SAG_Twitter_MEME_Pokemon_Go_Jul16-1.jpgA burger restaurant in London reports revenues are up by 26%.  A pizza place in Queens, New York sees food and drink sales rise by 30%. People with depression and anxiety feel better because they get more exercise and interact with other people.

What could possibly achieve such amazing results?

It is the video game phenomenon called Pokémon Go, where players run around looking for balls and other methods of capturing Pokémon game characters. And it is changing the way retailers think about business. 

Pokémon Go uses augmented reality and location-based technology, giving players a way to connect the game with the real world. And the real world is taking notice. Pubs and restaurants across the UK are paying to become Pokémon Go destinations to lure gamers into their establishments, coining the phrase “Pokémonomics.”

Hence the amazing increase in sales in the aforementioned restaurants. Bloomberg says Pokémon Go has “managed a feat that has eluded brick-and-mortar merchants for years: turning location-aware smartphones into drivers of foot traffic.”

Going beyond the basics of driving foot traffic, retailers are seeing the real potential in augmented reality. Getting the customer through the door is just the beginning; making use of that opportunity involves making relevant, targeted real-time offers that benefit both the customer and the retailer.

As I have written about before, there is a magical sweet spot in business—an instant in time where someone, somewhere wants to do or buy something—the “retail moment.” Pokémon Go, and other augmented reality apps, provide the retailer with a seizable retail moment; the trick is to take advantage of it.

But what does it mean in terms of requirements? First, retailers need to be able to connect in real time to the Pokémon system. Imagine if Nintendo offered retailers “lures” that included some of Pokémon Go’s most valuable characters. They might have to pay more for them, but players would flock to their premises. Maybe retailers could identify their target customer segments and map those to Pokémon to attract specific groups to your stores.

But once the players have snagged their Pokémon prey, how does the retailer keep them in the store? They need to be able to react in real time to the information they get back about who is in/near the store. Then they can target their real-time offers effectively.

As Pokémon Go is GPS-based that means the retailer might lose them after they come in the door, so perhaps the retailer could use ibeacons to direct the customers to targeted offers.

Gamification could be an interesting angle; if players collect X tokens by walking around and exploring in the store or a mall location they might receive a discount on a purchase. 

Pokémon Go is just the tip of the augmented reality iceberg; similar concepts can be applied in exploration retail. For example, imagine looking at garden furniture in a store and seeing people (through your phone) eating at it, having fun and enjoying a barbeque. Or seeing a kitchen in a showroom virtually, where people are dining and entertaining.

Augmented reality can help to reassure an uncertain customer of a product’s look and feel - and usefulness - or show them how it would look in their own home.

Maybe Pokémon Go will becomes a new engagement channel for retailers to engage with customers. Or maybe it will remain a game that helps to garner foot traffic. Whatever the outcome, it has raised the profile of augmented reality in retail and will push development forward more rapidly than we thought possible.

For me however, the big question is around agility and adaptability.  Technology is changing so rapidly with new engagement channels appearing all the time – the key question for retailers – as indeed any B2C business – do your technology choices allow you to embrace these new opportunities before your competitors do?

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