By Wendy Eichenbaum
On July 14, 2016, Sprint released a press release titled: “Attention Monster Hunters: Sprint and Boost Mobile Stores Become ‘Must Stop’ Location for Pokémon Go Players.” They advertised that gamers could visit a retail store for lures, free charging stations, and help from gaming experts. The Pokémon Go game is free. In the United States, 64 percent of the population uses smartphones, and over 21 million people play Pokémon Go daily. Players’ addiction to Pokémon Go promises a new way to reach out to your customers.
Last month, we examined the potential for Pokémon Go to change users’ expectations of game and mobile app experiences. Now we will explore how this game can revolutionize the way that you incentivize your customers to reach out to you.
One of the primary tasks in Pokémon Go is for players to capture Pokémon monsters. Players literally walk around town to find the monsters. The monsters are more likely to be found at landmarks, called PokéStops. Players flock to these landmarks in their attempt to collect all 151 monsters. But soon, not all stops will be landmarks.
Niantic Labs is signing up official sponsors. The sponsors’ locations will serve as landmarks and gyms in the game. McDonald’s is Pokémon’s first sponsor, and already has launched in their restaurants in Japan. Niantic Labs used this model to great success in their previous game Ingress, where they signed up companies such as Jamba Juice and Zipcar.
But even small businesses can attract players. A business owner can play the game and place a lure at a PokéStop. This lure attracts Pokémon, and thus Pokémon players, for 30 minutes. One artist in set up a booth near a PokéStop in San Diego’s Balboa Park, and placed a lure. Players would come by to catch Pokémon, and stay to look at her art. And Bloomberg reported that a pizzeria in Queens NY increased sales 30% by placing lures.
During the Comic-Con convention in San Diego, a Pokémon Go fan organized a pub-crawl downtown, where several bars each placed a lure at a different time. Players would follow the lure schedule, catching monsters and drinking at each stop. In NYC, players can take a Pokémon tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they can learn about art as they catch the monsters.
Now imagine that you have a booth at a trade show. Place a lure at your booth and Tweet about it. Then see how many people stop by. Those 21 million daily users are not all Millenial students. If you visit popular PokéStops, you will see a range of ages, genders, races, and ethnicities. You can earn lures when playing the game. Or you can purchase lures in-game, one of the many monetizing opportunities for Niantic Labs.
Finally, there is a growing secondary market for businesses that support players. Food trucks now visit locations that regularly have an influx of players. Vendors also go to these locations to sell external phone batteries. The NPD Group, a firm that tracks consumer spending, reported a 100% increase in battery sales compared with July 2015.  And Amazon has targeted consumers with special deals on prices.
As more people get smart phones with unlimited data plans, and download the free Pokémon Go game, there is a growing market for businesses to reach out to existing and potential customers. Customers will eagerly come to you in search of monsters, and stay to learn about your business as they wait for their next catch.
About the Author
Wendy Eichenbaum has been a UX professional since the early-1990’s. She began her career as a technical writer. She then earned a Master of Arts in Professional Writing at Carnegie Mellon University, studying both writing and UI design. Over the years, she has worked across verticals, from start-ups to multi-national firms, in many areas of UX including research & strategy, Information Architecture, usability testing, and focus groups. She started her own UX consulting firm in 2008, Ucentric Design. And she is an adjunct professor at Cal State University, Fullerton. There she teaches a class that she created, User-Centered Design for Web and Mobile Interfaces.