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Catch more business with Pokémon Go

The minute Pokémon Go hit app stores, mobile gaming changed forever. Unlike Candy Crush, Kim Kardashian Hollywood or other hot-selling apps, Pokémon Go actually requires players to get up off the couch and go out to catch creatures in the real world. A modern revival of the 90s card game, the app uses augmented reality (AR) to place Pokémon creatures all around you — well, kind of. Relying on your GPS coordinates and mobile camera, the Pokémon characters show up on your screen. Once you spot one of the characters, you can interact with it by battling, capturing or training them.

Pokémon Go is obviously a great way to encourage users to be more active, but it’s also an incredible opportunity for local merchants to drive more foot traffic.

Take advantage of the hottest new trend in social gaming and drive more traffic to your brick-and-mortar location. It's quick, relatively inexpensive... and it's fun for you and your customers! Here’s how to successfully catch more business with Pokémon Go:

Make sure your business benefits gamers

First and foremost, make sure your business is a good fit for Pokémon Go and its players. Businesses that either distract from or counteract the experience shouldn’t try to cash in on the Pokémon Go trend. For example: if you own an antique china shop, it’s not the best idea to ramp up store traffic through a game based entirely around seeing with your phone instead of your eyes. That won’t end well for you OR for your customers.

It takes more than getting customers in the door; you have to give them a reason to come back. It’s important to provide an atmosphere where app users can mingle with one another without feeling awkward or obliged to buy something...and free phone charging stations are a big plus! Bars, restaurants, arcades, quirky shops or other social hot spots embody most of these traits and should definitely consider getting in the game.

Cast lures to draw creatures — and customers

There are two designated location types within the game: Pokéstops and Gyms. Pokéstops are typically landmarks, parks or other public venues; they are optimal grounds for hunting the digital critters. By contrast, Gyms are where you go to battle the Pokémon characters or other players. McDonald's is currently in talks with Nintendo to make some Japanese locations Gyms. It's widely speculated that other businesses will also eventually be able to pay to become Pokéstops or Gyms — but not quite yet.

Since Pokémon Go is still fairly new, paid advertising remains a fairly uncharted territory. And right now, there’s only one way to pay for more store traffic: purchase a package of lure modules within the app. As the name suggests, lures are designed to draw Pokémon which, in turn, draw trainers. They only cost a few quid, and you can place them as often as you like. Each lure is active for 30 minutes; use them for a sudden spike in traffic or cast them in succession to draw a steady stream of customers.

Offer trainers special deals and discounts

Provide special incentives for trainers or players that are specific to the game. Reward battle winners with a free drink. Offer 10 percent off for trainers who have reached a certain point level. Most importantly, encourage social sharing. Grant discounts or freebies for customers who capture a photo of a Pokémon in your business and post it to their social media accounts. Their friends and fellow Pokémon Go players will see the post, making them more likely to hit up your place next time they’re out on the hunt!

Engage with your gaming customers

Pokémon Go is more than a game, it's a social experience. Unlike most other apps, it encourages each player to get up, get out and interact with the world. It sparks conversations between fellow trainers on street corners, forming an instant bond between people who probably wouldn’t have spoken otherwise... simply because there happens to be a Charmander afoot.

This is an incredible opportunity for business owners: building relationships with your customers helps boost loyalty. So ask them about their Pokémon collection. Inquire about the battles they’ve won. And share your own experiences with the game. Show customers you actually care, and they're much more apt to circle back on their next hunt.

Olivia Young is an independent online marketing consultant for Internet Choice