Business Focus - Pokémon Go

12/09/2016 - 07:00
Pokémon Go was talked about on Twitter more than Brexit and Euro 2016 in its first week, according to app analytics firm SimilarWeb. But which restaurant and pub operators reacted the quickest and caught all the sales? Andrew McClean finds out.

Pokémon Go is the mobile game that has brought the likes of Pikachu, Charmander and Squirtle to real-life situations through technology called augmented reality. The popularity of the game has been immense and that has presented restaurants and pubs with new creative opportunities to entice customers and boost sales.

SimilarWeb says that the free to download game achieved more daily active users on Android phones in the US than Twitter after its first week when it launched in July. Players have been using the game for an average of 43 minutes a day, which is more than Whatsapp, Instagram or Snapchat.

At Maxwell’s Bar and Grill in Covent Garden, customers increased by 26% the weekend after the game launched in the UK. The restaurant is a PokéStop, where gamers gather to collect supplies and catch Pokémon. Maxwell’s has become a meeting point and during its first weekend the restaurant was spending £100 a day on in-app purchases, such as ‘lures’ to attract Pokémon to the area and keep customers in-store.

Maxwell’s marketing manager Anthony Knight, explains: “As well as benefiting from being a PokéStop and dropping lures, businesses can also use the app as a gateway to engage with their customers directly, requesting information on the types of virtual Pokémon caught at or near the location. This information, particularly the ‘rarity’ of the virtual Pokémon captured at their site, can easily be deployed as an advertising tool.”

In Japan, McDonald’s has secured an exclusive partnership deal that sees 2,900 restaurants involved in the game as either a PokéStop or Gym. McDonald’s has been motivating players to get involved through promotional campaigns and advertising the chain as a ‘fun place to go’.

Back in the UK, Costa experienced a 30% increase in footfall across sites that have been made a PokéStop. The coffee chain has considered adding a PokéStop selector to its online store finder because of a 10% sales uplift on the day of the game’s launch at two of its Worcester sites.

“Our stores are proving to be the perfect place for Pokémon across the country to hang out. With our free WiFi and irresistible coffee, we’re looking forward to seeing more Pokémon finders and Pokémon characters come through our doors over the summer,” says Caroline Harris, UK marketing director at Costa.

Social media has been a key tool for operators looking for a cheap, simple and easy way to make the most of the Pokémon Go craze. Burger chain Five Guys has been interacting with customers on Twitter and encouraging them to share what they’ve caught with followers in the hope of driving footfall at its stores.

Marcel Khan, director of operations for Five Guys UK, offers: “Like everyone else in the world all of us at Five Guys are having loads of fun with Pokémon Go. Some of our people play it, all of us are talking about it and it has been really great to join in with some of the online banter.”

A pub in Anglesey, Wales actually renamed itself The Pokémon Arms after experiencing such high demand. The area’s mobile signal is so poor that gamers have been flocking to the pub for its WiFi. In Camden, BrewDog also rebranded for a for a ‘lure party’. PokéDog advertised the event on Facebook, paired its craft beers to Pokémon and gave freebies away all night.

Grill and bar chain M Restaurants on Victoria Street in London got involved every Friday during August by offering players the chance to claim a complimentary colour-matched cocktail if they showed staff the Pokémon they’d caught.

Junichi Masuda, the director of Pokémon at Japanese game developer Game Freak, says: “I think a lot of the success lays in the Pokémon themselves and the bond that fans create between themselves and the creatures they discover whilst playing. Fans love choosing and battling their favourite Pokémon. With each new generation there are new Pokémon for people to discover and enjoy. This, and the rich communication features of the games that bring people from all over the world together.”

Crazes such as Pokémon Go do not come around and disrupt the market that often so the operators that have been quickest to react have reaped the rewards, as Muriel Illig, senior account manager at market insights company NPD, explains: “With mobile phone technology ready, this is likely to be a worthwhile investment for chains to consider as a way to bring excitement for their consumers as well as a new loyalty tool.”

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