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A Targeted View of Pokémon Go

“Where are we (Pokémon) going to lunch?”

Deciding where to eat is a common dilemma that everyone has faced in a group setting. Today, this decision was made far easier for my group of colleagues, compliments of Pokémon Go. While I do not play the game, one coworker who did was interested in going to a place just down the street with a nearby Pokéstop. The in-game function of a Pokéstop didn’t really matter to me, but the fact that it would incentivize my coworker to pick one business over another did.

On our drive, I discovered this was not the first time the game had helped him pick where to eat. There is a hotspot of sorts at an Indian restaurant a few blocks from his house. With a mix of Pokéstops and virtual Gyms within range, it is now the place to be for 20-somethings. While there is logic to where Pokéstops and Gyms are located, almost certainly this restaurant’s existence was not included in the decision making process. They have simply lucked out in the Pokémon Go lottery. Surely though, this scenario is one that businesses would pay for.

Thinking outside the Pokéball

The most obvious way to monetize these data is for retailers to pay the creators of the game (Niantic, Pokémon Company, Nintendo) to put Pokéstops and Gyms at their brick and mortar locations. The next step will be for the larger retailers to become the exclusive locations for in-game characters (Pokémon). All of this casts a large net and would most likely be very effective, but I argue that there are better ways to approach the opportunities.

Pokémon Go has attracted a demographically-diverse community of players. With this in mind, a bar in my neighborhood shouldn’t waste their money trying to get my 11 year old niece to come through. The bar should be looking to purchase a Gym that is only visible to users who are 21 years of age and older, a clientele much more likely to buy a drink or two during their virtual adventure. As an added benefit, I wouldn’t have to worry about my niece wandering around the outside of a bar.

As for incentivizing players via Pokémon, locations wouldn’t need to be the exclusive provider of a Pokémon to reap the benefits. If I owned a small company, I would most likely not be able to afford an exclusive deal. However, I would probably be able to afford a more common Pokémon that isn’t exclusive. This doesn’t sound very appealing, but if I were to combine that with the GPS data, I would have a fairly powerful marketing tool. With the push of a button, there would be a notification to players in a five mile radius that were in need of this Pokémon.

Where do we Go from here?

Once you start thinking about targeted marketing in this virtual medium, the opportunities certainly do feel endless. While part of the current appeal of the game is that everyone is experiencing the same virtual world, perhaps it is worth exploring a model where the virtual world varies ever so slightly for each user. Then again, perhaps I just made my colleague’s lunchtime decision more confusing. 

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