App developers and business owners alike for many years have known that there is promise in the rise of the number of mobile device users enabling location-based services. Some thought that it would be easy for stores to push coupons to users’ mobile devices nearby. Others have dreamed that the technology could be used to influence potential customers to walk right into their store without direct prompting.
Nonetheless, retailers, small businesses and developers have had little success in overcoming the privacy barriers that are involved in getting the mobile access they need to influence user behavior.
Enter Pokémon Go, an augmented reality-based game that incentivizes the user for moving around in physical space. At its core the game brings to your pocket the themes of the older Pokémon games where you capture, train and battle Pokémon — but it adds a real-world twist. You discover virtual Pokémon to capture and train only by moving around in your physical world. Real world places correspond to the location of Pokémon Gyms (training centers) and PokéStops (places to retrieve items) in the app. You might say its somewhat of a cross between Zelda and Geocaching. If you want to progress in the game, you must go to the physical locations.
People are often more suspicious when they perceive that you are trying to get them to do something than when you are inviting them to have a fun experience. The Pokémon Go universe is nearly over 21 million users strong. It has access to the location data about all of these users and employs reliable mechanisms to influence users to move to specific locations.
It’s undeniable that the app has been influencing users’ real life behavior. It’s been getting people to go out in parks, walk along streets and to take impromptu trips. This uncommon behavior has even been noticed by law enforcement and has prompted more than one or two conversations with citizens.
Some businesses that are near Pokéstops have seen a rise in sales or have offered deals to Pokémon Go players. One couple is experiencing unexpected people traffic in front of their home (once a historic landmark) as visitors use their front lawn as a Pokémon gym. Meanwhile, health advocates are lauding the app’s ability to get people taking more steps.
It would seem that the entertainment gained through Pokémon Go fun is a semi-permanent veil that provides the makers with the ability to get in-depth user data points and influence users’ moment-by-moment location. I will not be surprised if revenue, as a result of Pokémon Go, outpaces that of Facebook in the coming months. Many advertisers and marketers may be looking to create partnerships with Pokémon Go to connect with its massive audience. How many of them have you caught already?