Pokémon GO

Pokémon GO: Gamify Your Business or Lose

You may have seen or read about owners and managers angry at swarms of people invading their place of business in search of virtual monsters on their phones. They have wandered in, perhaps not even knowing what the business does, and are attracted by incentives in the new viral game Pokémon GO. The business managers don’t understand why they are there and just want them to go. I have a simple message for these business people. I suggest you get a job where your interaction with customers consists of the phase “Do you want fries with that?” because it’s obvious you are a terrible business person and should have no contact with potential customers!

I even heard of an ice cream shop who put up a sign saying Pokémon for customers only. Really? You have dozens of kids and young people in your ice cream shop in the middle of the summer, and you can’t figure out how to monetize that? You may have heard of a Holocaust Museum offended by a Pokéstop in their museum, or people being discouraged from hunting at the Trade Center memorial. At first, you may find this offensive as well, but think about it. Isn’t the point of these places to reach out to the community and inform and educate so this never happens again? So isn’t this an opportunity to reach out to people who might not have come in otherwise? It’s easy to move those who know why these places are there, but wouldn’t it be a greater accomplishment to reach someone who wandered in not knowing what these places represented? One thing is for sure, these folks are lousy entrepreneurs.

Many others are embracing the game with varied results. Even the National Park Service has jumped on the bandwagon with a video encouraging folks to come out and catch them all (and be aware of the real animals while hunting the virtual ones). When I opened the app at the venue NOVA 535 where I’m doing sales consulting, I discovered there was a gym located on the premises. I felt like I won the lottery. There are reports all over about revenue increases as high as 2-300%. Many businesses are offering Pokémon related incentives and reaping the benefits.

So how hard is it to get in the game, as it were? Not that hard at all. Now you could already have the advantage of a Pokéstop or gym at your location. These automatically attract traffic. Pokéstops are used by players to randomly generate prizes and gyms are the capture points that drive the team aspect of the game. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand what that means (unless you decide to actually participate), all you need to know is that players are interested and will come if one of these are there. There are also spawn points for Pokémon and while they are less attractive, they can still generate some traffic. Want to know if you have one of these? Just ask a player. Odds are there’s one working for you or walking by your location. Not to mention the game is free and you could just download it, start it up, and see.

Of course, most will have none of these on site, but fear not. You are not out of the game. It just may take a little more effort to take advantage of it. One of the items available in the game is called Incense. When activated, it creates a lure to attract Pokémon for 30 mins. It can also be added to a Pokéstop or gym to make them even more attractive. They cost about .80 in real cash at their most expensive price point, if purchased in game, but they can also be earned for free by playing and visiting Pokéstops. Eighty cents for 30 mins of traffic seems pretty cheap compared to that last coupon or ad you ran doesn’t it? Of course you may have to go to that other unknown realm – social media – to advertise the fact. I’ve seen coffee shops offering lures at off hours to increase traffic and venues adding to an event’s appeal. I’ve heard of bars offering a draft if someone drops a lure – see you don’t even have to get the game! If you see folks constantly roaming around your site on the hunt, you just have to activate one and they will see it. Then its up to you.

Pokémon in traffic
Virtual monsters aren’t afraid of cars, but you should be!

Law enforcement has taken different approaches. Some complain about miscreants using it to lure victims, walking into traffic, or the results of kids left unattended. Others offer friendly reminders to be safe, don’t trespass, and don’t drive and hunt! My message to law enforcement is to turn it on its head. Get the game (and maybe a younger badge to manage it for you), and look around. If you see lures being set in sketchy places, cruise on by and check it out. Better yet, set up a sting. It may be one of the cheapest undercover operations you can run. Just have someone walk by with their phone and see if they are being stalked.

Downtown St. Pete is loaded with walkable landmarks from the Pier (even under construction), to parks along the waterfront, to the various museums and statues dotted everywhere. Many of them are Pokéstops often with lures constantly going — it is a virtual smorgasbord of Pokémon! And they are all surrounded by crowds of people. Bill Maher in a recent monologue called it stupid, and in the next breath noted that it had been downloaded more times in a single week then Tinder in its entire existence. So by association, are all those players stupid? Don’t make the same mistake of potentially alienating people. There are potential customers out there playing this game. See if you can catch them all!

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