Growing Your Business with Pokémon GO

How small retailers are using the game to boost sales.
Take advantage of the latest trends, like Pokémon GO to increase your small business' social media presence. (Photo: Randy Miramontez/Shutterstock)

In case you aren’t hip to the week-old Pokémon GO craze, or like myself, only learned about the game when you caught sheepish-looking adults milling about your front yard, your small business might be missing out on something big.

Pokémon GO is the joint brainchild of The Pokémon Company and game developer Niantic Labs. It is an interactive game played on iPhone and Android devices that’s encouraging adults and kids to walk, bike, skate and drive around their cities or towns collecting Pokémon (those cute little Japanese “pocket monsters”) while looking for PokéStops.

PokéStops are the only places trainers (human players) can acquire items they’ll need while out on their Pokémon journey.

At certain points in the game, trainers are offered the chance to join one of three teams and to train their Pokémon with that team at “Gyms” located around town — spots such as a restaurant or coffee shop at which players can strengthen their Pokémon during virtual battles.

Confused yet?

No worries. Businesses don’t need to become Pokémon experts to cash in on Pokémon GO. All they really need to know is their proximity to either a PokéStop or a Gym.

There isn’t an official map of game locations yet. But users report that Pokémon GO’s maps closely resemble the maps of Ingress, a previous Niantic game, and are installing that app on their phones to locate probable PokéStops.

At this time, businesses don’t get a say in becoming a Gym or a PokéStop; locations were determined based on data from Ingress and interaction with Google Maps. But you can choose to capitalize on the game if you happen to be one or are near one.

Host a special event

Oblivion Taproom in Orlando, Florida, is lucky enough to have been tagged a Pokémon Gym. Since the game started, “We’ve definitely had people come in…a lot of people are coming in and playing,” said bartender River Ricci.

Technically, people don’t have to come inside a business to play the game, so the team at Oblivion Taproom is planning a special event for August 1, hoping to entice more players to enter. “People can come out, play Pokémon GO and drink and eat,” said Ricci. He is planning some special beverages with Pokémon-themed names.

Increase social media interaction

Some businesses tagged as a PokéStop or Gym are encouraging customers to post pictures of themselves “catching” a Pokémon at the business on social media sites like Facebook or Instagram. Use the hashtags #PokemonGO and #GottaCatchEmAll in addition to your business’ hashtag to encourage patrons to play and interact with you.

Offer specials or discounts

Businesses can offer BOGO or other specials or discounts to Pokémon players to bring them inside.

Here’s a sign from an indie clothing store:



And one from Cupcakes Actually in Fairfax, Virginia, which is also a PokéStop:


(Photo: Stephanie Harkin)

Lure them in

Part of the Pokémon GO game interactive experience is the ability to temporarily “lure” Pokémon to a location. A “Lure Module” speeds up the generation of Pokémon at a PokéStop for 30 minutes at a time. Pokémon can be elusive creatures, so the ability to attract one — and the foot traffic it generates — can be lucrative to a small business.

There are two ways a business can use lures.

The first requires getting the app and playing Pokémon GO. Then you can purchase lure modules with PokéCoins that are available in-app at 100 for $ 0.99. Discounts are available on PokéCoins when purchased in larger quantities.

Another way is to offer a discount, prize or special when a customer uses a lure module near the business. For example, your business might mention on Facebook, “Customers who drop a “lure” at a nearby stop receive 10% off” or jot it on a sign, as one pizza shop did.



Be creative

Again, your business does not have to be a PokéStop or Gym to participate. A business along a route to a PokéStop could offer a place to rest, cool off and enjoy a beverage while out training Pokémon.

Try creating a contest or offering a Pokémon-themed menu item for a limited time. The effort will cost little time and money but could offer big rewards in the form of new customers.

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