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Beyond The Hype Of Pokémon GO – What Does This All Mean For Small Businesses?


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By Siva Ganeshanandan, Director, APAC, Adobe Marketing Cloud

The response to the game’s highly-anticipated release has been incredible, with the app surpassing over $160 million in worldwide revenue within its first month of launch. On the business front, we’ve seen no shortage of big names jumping on the Pokémon GO bandwagon – mobile e-hailing application Grab released a map of Pokémon locations in Singapore with the help of user-generated input, Singaporean telco SingTel released thousands of in-game Lure Modules at checkpoints, called PokéStops, near their shops, and Malaysian telco Maxis also recently offered subscribers discounts for in-game currency – just to name a few. The success of each brand’s campaigns may vary, but one thing is clear: the mobile phone game is a fantastic way to get customers engaged.

The instant fever brought about by Pokémon GO has been phenomenal, but when it comes to consideration for long-term investments, businesses should look beyond the game itself. The success of Pokémon GO has offered us an exciting glimpse into the unlocked potential of Augmented Reality (AR), and opened up a new field for creativity. Beyond Pokémon GO, technologies such as AR and Virtual Reality (VR) are the real heroes that will bring about new digital disruptions, and create opportunities for business-owners and marketers to revolutionise the way they run their business.

Here are three insights that small business owners can glean from this phenomenon:

Great Potential for Location-Based Marketing.

AR-enabled location-based games are on a fast track to growth, especially for marketers keen to reach younger consumers. A recent report from BIA/Kelsey predicted that U.S. revenues from location-targeted mobile ads would grow from $6.8 billion in 2015 to $18.2 billion in 2019, and according to the 2016 Econsultancy/Adobe Digital Intelligence study, Asia-Pacific marketers are more inclined than their European and North American counterparts to leverage location targeting to achieve the best customer experience. This implies there is an even greater potential for businesses here to capitalize on location-based apps and games such as Pokémon GO.

The location-based system that Pokémon GO is built on has contributed to a boon for some small businesses – we have seen instances of users flocking to physical checkpoint locations that are enhanced by Pokémon GO in-game items like the Lure Modules, which increase the appearance rate of Pokémon. Some businesses have cleverly harnessed the positioning of such checkpoints or even sponsored checkpoints in strategic locations, and combining that with in-store promotions that tap on aspects of the game such as team choices or levels. Small businesses have the advantage, in this case, to react more nimbly to customer responses on the ground. This blending of virtual and real world approach increases customer engagement, which in turn helps drive footfall by spreading awareness, and even contributing to sales with the right promotions. 

The popularity of Pokémon GO has also proven that users are open to sharing personal data with brands, such as their location, if it brings them an experience that they value in return. Brands must learn to make the most of this data provided, to bring targeting and personalization to a whole new level, while respecting the sensitivities of user privacy.

Understanding your audience and their needs is the first step to providing unparalleled customer experience and meaningful content that is relevant and valuable.

Balancing Trend vs. Marketing Strategy.

On the advertising and marketing fronts, there has to be a fine balance between capitalizing on popular trends and remaining true to a business’s brand and marketing strategy. Some businesses hop onto the bandwagon in fear of losing out, and end up chasing the trend without adding any value to their customers. Relevance and customer experience should always be key considerations.

With all new technology, figuring out the best way to leverage it is a learning experience. Therefore, small businesses shouldn’t be afraid to experiment, although they should always stay true to brand. While small businesses may not have the budgets and resources that bigger establishments have access to, they often enjoy the benefits of agility to respond and rejig their marketing efforts to cater to market trends, so take full advantage of that. Act quick, but don’t dive head in without clear objectives. Always keep the customers in mind, and ensure a coherent, personalized customer experience by finding ways to integrate such trends into existing advertising or marketing narratives.

Users trust us with their personal data and expect a reward for doing so, but a brand’s persistent presence may be a major turn-off. Be it Pokémon GO or the next big AR or VR phenomenon, brands need to ensure a fluid, organic integration of their advertising efforts into the game without coming across as intrusive.

Be Ready for the Next AR (or VR) Wave.

Pokémon GO has brought Augmented Reality to the masses. Many businesses have dabbled in the AR space in the past, though none has achieved the explosive success that Pokémon GO is currently enjoying. Pokémon GO has shown the immense power of AR when it is done right, and it has set a new benchmark against which future AR initiatives will be measured.

While AR is still out of reach for most consumers, mobile AR which is leveraged prominently in Pokémon GO is a great starting point for the masses. This is especially powerful in Asia-Pacific, where smartphone use in the region is set to surpass the rest of the world combined according to a recent report by Ericsson.

The success of the game has now made AR accessible to anyone who owns a smartphone, and has in turn opened up new doors for other businesses and developers too – even if Pokémon GO doesn’t resonate with your brand right now, the myriad of AR apps that are bound to follow will certainly offer more opportunities in the near future.

The challenge then, is for businesses to be AR-ready when that time comes. Start thinking of how you can leverage AR (or VR) for your business, as the cost of building these apps will start to tumble as adoption increases.



Siva Ganeshanandan is Director, APAC, Adobe Marketing Cloud. His role at Adobe provides him with insights into how marketers are applying new technology to traditional techniques for results that drive their business growth. As part of his regional duties, Siva also leads Adobe’s industry specialist team that provides executive level consulting and digital roadmaps for Adobe’s most strategic customers. He joined Adobe in 2011, having held senior roles for many years with companies including Interwoven.



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