A few years ago, if you weren’t on the web, you were behind the times. Today, if you’re not mobile, you’re potentially losing customers. But not every small business has the resources to develop their own mobile app, let alone an app that has location information about potential customers.
Augmented reality has become quite a revelation among gamers and is drawing huge interest from corporate sponsors since the release of Pokémon Go in early July. While Pokémon Go may be the new craze, augmented reality games and apps have been around for a while. “There’s an app for that!” There is an augmented reality app that lets you see how your hair would look if it was a different color; there are apps to take virtual tours of real estate, and there is even an app that uses your phone’s camera to identify stars in the night sky.
Though there have certainly been some naysayers in the last few weeks, what is different with Pokémon Go is that gamers are no longer just sitting at home in front of their computers. The unique quality of this game is that its maker, Niantic Inc., has incorporated the use of the GPS locator in your mobile device (which essentially operates on a platform like Google Maps) so the augmented reality digital overlay requires that players move around, which presents a huge marketing opportunity. This is not Niantic’s first try at an augmented reality game. They also developed the Google Play Awards’ Top Game, Ingress, in 2012 using the same technology. But with Pokémon Go, they hit on a feeling of childhood nostalgia for millions. While Pokémon Go has yet to prove itself as more than a fad, the technology supporting the popular game will only get better as it evolves and becomes more immersive. This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we will see from future augmented reality apps.
What this really means for marketers is potential sales. If you’re one of those with a “No Pokémon here!” sign, you don’t get it! No other augmented reality game gets people by the thousands out in front of hundreds of potential retailers and in other public spaces. According to Forbes, more women (63 percent) than men (37 percent) are playing the game. The 18-29 age group is the largest demographic (43 percent), but a significant number of players are in all age brackets between 13 and 50 – a prime target for retailers. It’s a game you can play, your kids can play, your parents and even your grandparents can play.
Pokémon Go became the top-grossing mobile app only one day after its launch and makes money through microtransactions on in-app purchases. Some of the GameStop stores that are Pokéstops or Gyms saw a 100 percent increase in sales by the second weekend the game was out. Already, McDonald’s has partnered with Niantic to make 3,000 locations in Japan into Pokémon Go Gyms. In-game sponsorships, locational signs and sponsored items in the shop are likely ways larger companies will take advantage of consumer awareness and branded marketing opportunities moving forward.
A small company here in Springfield is not likely to enter into a sponsorship deal, but there are still marketing opportunities in these virtual worlds. Initially, Niantic had a request form for Pokéstops, but it seems they are no longer taking those requests. Keep an eye out for changes in this policy and be aware of opportunities when new augmented reality games come on the market — especially those involving mapping.
There may be Pokéstops near you already. Some retailers are using the in-game Lure Modules to attract not only Pokémon, but other game players to their locations. It is interesting to see how a Pokéstop can create awareness and traffic at local locations such as the Aviary, Ebbet’s Field or the 1984 Arcade downtown. Park Central Square has been an extremely popular location for the game. The “Fill the Square” event, by some estimates, drew 3,000 gamers downtown in one evening. Several restaurants and retailers were offering discounts and specials based on the number of Pokémon caught and a player’s level on the game. As they further develop game updates, there may be additional opportunities for smaller companies to imprint their digital image on the game’s augmented map.
Dr. Chuck Hermans, Ph.D. is a Professor of Marketing at Missouri State University. He is an expert in international markets and market strategy. Dr. Hermans teaches International Marketing, Global Supply Chain Management, and Advanced Marketing Research. He can be reached at: email@example.com
This article appeared in the August 27 edition of the Springfield News-Leader and can be accessed online here.