We think it’s pretty safe to assume you’ve heard about Pokémon Go by now. It’s an augmented reality (AR) game that uses your smartphone’s GPS and camera to find, capture, and battle little monsters called Pokémon. Yes, that Pokémon, the same one that blew up in the late ‘90s. And with Pokémon Go, it’s taking over the world again.
The aftershocks of Pokémon Go’s popularity cannot be ignored. In only a few days after its July 6th launch, it had more daily users than Twitter and more downloads than Tinder on Android. It also gets more regular use than Facebook. These feats paid off, as they initially doubled Nintendo’s market capitalization. All this for a free-to-play mobile game where you capture rats, birds, fish, and other oddball creatures!
Although hunting for Pokémon in your kitchen has its fun, the real kicker for SEO is Pokémon Go’s potential for local businesses. Features built right into the game, such as lures, are already driving foot traffic. This and more to come could change the way local businesses think about advertising.
We at SEO Inc. have seen what businesses have been doing to capitalize on this phenomenon. Now we’re going to share what we’ve seen and how you can take advantage of it.
How Pokémon Go is Driving Traffic to Local Businesses
Finding new ways to get people in the door has always been a challenge for local businesses. But Pokémon Go offers an incentive for customers to leave their homes—and with luck, land them right on your doorstep.
It works like this: Players head out into the world to add Pokémon to their collection. While on the prowl, they can visit locations called PokéStops. These are real-world locations and landmarks, often artwork, littered across the map. PokéStops offer a small number of items and experience points to players who visit them, but that by itself isn’t much incentive. Instead, PokéStops implement a social aspect. Luckily, PokéStops have another feature to help with this: lures.
Lures can be attached to PokéStops, and for thirty minutes, they’ll increase the frequency that Pokémon appears in an area. Stories of “lure parties” are prevalent online, with sometimes hundreds of players converging on a park or other public place to catch Pokémon as a community and share the enthusiasm of other Poké-fans. Lured PokéStops are visually distinct from other stops so players can find them quickly and join in the fun. They’re indicated on the in-game map by what looks like pink confetti or rose petals swirling around the normal blue PokéStop. Whatever they are, they mean the same thing to players—there’s a party here, and you’re invited.
In the weeks since its launch, local businesses with PokéStops nearby (or are themselves a PokéStop) have been bolstering their online and in-store advertising with regular, scheduled lure dropping to draw people in the area to their doors. Businesses figure out when they want people in their store, announce they’ll be dropping a lure on social media or in their newsletter, and wait. This strategy has a lot of value for keeping loyal customers coming back, less so for attracting new ones since they haven’t been added to your newsletter yet. However, it’s possible you could get more walk-in business during your store’s peak hours from people in the area checking for nearby lures. Not exactly a great strategy to rely on, but this early in the game, who knows?
Either way, the great thing about lures is they can only be accessed by being nearby. So if you time the lure right, you could get customers in your store and help them move toward making a purchase.
How do I get lures for my business?
Lures can be earned by gaining enough experience points to level up your in-game avatar. Since you’re running a business, you probably don’t have time to put the hours into the game needed for lures to be lucrative. The good news is you can buy lures en masse from the app’s in-game store. One lure costs 100 Pokécoins, which you can get by taking over rival gyms. Again, there’s an in-app purchase option if you don’t want to play the game; you can purchase Pokécoins for real money. Pokécoin prices start at $0.99 for 100 coins and end at $99.99 for 14,500 with several options in between. Depending on how successful your lures are, the higher amounts may end up being pretty lucrative for you.
If you think it’s ridiculous to spend money on a virtual currency—for what appears to be a kid’s game, no less—don’t forget Pokémon Go’s success thus far. It has impacted a good number of big businesses: Yelp has added a “PokéStop Nearby” filter, so inquiring guests can know just what to expect when they go someplace new. T-Mobile is also offering customers a year of free, unlimited data when playing Pokémon Go. This should show you that even established, people-centric businesses have their finger on the pulse of this phenomenon. And if you’re smart, you can get in on it too.
The Potential Pitfalls of Pokémon Go
This isn’t the first time a phenomenon has rocked the local search industry. But Pokémon Go is undoubtedly the first one in a long time to have such a profound impact in such a short amount of time. It hasn’t even been out a month!
The problem is it’s still just a mobile game. It doesn’t directly benefit your business, nor does it guarantee any of the increased traffic we talked about. Increased customer traffic isn’t a matter of cause and effect; it’s correlation. You can’t start dropping lures and then expect people to come flooding your store.
Still, you’ve got to strike while the iron’s hot if you have any hope of getting a piece of the Poké-action. There’s a little cost to get involved right now, and it’ll likely stay that way until the real marketing opportunities roll out.
The Future of Pokémon Go and Local Advertising
Pokémon Go will soon offer sponsored locations for PokéStops. The whole thing will work a lot like PPC, with advertisers paying based on the number of visits to the stop. McDonald’s, which is a massive brand in Japan, has the first sponsorship in Pokémon Go. Three thousand of the restaurants will become Pokémon gyms, which is sure to attract vast numbers of players.
Other sponsorship details are in the works with other businesses, but we’ll have to wait and see. Developer Niantic Labs’ previous game, Ingress, which Pokémon Go closely resembles in concept, has sponsorships with Jamba Juice, Zipcar, and several others. These businesses are rendered in-game as prominent locations, drawing players’ eyes—and their wallets.
Also, a wearable is planned to release in September this year called the Pokémon Go Plus. It’s shaped an awful lot like the map marker from Google maps but colored red and white like a poké ball. Wearing it on your wrist will enable you to locate and catch Pokémon without taking your smartphone out. It will also serve as a valuable visual for identifying people playing the game—perfect when you see new visitors in-store and are wondering whether to drop a lure or not.
But what about sponsoring your own business in Pokémon Go? Unfortunately, it seems like sponsorships might only be for more prominent firms. McDonald’s is a pretty big player; we’d imagine the deal would have to be pretty worth it for Niantic to want to work out a sponsorship.
So what’s a small business like you to do? Niantic has unfortunately disabled the ability to request your location to be a PokéStop. Aside from that, you have some options. It just takes a little creative thinking.
Creative Ways You Can Use Pokémon Go for Your Local Business
Dropping lures and waiting for customers to come walking in seems to be doing pretty well for some. But you can bet that once the novelty of Pokémon Go wears off, you won’t be able to rely on these old tricks. You’ll have to use that creative noggin of yours.
Here are some suggestions for what you can do to make the most of time with Pokémon Go:
Load up on lures for the road. Tradeshows, conventions, conferences, and other gatherings can be great opportunities for some B2B interactions. And what better icebreaker than talking about the hot new mobile app? Invite prospective partners out for some socializing—you bring the lures, and they’ll hopefully bring their business.
Share the Pokémon in your area. If there’s one thing social media is good at doing, it’s providing up-to-the-minute information—like what Pokémon are currently showing up around your store. Post your Pokes to your Facebook or Twitter to alert your most stalwart customers, and they’ll hopefully come running.
Encourage social media sharing. This one can be tricky to pull off, but it has the potential to reach far beyond your typical audience. When customers come to your stores specifically for catching Pokémon, you should be able to gauge whether you can ask them to share what they’ve found at your store. Your customers get to show off what they caught, and you get the word spread out about your store. Everybody wins!
Choose a side. As players progress in the game, they can eventually choose one of three teams: Team Valor, Team Mystic, and Team Instinct. These teams play a part in the gym battles that occur in the game. You can take part in this conflict by holding contests or raffles in support of various teams throughout the week. If your business is a gym itself, you can offer discounts for whoever is currently in control of it.
Pokémon and local advertising—who would have thought? There’s value in using the app, but you’ll have to be smart about it. And more importantly, you’ll have to be quick. Who knows how long this phenomenon will last? So if you want to be the very best, like no one ever was, you’d better make Pokémon Go your cause.
Give these methods a try and see if it affects your in-store traffic!