If you noticed far more people engrossed in their smart phones while walking through neighborhoods or strip malls this weekend, it wasn’t just your imagination – it was Pokemon Go, the new augmented reality game that uses location-based technology to allow users to catch, train and battle with Pokemon as they walk through their real-world environment.
Just 5 hours after its release on July 7, Pokemon Go became the most popular iPhone app in the United States. According to July 10 data from SimilarWeb, it will only take a couple more days before Pokemon Go hits as many Daily Active Users as Twitter.
This is a phenomenon anyone who does anything online should pay attention to. After watching my kids, their friends, and even my husband get caught up in the real-world Pokemon hunt over the past 96 hours, I’ve noticed some of the basic elements of the game that are making it very popular, very fast. And I think that these same principles are key to succeeding in retail.
- Connect People with Their Favorite Things. Pokemon were already one of kids’ (or kidults’) favorite things. Smart phones are another. And this new game allows them to interact with both in a unique way. Technology is appealing when it helps people connect more with what they love. It’s the same with online retail – allowing customers to better engage with and experience what they love is always going to deliver positive returns.
- Make It Fun. All around the country, strangers are suddenly collaborating in parks or at storefronts about how and where to catch the local Pokemon. Most people get an endorphin boost from acquiring something new – especially something rare – as well as from achievements and prizes, no matter how small. I think this same principle gave rise to the term “retail therapy.”
- Everyone loves a treasure hunt. Pokemon Go is proof of this – it’s turning into one of the biggest hunts in history. Good merchandisers know how sometimes, making something a bit harder to acquire can increase demand. Secret sales or specials to those customers “in the know” are often effective.
- Getting People Active Is a Win. Whether playing online games or shopping, we love our computers and mobile devices and spend an ever increasing amount of time sitting in front of screens. Most of us want to get more active, but we don’t want to give up our technology. Any app that causes us to do the things we love online while also getting the exercise of moving around the real world naturally gains quick support. (I know my kids got more exercise this weekend than they have all summer!)
Beyond these basic principles, there are other reasons for retailers to pay attention to Pokemon Go. Many store fronts have Pokemon assigned to their GPS coordinates, and you can only catch these Pokemon by walking near the store. Imagine the possible tie-ins with promotions.
We’ve said this is the year of virtual reality, and that online shopping experiences will soon involve more of it. Pokemon Go is yet another way that the online world is merging with reality, and the possibilities for retailers are exciting.