Did Pikachu just become retail’s saviour?

Published at Jul 15, 2016, in Features

For years, retailers small and large have been attempting to use push-messaging to increase foot traffic – without success. Pikachu may have more luck, though.

If you’ve been outside, read the news or basically been anywhere other than under a rock in the past week you’ve probably run into Pokémon Go.

Based on the tremendously successful Pokémon game series, Go is an app where players can run around looking for virtual monsters and try to capture them.

People are represented with in-game avatar and they run around a map of the real world (presented like Google Maps) – and at various landmarks (or Pokestops), players receive in-game items for free.

That’s basically why you’re seeing a whole bunch of people clustered around landmarks in your city while staring intently at their phones instead of looking at the landmark.

A lot has been written about this being somewhat of a breakthrough moment for augmented reality, and it is, but very few have noticed the potential for retailers to use the game to lure crowds of hungry pokemon trainers to their stores.

Plenty have been pushing Pokemon-related messages on social media, but very few are using the power of the Pokestop to increase foot traffic.

What you can do as a Pokemon Go user, is at each Pokestop apply a ‘lure’.

You can buy these from Nintendo and they cost about $1 each.

What this lure does is basically attract Pokemon to that point (or rather, re-writes an algorithm to make virtual lines of code appear but let’s not spoil the fun).

When a bunch of Pokemon appear at a place, Pokemon trainer wannabes are sure to follow.

So, the question is – what if a local business near a Pokestop went ahead and applied lures to the Pokestop.

All day.

Would not that Pokestop become a hotspot for foot traffic, increasing the likelihood of foot traffic in that store?

Hypothetically, a nearby burger joint could offer all Pokemon Go players 5% a burger.

It’s not just hypothetical – local businesses are already starting to cotton onto the feature and exploit the hordes of Pokemon chasers.

The Sydney Opera House is doing it, so why not your business?

It’s even rumoured that Nintendo and app creator Niantic are talking about ‘sponsored Pokestops’.

We’re about to enter a brave new world of retail marketing, folks.

One of the more well-publicised featured of the app is that it collects a heck of a lot of your data – and nobody really seems to mind.

Gotta catch’em all, after all.

So, hypothetically, could McDonalds lure people into stores with the prospect of a Mew, collect their personal data, and then push out an offer for a discount Big Mac?

We’re probably going to see a lot of this stuff being explored over the next six months or so – but retailers have been trying to get this right for years.

Companies have been using ‘beacons’ to push out offers directly to people’s phones for a while now.

So, when you pass a store you basically get a message on your phone – but here’s the thing:

The person has to be in or passing the store very slowly for the beacon to activate.

It doesn’t actually attract a potential customer to a store in the first place.

A Pokemon Go user does need to be within cooee of a Pokestop for them to be able to use the stop and get the free items – but if there’s a lure applied to the stop then there’s no telling what could be done by innovative retailers.

Or anywhere that wants to attract a crowd, really.

We live in interesting times, and Nintendo and Niantic just became potential saviours for retail – all because of virtual pocket monsters.

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