Within just a few days of going live, Pokémon Go became the most popular iPhone app and overtook Twitter in terms of active users in the US. And it wasn’t just consumers who responded positively to the app: Nintendo’s shares had soared 86% by last Friday, adding over £15bn to the company’s market value.

More interestingly, the app presents an opportunity for retailers to generate increased sales, at relatively little cost.

The free game allows players to catch digital monsters through augmented reality, train them and compete with other users through selected locations. Even before formally launching in the UK last week, many people have already downloaded the app and started using it.

It certainly could be considered a footfall driver, as the game requires players to move around and interact with pre-selected landmarks, known as Pokéstops and Gyms, in order to collect items and Pokémon. These include shops, pubs and restaurants, which are anecdotally reporting increased customer numbers as a result of the game.

According to social media, users are even selecting where to eat out based on the quality of Pokémon in the surrounding area. Moreover, some innovative retailers are already looking to capitalise on existing in-game features to appeal to consumers.

While the games developer, Niantic, has not formally outlined how it plans to select Pokéstops in the future, the possibility of brands paying to feature within the app is being considered. Any commercial relationship could be mutually beneficial: while brands would be able to use geolocation marketing to a captive customer base, Niantic would unlock additional revenue streams beyond the low value purchases players can already make in the game.

In the event this functionality is introduced, there a few questions brands should consider:

  • How relevant are the customer bases? While it would be easy to assume Pokémon Go users are teenagers, we have seen no empirical evidence to support this. The potential to communicate with millennials who grew up with the original game may broaden its relevance
  • How can traffic be managed? While the app operates 24/7, retailers don’t. Finding ways to ensure footfall comes during opening hours would be crucial in fully benefitting on the opportunity
  • How will visitors be converted? While the game could be used to increase visitor numbers, brands still need to provide a reason for consumers to make a purchase. Thinking about their needs and how to further capitalise on their interest in gamification, may assist in this

Ultimately, Pokémon Go will not prove to be a saviour for all high street retailers. However, it is one of the growing opportunities physical brands have to partner with digital players in order to broaden their reach and appeal. The physical retailers that thrive in the future will be those that use opportunities like these to gain new customers and establish stronger connections with existing ones.

Asher Cohen