Unless you have been hiding under a rock, chances are that you have heard something about Pokemon Go. This is the latest craze in mobile applications that has gotten people so involved in the game that we have seen people do crazy things in search of the next “Poke Stop.” Some of the most interesting headlines include people that claim to be losing weight due to the walking associated with Pokemon go, to elaborate marriage proposals tied to playing Pokemon. While this is fun and interesting, is there something we can learn about business from Pokemon Go?
Forbes.com recently published an article, by John Soat, on the subject titled “How Pokemon Go Will Influence Enterprise Computing and Business Forever.”
Whether or not it lasts, the almost manic consumer popularity of Pokemon Go should encourage businesses to think about the ramifications of the mobile game’s two key digital toolsets: GPS and augmented reality.
It’s the eye-popping numbers that make the case for Pokemon Go’s significance. More than 11 million Android users in the US were participating actively within only a few days of the game’s availability on July 7, according to Survey Monkey.
That deep user base is helping establish Pokemon Go as a social media—and social marketing—platform. Savvy retailers began inserting themselves into the game by purchasing “lure modules” meant to attract the augmented reality Pokemon cartoon characters to their physical establishments—along with the real-world game players chasing after them. (The proprietor of one New York City pizzeria reports that business is up 75% since he paid $10 to have a dozen of the AR characters present in his store.) Developer Niantic says it plans to offer such “sponsored locations” on a “cost-per-visit” basis.
The game’s two digital toolsets now demand careful consideration—or reconsideration, since both have been around for a while—in enterprise application development.
One toolset is the GPS technology built into the Google Maps app, which Pokemon Go uses to guide players around their physical environment in pursuit of the 151 Pokemon characters. Such a capability, known as geolocation, is ubiquitous in our mobile era, powering everything from Siri’s travel directions to Uber’s convenient car service.
But luring customers to your pizzeria using “geolocation marketing” (also called “proximity marketing”) takes the technology to another level. Standard geolocation marketing technology and services run the gamut from simple social media maps to cloud-based big data analytics systems.
What makes Pokemon Go’s approach so compelling is that it offers an easy, entertaining, and cost-effective way to draw mobile customers in. It’s worth noting that the game is another example of the public’s willingness to trade elements of their privacy—geolocation data, web history, IP address—for ease and entertainment.
Pokemon Go also uses a second digital toolset, augmented reality, which superimposes digital information on top of real-world situations. “AR has been talked about and hyped for years, but it never really found a strong use-case for consumers until now,” notes Reggie Bradford, Oracle’s senior vice president of product development. “ In a matter of days Pokemon Go has made AR practically mainstream. ”
In fact, AR has been part of popular culture since 1998, when the yellow “first down” line made its superimposed appearance during televised American football games. Today, AR is being incorporated into significant business applications—for example, to guide warehouse workers in “picking” orders more efficiently than they do when referring to multiple printouts, or to provide nurses with needed medical data quickly and easily during an emergency.
Many AR applications—and those of its bigger sibling, virtual reality—suffer the limitations imposed by “immersive” headsets that are unwieldy and uncomfortable to use for extended periods. Google Glass, a previous attempt to make AR mainstream, failed in part because of complaints from users about its gaudy and cumbersome external apparatus.
But the developers of Pokemon Go figured out how to “marry online and offline in a unique and very engaging new way,” Bradford says. The game exploits the well-defined and well-understood real estate of the smartphone screen. It also features entertaining interaction with well-known, appealing characters rather than the passive acceptance of scrolling lists of data or instructions.
The Pokemon Go craze took off because the game hits upon several of the hottest social and technology touchpoints in today’s culture. “It’s like a giant public treasure hunt, fueled by social media, that lets us incorporate our online and offline worlds—which is what we do naturally,” Bradford says. “And our smartphones are central to it all.”
So whether or not an inordinate number of consumers keeps hunting for Charizard, Squirtle, and Pikachu, the business lessons of Pokemon Go have been established: mobile, intuitive, entertaining, easy, effective, comfortable…and cute.