What Retailers Can Learn From Pokémon Go

What Retailers Can Learn From Pokémon Go

I just caught three Pokémon at Starbucks this morning, and for the first time in years I spoke to the staff about something other than my order. They mentioned that they are seeing some new faces as the game takes off in popularity – there is a virtual Pokémon Gym close to them (explained below).

For those not in the know, Pokémon Go is the virtual app game capturing the imagination of not only twenty-somethings who played the first Pokémon video game when they were kids, but also a whole new generation of spirited mobile natives who were born with a device in their hands. The game uses the GPS inside its players’ phones to navigate the real world, where cartoon Pokémon appear around the player on her mobile camera. Certain locations around the world are designated as “Gyms” and “Pokéspots” where in-game battles can be fought and goods can be obtained. It is a free download on the app store, and the craze has increased Nintendo’s value by over 7 billion in 2 days.

So why is this an important development for retailers?

This Poké-phenomenon gives us the answer to a persistent question. How will malls and retail locations thrive as foot traffic falls off and ecommerce grows by the double digits?

The answer that Pokémon Go gives us is that in order to succeed, open innovation is key. Retailers acting in the spirit of open innovation might have already inked a deal with Nintendo, paid for the privilege to become a Pokémon Gym, or provide some incentive to shop while capturing Pokémon (I’m looking at you, Starbucks where I get my morning coffee!). What’s interesting to me is asking if retailers are forward-thinking enough to see the opportunity in a game that has the prized, youthful consumer getting outside, socializing, and interacting with the world?

Other industries provide ample examples of how open innovation has transformed their path to market, something lacking in traditional retail.

Sometimes retail isn’t about POS devices, square-foot calculations or omni-blah blah. Retail is about understanding the shopper, and their passions.

At a Poké Gym next to my house, there were 8 kids interacting in a park that would otherwise be empty at 2pm on a hot day. Imagine if that spot was in a mall or close to a retailer location that could benefit from an influx of 12-25 year olds. Imagine if H&M advertised they had a Poké Gym in every store, or incentives if you can capture a Pokémon in the mall – what would this do for their brand?

Pokémon Go is about the next generation coming together, feeling a sense of community where social interaction and participation is part of the game. It is vital that we as retail leaders look past this particular game and see the possibilities that this type of interface can bring to other communities and brand connections with our consumers.

The game is on.