Pokémon Go is designed to augment reality by using a smartphone’s GPS and camera to display digital creatures known as Pokémon over what people see in front of them. By asking them to catch as many Pokémon as possible, the free-to-play gaming app encourages users to explore places near and far and be part of a real-world virtual community.
But the game has also augmented reality in a distinctively tangible way by presenting businesses with a unique opportunity to attract multitudes of new or returning customers. Within just two days of its North American release on July 6, Pokémon Go operated on 5% of all U.S. Android devices and surpassed the number of daily Tinder users to reach 21 million unique users per day. American businesses quickly saw potential in these numbers.
Pokémon can be found anywhere, including public spaces and private businesses. Because not all Pokémon are created equal, some businesses have been blessed with rarer Pokémon than can be found at other locations. These businesses are known as Pokéstops or gyms, and can attract new customers by utilizing social media or other advertising methods to let people know which special Pokémon live in their facility.
Even if businesses do not have rare Pokémon, they can build relationships with new and existing clients by being a source of information about nearby locations in which these highly sought-after prizes can be found. Directing players to more common types of Pokémon within a business’ vicinity is also a great way to connect with customers, as it signals that the business is informed about what is important to the local community.
And Pokémon is not just for small businesses. Even major corporations such as Applebee’s and Major and Minor League Baseball have taken to advertising their Pokémon. Baseball players, in particular, have been proud to connect with their communities by very publicly declaring their use of, and love for, the Pokémon Go app.
Hashtagging around Pokémon Go has also become a popular way for businesses to connect with the community. Since its release, Pokémon Go has been used nearly as much as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, the three social media platforms that are most popular behind Facebook. Although Facebook use still outpaces Pokémon Go logins by a dramatic number, a survey of 3,300 U.S. consumers indicates that nearly 75% of people aged 18-34 use Pokémon Go on a daily basis. Appropriately utilizing creative hashtags such as #GottaCatchThemAll or #PokemonProblems can help businesses attract attention.
Unfortunately, sometimes businesses can attract the wrong kind of attention. When reaching out to players, some businesses have clearly indicated that the Pokémon inside their facilities are for customers only, as people who simply loiter while immersed in their smartphones may hurt a business’ atmosphere. Some companies have also had to warn their employees that catching Pokémon should be done on employees’ own time and not during work hours.
Nevertheless, despite some issues that businesses need to navigate when formulating their Pokémon outreach strategies, it is clear that augmented reality on the screen is having a very real effect in the physical world that is giving businesses and customers opportunities to connect with each other in a new and exciting way.