Pokemon Go Could Have Some Serious Retail Power

Gotta buy it all! Pokémon Go, the game loved by John Mayer, Demi Lovato, Chrissy Teigen and 15 million other users, may have the power to save malls. With the ease and popularity of online shopping, they’ve been affected by declining sales and empty storefronts for years. 

“Pokémon Go and what the game represents has the power to transform retail if stores can capitalize upon new traffic and become integrated into an entertainment experience in an authentic brand-appropriate manner,” Oliver Chen, an analyst at the financial services company Cowen told WWD. “The new free-to-play AR gaming app [which launched on July 6] has broad implications for retail as it addresses declining mall traffic, plus emerging trends toward social experiences and health/wellness.”

Chen suggests that “retailers should embrace Pokémon Go and take advantage of the opportunity to increase customer engagement.” The location-based gaming app, which requires players catch Pokémon in the real world, is an easy way to lure potential shoppers into stores. 

In fact, players can purchase Lures, which draw the little monsters closer to nearby Poké Stops (locations that provide free Poké Balls and Pokémon Eggs). “If a business happens to be located near a Poké Stop, it can download the game and purchase Lures, which will draw in more players,” another WWD post explains. Users have invaded stores like H&M, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Forever 21 and Sephora thus far.

Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go app Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Niantic, the software-development company that’s responsible for the game, hasn’t approached these brands for a partnership just yet.

It might be too soon to predict the app’s destiny. Even though Pokémon Go has amassed more daily users than Twitter and has more user engagement than Facebook, Chen is skeptical about its staying power. “Can the game sustain its ferocious start?” he questioned. “We are a bit skeptical, as in our opinion there simply isn’t that much ‘game’ there. Once players have caught lots of Pokémon — which is undeniably fun — there isn’t much to do with them other than a very simplistic gym-battle mechanic.”

But, like everything else, time serves as the real test. Said Chen, “Pokémon Go’s long-term influence on the broader retail industry largely depends on how long the phenomenon endures and if other game makers can replicate similar AR technology.”

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