and bars who have capitalised on this trend already, seeing opportunities to bring players to their venues by using in game “lures” to increase the numbers of Pokémon available for capture… Expect to see Pokémon Parties at your nearest bars on Monday nights for the next few months!”
“Every day I will drop a lure outside,” says Paul Stenson, general manager at the White Moose Cafe in Dublin. “I won’t say what time I do that, I vary it every day, but I announce it on Twitter and Facebook when it’s live and during that half hour there’s a 50% discount.”
Stenson had no idea what Pokémon Go was, until a waiter at the cafe told him. “It’s had a big impact,” he says. “Since this went live in Ireland, the first week in July, Team Mystic [one of the 3 teams you can join in the game] we’ve given 28 discounts to, we’ve given 18 discounts to Team Instinct, and 12 discounts to Team Valour. Bare in mind we’re a 35 seater cafe. For a 35 seater cafe, it’s fairly substantial.”
Max Robinson, the cofounder of workwear clothing store Ace Workwear in Scotland, told BI: “The lures were by far the best way we’ve managed to jump on the Pokémon Go train so far. We got people actually coming into our store which was great. People took photos and it created a nice little buzz.”
He estimates that he’s spent around £50 so far on lures, which cost £0.79 each. Robinson adds that this is “next to nothing compared to the amount we can spend on advertising campaigns on social media.”
“I would recommend this approach to any business that benefits from getting people through the doors i.e pretty much every business,” Robinson told BI. “We are planning on reintroducing them in the near future once a few more popular Pokémon become available to catch in our country. We predict that the game will be popular for a long while and will introduce plenty of new features so we will hold off until these features are unveiled.”
Stenson has spent even more than Robinson — $99 so far. “Our takings in the cafe have increased considerably since Pokémon Go was released in Ireland,” he says. “I can’t tell you whether that’s directly attributable to Pokémon Go but it is quite a coincidence. We’re embracing it.”
While Stenson and Robinson have been shelling out actual cash to market using Pokémon Go, there are plenty of businesses who are jumping on the Pokémon Go bandwagon in other ways. On my travels around London I’ve seen dozens of pub signs advertising themselves as Pokéstops, such as the one below.
There’s a real benefit to this kind of thing — one pizza place in Massachusetts that is near several Pokestops estimates it has seen an 18% jump in sales since the game was released.
Stenson says: “Even if I still knew nothing about Pokémon Go, the very fact that we are a Pokestop is drawing eyes on our business. People who may not have noticed us before will say, ‘oh look, there’s a cafe, I might pop in there sometime.’ Even if we didn’t embrace it, it would be a force for good.”
Robinson says his business tried several different methods to try and benefit from the Pokemania, although the lures have been the most successful.
“We’ve been trying to figure out how to make the most of the recent Pokémon Go craze and we’ve tried a few things so far,” he says. “Posting on social media about Pokémon near our location and handing out high vis safety vests to kids who were looking for Pokémon near our building worked really well.”
As well as planting lures, Stenson has also bought phone chargers to put in the cafe because “this thing drains your battery massively,” he says. “That’s another way of luring people in.”
He adds: “I don’t play it 24-hours a day, but I certainly keep in touch. I’m on level 6 which is not great but I’m allowed to go to gyms and stuff now. When I drop a lure I’ll always see what Pokémon are around. We had Pikachu today, who is a fairly high value one.”