At a small GameStop store in Pittsburgh, the break room was abuzz with talk of Pokemon Go. The augmented-reality sensation had just launched in North America and everyone, including the store's manager Damon, was obsessed with this game.
As they learned the game's mechanics--the incenses that generated more Pokemon near you, lures that turned PokeStops into Pokemon-generating beacons--they realized that their store sat on prime Pokemon real estate. While some people didn't have a PokeStop for miles around, there was one on either side of this GameStop, plus a Gym where users battle each other for control and prestige.
As Damon recounts, it didn't take long to realize how powerful the game's mechanics could be for generating new foot traffic and driving sales.
Luring In Customers
At first, Damon just tried dropping one lure on his lunch break. While Pokemon started to generate and he sat on a bench busily catching them, he noticed out of the corner of his eye that about a dozen strangers had appeared in the parking lot to do the very same thing.
When placed, lures triggered a confetti effect on the game's heads-up display, alerting other players to the fact that extra Pokemon were nearby. That meant other people had seen what Damon had done and they wanted in too.
It was an Aha! moment.
What he really didn't expect came next. The strangers started to make their way into the store--looking for Pokemon merchandise. Never one to miss an opportunity, Damon realized this could be huge for the store.
A Successful Experiment
The GameStop Damon manages is not a high-traffic location. Only about 40 people might come in during one of the dog days of summer. After realizing that potential customers were coming in every time he put down a lure on his break, Damon began talking with this team about how they could make it a more systematic driver of traffic.
First, they decided to put down lures down consistently for the rest of the afternoon--just to see if it was just a fluke. It wasn't. Instead, they saw an increase of foot traffic by 2-3x, and a big matching increase in sales.
This didn't just happen at this one GameStop, of course. GameStop CEO J. Paul Raines said in an interview with CNBC that sales had gone up 100% in the 462 stores having been identified as near PokeStops or Gyms--a significant stat given that summer is traditionally the slowest period of the year for big gaming releases.
Sales of Pokemon accessories, Pokemon apparel, as well as pre-orders for the new Nintendo 3DS Pokemon games Pokemon Sun and Moon skyrocketed in particular. The Pokemon Go Plus, the Pokemon Go wearable accessory, was a huge draw too-- especially given that Amazon and GameStop are the only locations you can pre-order it.
In fact, the only thing Damon feels could have gone better with the launch of Pokemon Go is that there wasn't enough stuff for stores like his to sell to hungry Pokemon fanatics.
The Future Of Pokemon Go Marketing
The connection between our mobile devices and the real world is becoming increasingly razor thin. Countless augmented-reality startups no doubt have gone to pitch VCs profoundly confident of their relevance ever since Pokemon Go conquered North America and Europe. But what does the future hold for AR marketing?
As far as Damon goes, he's making sure to take advantage of every opportunity. For the release of Pokemon Sun and Moon in November, he's setting up a massive, midnight Gym battle promotion. By setting up Lures all evening until the release of the game and promising a reward for the team who controls the gym at midnight, Damon is planning to take Pokemon Go marketing to the next level.
Stories of people getting together to play Pokemon Go as a group and working together to find stronger Pokemon have started popping up all over the world. If Niantic and Nintendo play their cards right, they could have a huge opportunity on their hands.