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GUEST OPINION What can retailers learn from Pokémon Go?

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With the world going crazy for Pokémon Go, what can retailers learn and gain from this virtual reality craze, asks Gillian Hughes, VP of Corporate Sales, Veoo.

I wonder if you are as staggered as I am at the recent furore around Nintendo’s new mobile game, called Pokémon Go?

With the Pokémon franchise having already dominated the respective worlds of children’s TV, trading cards and handheld video games, this new app sees players use the camera on their mobile phone to search for and capture their favourite digital monsters in streets, parks, schools, and effectively anywhere else that they can reach.

It may have not have even been two weeks since its initial release in the US, but Pokémon Go has proven to be one of those rare overnight phenomena that takes the world completely by storm, with twice as many downloads as Tinder, more users than Twitter and greater user engagement than Facebook. And don’t get me started on the endless torrent of memes that have been flooding my newsfeed since it hit the App Store…

In fact, Pokémon Go has so far topped 75 million downloads worldwide, and many businesses are asking who these users are and how can they reach them.

According to Forrester’s new empowered customer segmentation framework, it’s the ‘Progressive Pioneers’ — the 20% of consumers that experiment with, and rely on, technology the most — who are driving the Pokémon Go craze. Forrester US data shows that:

  • 73% consider themselves to be gamers (compared to 29% of total US)

  • 70% are always searching for the latest mobile game (compared to 25% of the US)

  • 57% currently or have previously used virtual reality (compared to 21% of the US)

Ultimately, Pokémon Go has demonstrated what happens when new technology that is simple and emotionally rewarding is put in the hands of evolving consumers. “The Pokémon Go phenomenon is not only about adopting technology or using new, cutting-edge features,” writes Anjali Lai, Data Analyst at Forrester, in a new blog post. “It is also about designing a sticky experience that is enabled by the ways customers are changing.”


But does Pokémon Go have more to offer than just being a ridiculously popular mobile game, or are there lessons that others can benefit and learn from? When a new arrival proves as popular, and indeed as successful as Pokémon Go has, seeing Nintendo shares rise over 50% since its release, I find that there are two questions on everyone else’s minds: How on earth have they managed it, and how can I get a piece of the action?

It’s no secret that retailers are desperate to find new ways of driving more customers and footfall into stores, and that while internet shopping was once thought to be the downfall of the high street, many are now seeing mobile, and the opportunity it offers for instant engagement with a vast number of consumers, as its most powerful weapon.

“Now Pokémon Go will likely fade as quickly as it arrived,” Forrester CEO George Colony writes in his blog on what this global trend means for CMOs. “But you should use the moment to familiarize your company with the new customer landscape.” CMOs should do three things, according to Colony:

  1. You and your senior leaders should download Pokémon Go and get exposed

  2. Have your customer insight staff analyze your data to see how many “New Consumers” are in your base

  3. Get your team together to think and strategize about how your company will thrive (survive?) in the changed era

“Oh, and if you are a retailer, you may want to think about putting a pop-up store next to a Pokéstop or Gym — to see if your brand aligns with the Pokécustomer,” Colony concludes.

The issue that retailers are currently grappling with, however, is how to best implement a successful mobile strategy when virtually every other retailer is trying to do exactly the same thing.

This is the current state of play with mobile. With 72% of people in the UK currently in possession of a mobile phone, retailers have never had a better opportunity to communicate directly with potential customers, either via a bespoke app or through more direct techniques, such as SMS marketing and engagement. Whatever the method, the ultimate goal is to encourage consumers to visit those all-important high street stores.

So where does Pokémon Go come into this? Well, I think there is a great deal that retailers can learn from Pokestops, the real-world locations that players are prompted to visit for various challenges and bonuses within the game. I’m not suggesting that retailers approach Nintendo and ask for their high streets stores to be established as one of these locations.

I read in The Independent about one man whose home has inadvertently become a Pokestop, and is now finding swathes of players arriving on his doorstep and demanding a Pokémon battle.

No, my thoughts are more along the lines that Pokémon Go is clear evidence that, with the right motivation, consumers will follow their phones to physical locations to collect a reward. I recently saw a video of hundreds (no, I’m not kidding) of players flocking to New York’s Central Park, phones in hand, for their shot at capturing a particularly rare Pokémon that had surfaced in the area. This is something that retailers can absolutely achieve themselves, and I daresay without needing to welcome digital monsters into their high street stores.

Many retailers invest vast amounts of money in creating bespoke mobile apps; beautifully designed, free to download and with great offers and loyalty schemes for consumers to login and search for. But therein lies the problem.

Take a walk down your local high street and virtually every store you see will have an app or loyalty card that they will try to convince you to download or sign up for. How are shoppers supposed to narrow down and then keep on top of the best offers for them? Even if a consumer does download your app, if it isn’t exactly what they are looking for, the app will be written off in moments and never looked at again.

With a medium that allows retailers to proactively reach out to potential customers, such as SMS, brands can directly contact shoppers with mobile vouchers, offers and messages that are personalised and relevant to them. What’s more, these can be downloaded directly to a mobile wallet on the recipient’s smartphone. There’s no need to download an app and scroll through a list of different offers to find the most enticing, and the engagement rate offered by SMS is frankly, staggering, with recent figures suggesting that 98% of text messages are opened.

Personalised mobile vouchers and push notifications can also bring location into the mix, prompting customers to visit particular stores in their local vicinity for offers that are applicable that very day. “Pop into Next on Oxford Road for 25% off jeans. Today only.”

It might not have quite the same gravitas as dropping a rare Pokémon in the middle of New York, but this approach to marketing offers retailers the very best opportunity for unprecedented reach, and for consumers, a means of receiving the most relevant and timely offers. Furthermore, using a solution that integrates these vouchers with a mobile wallet completely eliminates the need for a plastic loyalty card, paper coupon or downloadable mobile loyalty app. I think we can all agree that this is a much-welcome added bonus!

Still need convincing? Give mobile vouchers a chance and see how many consumers make their way into your stores as a result.

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