What Companies Can Learn From Pokémon Go

By: Sean Mott

A horde of giant monsters roam the streets, the sea, and the sky. Children, armed with snares and traps, scour alleys, boardwalks, fields, and abandoned buildings for rare creatures. Adults drive dangerously through intersections and trespass on private property, chasing bizarre beasts. Hunters trade animals, items, and tips at concentrated work centers.

It’s not a grim future dystopia; it’s the world of Pokémon Go.

Pokémon Go has quickly reached the level of sensation. In face, “craze” might be a better description. It has over 21 million daily users, surpassing social giant Twitter. Nintendo’s shares soared after years of slumping (before plunging down again) and while revenue numbers are murky, market intelligence firm Sensor Tower estimates a daily profit of $1.6 million. Even though it’s only officially released in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, it plans to launch in Europe soon, expanding its reach.

Even if you don’t follow user trends or stock price changes, you’re probably well aware of the dozens of daily Pokémon Go stories. People have been caught searching for Pokémon at a Holocaust museum. A kid is selling glow-in-the-dark badges so people can safely walk around at night. Commentators are debating if it could be a remedy to childhood obesity. For good and ill, Pokémon Go has captured the public consciousness.

Most companies would kill for this level of media exposure and popularity. For a business to completely dominate the cultural landscape, especially in today’s oversaturated, short-attention span Internet Age, is astounding. While it’s nigh impossible to fully replicate Nintendo’s particular success, since much of it depends on established brand knowledge, companies can still learn a lot from this instant fad.

What attracts people to Pokémon Go? Why are people so fanatical about hunting imaginary projections of binary code? A large part of the appeal is nostalgic wish-fulfillment. Ever since the Pokémon franchise debuted over 20 years ago, with a string of games, trading cards, and movies, people have wanted to capture their favorite colorful creatures. They wanted to actualize their fandom and live the life of a Pokémon trainer. Pokémon Go is the first real attempt to make this fantasy a reality.

But even casual Pokémon fans, and even non-fans, play Pokémon Go. That’s because it offers a unique experience. There really isn’t anything quite like Pokémon Go on the market. There are great mobile apps and virtual reality experiments, but nothing that combines the two like Pokémon Go. It’s an interactive, virtual reality, social app that encourages real-life exploration. It’s an original, which is a big attraction for people. People are delighted by the unique experience, which makes them more willing to spend money.

Pokémon Go encourages users to spend a lot of their money. It’s a free download, but its features cost a pretty penny. To capture Pokémon, you need Pokéballs, which you have to buy. The in-game currency is Pokécoins, which come in sets ranging from $1 to $100. Customers enjoy the experience so much they’re willing to spend large amounts of money. This is the lesson companies have to learn.

Companies have to do more than sell products; they have to create an experience. They have to engage customers beyond the sale. When shopping at your store, consumers should be given a special treatment in the form of a mobile app. It could be an integration of social media with sales figures to show the highest trending content. It could be a personalized app that studies a consumer’s shopping habits and shows them the best products that suit their interest. It could be an interactive store map that highlights and describes certain sections. Every company should find a unique approach. As Pokémon Go demonstrates, customers who enjoy a fresh experience are willing to spend their money.

Local retailers have caught on to this idea. Many stores are offering special deals and products for Pokémon Go users and they’ve seen a huge uptick in business. These groups are tangentially related to Pokémon Go and they’ve reaped big rewards. A company devoted to cultivating a unique user experience could see even better results.

Pokémon Go is an intense fad. Like any fad, it may die down or fall out of favor. The next few weeks will be a big test for its long-term popularity. But its lessons are important right now. Companies need to experiment and offer customers new features. The future lies in an immersive customer experience. Let Pikachu lead the way.