How small businesses can cash in on the Pokemon Go craze

Pokemon Go fever is sweeping the country. Have you thought about how your business can profit from this social phenomena?

Since its release, more than 100 million people have downloaded the app to their phones, and more than 20 million players login daily, making it the largest mobile game in U.S. history.

Pokemon Go is an augmented-reality application based on the card game popularized in the 1990s. In the modern version, players venture into the real world with their mobile devices to capture mythical creatures called Pokemon.

The application integrates street maps with specialized locations placed at landmarks. Players must walk to these locations (called Pokestops or gyms) to capture Pokemon, find items needed to build their collection and engage in competitions with other players.

If your real-world business is located near these virtual points, you have a unique opportunity to capture more customers. However, you first need to understand how your location fits into the world of Pokemon. Downloading the app and completing the first simple steps will let you know the location of those valuable stops and gyms around your business. Everett Community College, where I work, is home to a gym and nearly a dozen Pokestops.

With this in mind, you can consider a few low-cost strategies turn game players into your customers.

Leverage social media: Engage your social media followers by promoting Pokestops near you, and create two-way engagement by having users share their Pokemon successes on your Facebook page or Twitter feed. The app has a camera feature allowing users to take and post photos of animated Pokemon superimposed in real world backdrops, so offer a discount or promotion to the best Pokemon photo showing your business.

Signage locations: Knowing that players are drawn to Pokestops and gyms, place your sandwich board signs or other portable advertising at those locations. Offer lunch specials, promotions or even a phone-charging station to players to visit your business.

Using in game tools: For a relatively small investment (or by playing the game yourself), you can purchase lures in the game that bring more Pokemon to a certain location. These lures are visible to other players and they will be drawn to these locations. You can set virtual bait to draw real customers to your doorstep.

Perhaps you are thinking that this is merely a short-lived fad not worth your time or resources. However, Pokemon Go is part of a new class of gaming called augmented reality. More games are in development to capture different audiences playing in a mixed world of reality and visual effects.

Beyond games, augmented reality is already entering business applications. The Yelp app possesses a feature called Monocle, which allows users to use the camera feature on their phones to find information and reviews of businesses as they walk down the street. Potential customers may walk by your storefront if you have poor reviews or lack information about your business.

Much like social media revolutionized small business marketing, augmented reality possesses similar potential. Thinking about how this technology can drive sales now, will put you ahead of your competition as technology evolves.

So if you have not yet, download Pokemon Go and get out in your neighborhood to catch creatures and possible some new customers.

Ryan Davis is dean of Business and Applied Technology at Everett Community College.

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