To say that the Pokemon Go phenomenon has had an impact on retail is an understatement. However, the impact has been uneven. If you’re a restaurant, turning trainers into shoppers and buyers is a little bit easier than if you’re a merchandise retailer. Pokemon trainers may be prone to ignoring the world around them, stepping in front of cars, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, or running into sign posts or other obstacles. But they do listen when their bodies tell them they’re hungry or thirsty and it’s time to take a break and eat.
The same rules don’t necessarily apply to merchandise retailers, as my own trip to the local mall this week demonstrated – when you’re focused on “catching them all,” you are not focused on window displays, sale signs, or endcaps.
Though it’s hard to be this flexible, I’m getting the sense that the time to capitalize on Pokemon Go is short. A large number of trainers are casual-only, and we’ll start to see them drop out as they increasingly feel like they’ve “done” everything there is to do, but aren’t willing to invest the time (or the kilometers) to stay competitive as the game evolves. So this weekend or next may very well be the peak of Go frenzy. That said, whether restaurant or retailer, as we begin weekend #2 of the Pokemon Go onslaught, here are 4 things retailers and restaurants can do to prepare.
- Welcome Pokemon Go trainers.
Some retailers have banned trainers, amid complaints of interrupting shoppers genuinely there to buy things or getting in the way of employees trying to deliver a service. Unless you’re a venue where it’s completely inappropriate (Come on, trainers, the Holocaust Museum? Really?), you should seriously consider being welcoming to trainers, no matter how annoying they are.
Here’s why. We increasingly live in an age of authenticity and genuineness, sometimes I think as a response to the distance that technology creates within what should be more personal interactions. Skyping is better than a phone call, but it’s still not the same as actually being there, for example. So when it comes to trainers, if you’re welcoming, you’re making an impression as a brand that is tolerant, good-natured, and with a sense of humor. There is a certain sense of self-deprecation among the trainer community, at least the more casual trainers – the rueful grin as trainers pass on the street and acknowledge each other, like “Yeah, I got sucked in too.” Retailers can tap into that by participating in that acknowledgment.
That said, your welcome can also serve as a reminder of minimal manners that trainers should display. Something along the lines of “Trainers: Please respect shoppers and employees while you’re here by stepping out of the way while catching Pokemon. Restricted areas are still restricted – please keep your Pokemon efforts limited to public areas only.”
If you really want to welcome trainers, you might consider offering up “experts” to help newbies figure out the game. If you have teen employees, that could be a ready source of expertise, and perhaps a welcome change from the typical day’s work.
- Move trainer-relevant merchandise to the front of the store.
Snacks and drinks are the obvious choices, preferably the kinds of things that are best consumed one-handed (you need the other one free for your phone). The next level may be battery chargers, sunscreen, hats, etc. And the next level after that would be Pokemon merchandise. As trainers who are less familiar with Pokemon get into the game, they may be looking to also understand the cards, the stuffed animals, and of course you need the T-shirt too. And the video games and books.
- Invest in Lures.
Lures attract Pokemon trainers almost as well as they attract Pokemon themselves. So it’s worth investing in lures to hang off your nearest Pokestop. If your nearest Pokestop is far away (as in, not right at your front door), you may want to figure out an awareness strategy near the Pokestop itself – whatever is allowed, signs, people with signs, etc.
- Surprise and delight trainers.
Create promotions or giveaways that are specific to trainers, especially if they acknowledge that “secret society” aspect of the community – the fact that trainers are easily recognized by their phones and their concentration bordering on obsession about what is happening on their phones. Stickers, candy, Pokemon cards – anything that gives a wink and a nod to the trainer community.
If you want to take this to the next level, offer Pokemon parties or happy hours, or specific promotions – show your app to get 10% off. But you may have to work hard to get trainers’ attention and make them aware you even have a promotion. They can be difficult to pull away from their phones.
If you really want to take it to another level (and you have the means and flexibility to do so), set up geofencing around the physical locations that correspond to your closest Pokestops and gyms. For your opt-in mobile customers, you can offer secret deals through your own app that take advantage of AR locations within the game – without the sign or the person with a sign.
The Bottom Line
I’ve seen enough fatigue already with the game where the least committed trainers are dropping out – it’s too much work, and it takes up too much battery. In my neighborhood, older teens who are not already Pokemon fans seem to be changing over from enthusiasts to scoffers. And younger fans, who can’t drive, are starting to tire of their local Pokestops – they’re not enthused about going to the same stops over and over, but don’t have the means or the permission to wander farther afield. Add in that the local gyms are increasingly topped by Pokemon with intimidating combat points, and the effort it takes to sustain interest at the current level appears to point to Pokemon Go as a fad instead of a long-burning trend.
That means retailers need to act fast to capitalize on it – if you can’t “capture” all this trainer interest by the time school starts, you may find that the Pokemon are all “Gone.”
This article was written by Nikki Baird from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.