For tens of millions of users around the world, the augmented reality app Pokémon Go is a fun way to pass the time. But for local businesses and tourism officials, the craze is full of potential.
While it’s true you never know when a Pokémon might show up, the creatures are regularly found around landmarks, historical buildings and other places where visitors might patronize, like zoos, golf courses and museums. So it’s no surprise that local businesses and attractions are hoping to cash in on the craze.
Businesses near Pokestops are putting up signs touting their proximity to these virtual convenience stores where you can load up on free items like Pokeballs, potions, eggs and other items to help you on your journey. Some are even offering discounts for players in hopes of drawing them in for a tasty meal and a cool drink. Others are offering up their outlets and branding themselves as charging stations, since the app is notorious for draining batteries. Some have gone as far as spending real dollars to purchase “lures” that temporarily attract more Pokémon (and hopefully patrons) to their establishments.
Tourism expert Susanne Thiede-Barnet, co-principal of the Madison destination marketing firm Pilch & Barnet says for local businesses, this is an easy and affordable way to connect with potential customers. “Players are out wandering about and they’re encountering businesses they’ve never visited. Putting out a welcoming sign or offering a small discount costs virtually nothing, but to a hungry player looking for a place to take a break, that hospitality is going to result in a sale,” Thiede-Barnet said. “And when the game hype dies down, what remains is folks who’ve had a positive experience with a new local business are willing to come back again.”
Beyond the profit potential, Thiede-Barnet says local attractions are appreciating the breath of fresh air too. “People are visiting parks, hiking on trails that perhaps they’ve never thought to explore. They’re taking time to read historical marker signs and learn about their neighborhoods,” Thiede-Barnet noted. “People are realizing and remembering all these beautiful and interesting places right under their noses and that goes a long way in helping them feel invested in their communities.”
For businesses looking to hop on the marketing Poketrain, Thiede-Barnet has a few lost-cost suggestions:
- Tout on social media that your business is Pokémon Go-friendly. Talk about any discounts you’re offering and which characters have been found nearby.
- If you’re near a Pokestop or Pokémon gym, put a sign up making note of it and welcoming trainers.
- For $1, you can purchase a 30-minute “lure” that attracts Pokémon to your area. Give your social media followers a heads-up and watch the potential customers roll in.