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Retailers look to catch shoppers in Pokémon Go craze

Pokémon Go, the mega-hit augmented reality game is not just proving a winning concept for Nintendo.

​​It’s also giving bricks-and-mortar retail businesses and food outlets new opportunities to connect with consumers and compete in the online space.

In Australia, big retail brands such as Woolworths, TAB, Sportbet, KFC and others have targeted advertising towards the new mobile craze, which sees players, known as Pokémon trainers, to walk around real-life neighborhoods to hunt down Pokémon.

Woolworths has posted tips on how gamers can catch Pokémon in its stores. It’s not the only one – restaurant owners and retailers can fill out an online form to request Pokéstops or so-called Gyms — locations where players can battle against other players or find new monsters –to be created near their premises to tempt nearby players and increase footprint. Although months after its launch, Niantic, Inc, the developer and publisher of the game in which Nintendo has a stake, has stopped accepting submissions for new Pokéstops or Gyms.

“In just days, the clever use of the geo-location feature of the game has caught the imagination of the world and transformed businesses. It has provided bricks-and-mortar retailers and food outlets an innovative way to attract customers and fend-off competitors,” says Cameron Taudevin, Associate Director for Retail JLL in Australia.

Taking the world by storm

Since its launch this month, Pokémon Go has topped the ‘most downloaded’ charts for both the Android and Apple app stores and picked up 65 million U.S. users in the week after its launch. For comparison, Twitter currently has 65 million users in the U.S.

On 22 July, Pokémon Go launched in Japan, the game’s birthplace, after a delay caused by a media leak that McDonalds’ Japan would make its restaurants available as key locations for players in the introduction of the hit game in the country. McDonald’s sponsorship news had sent the food company’s shares soaring.

In many ways, the use of augmented reality in the retail experience isn’t new. A Boston Retail Partners survey found that 31 percent of retailers are using gamification in their loyalty programs, while 87 percent of retailers are projected to implement this tactic in the next five years. For example, Reebok recently put up an outdoor billboard with a built-in speed cam. Any consumer who could run at least 10.5 mph past the ad unlocked a new pair of ZPump 2.0 shoes.

Virtual reality takes hold in retail

Virtual reality (VR) and its cousin, augmented reality (AR) are rapidly gaining force in retail. VR is a complete computer-generated environment provided through a special headset, sometimes with sensor gloves or other aids, while AR overlays digital elements on a real-life image in a digital display. By some estimates, VR/AR will be an $80 billion industry by 2025,part of which will be in a retail context.

The biggest advantage of Pokémon Go so far is that it is free, apart from in-app purchases. “It has given budget-tight retailers the ammunition to level the playing field with their online rivals and has also allowed malls to step up their game in attracting footfall,” says Taudevin.

Even the hotel sector is taking advantage of its popularity. Mantra Group has launched the world’s first Pokemon Go-friendly hotels in Sydney and Melbourne, encouraging fans to ‘Pokéstop by our bar’ with free Pokémon Go Lures to increase their chances of catching one of the virtual monsters.

As Japan joins the U.S., UK, Australia, continental Europe and New Zealand in the Pokémon Go craze, the country’s buoyant retail sector is watching closely.

“It could spark some additional footprint for the retail sector, which has already seen a revival in recent years following the influx of Chinese tourists,” says Kenji Yoskikawa, Head of Retail Leasing in Japan

However, the additional feature of having a Pokéstop or gym is unlikely to bring any value to a property sale, even as real estate listings using Pokémon Go as ‘bait’ have been popping up in the U.S., he adds.

This article originally appeared on Real Views, JLL's news site that features stories exploring the world of real estate and its impact on the wider business world. Visit the Real Views site to subscribe for our weekly email of top stories, delivered direct to your inbox.​​​​​​​​​​​​​