For $5.95 spent on an app-based video game, a Texas restaurant boosted its happy hour take by 114 percent over the same night a week before.
VERTS, a Mediterranean grill based in Austin, Texas, has 33 locations and just under 100 employees. They also have an in-house designer who is a fan of the new Pokemon Go game, and showed her coworkers how it worked—and how, for less than the cost of a good cocktail, Vert could enhance their own bottom line.
Pokemon Go, released by Japan's Nintendo, is what's called an augmented reality game. Players must go out into the world — that's the reality—with their smartphones and GPS systems—that's the augmented part—to play.
Pokemon has been around for years, as many parents and gaming fans know, but the Go edition requires players to walk around an area looking for various game pieces to arise. Players can score characters and other useful game pieces at “PokeStops,” and battle other players at “gyms.” Basically, players walk around an area, the game alerts them when Pokemon are near and players have to try to capture them. “Lures” can be purchased, bringing Pokemon game pieces to a specific location.
Released in early July, before month's end the game's users represent the kind of hockey-stick growth most businesses would salivate over, with more than 30 million downloads in the first weeks after release, according to CNET.
The game stops have taken some areas by surprise. The Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., for example, had to ask players to respect the sanctity of the museum, according to The Washington Post.
But some small businesses have seen a spike in a foot traffic, and sales, that's proven an unexpected boon. Businesses don't have a say in where the stops and gyms arise, but some have found the game has placed key action points nearby, sometimes at the business itself. No official maps of these game points has been released—the hunt is part of the fun—but unofficial maps have appeared online, and there's also been word-of-mouth as players find new spots.
A VERTS location was one such “PokeStop,” says Sarah Pendley, VERTS' PR manager.
Her team wondered what they could do to capitalize on the game. They decided to buy “lures,” which are $1.19 for 30 minutes, Pendley says, and combine that with happy hour deals and swag giveaways.
“We saw a lot of customers coming by, maybe some customers who weren't aware of our brand before,” she says.
[pullquote showtweet="false" alignment="center"]It’s important for small businesses to be aware of trends and get in on the trend as it's starting, because the big guys are going to be getting in eventually.
—Tim Lynch, owner, Psychsoftpc[/pullquote]
Small firms don't need a brick and mortar store to take advantage, either.
Tim Lynch has sold high-end computers and systems to serious gamers as well as government agencies via Psychsoftpc since 1987. Today his Quincy, Massachusetts firm has about 25 employees and does about $3 to $5 million in revenue annually.
His business operates entirely online. His way of capitalizing on Pokemon Go craze involved driving traffic to his website and social media pages. Lynch says he spent a few hours creating a relatively simple 3D printout of a game badge that players could download for free, then print on a 3D printer. Such printers need to be programmed—it's not as easy as the Control-P on a basic home machine—so this download provides the information that can be sent to such a printer. Fans who don't have access to a 3D printer themselves could send it to one of many online firms that print for people.
Badges, Lynch notes, become collectables among gamers. He places the file far down on his company's home page, so users would have to scroll through information about his firm to access the file.
His online traffic has risen 50 percent since he posted the badge. He hasn't seen many sales yet, but with basic machines starting well above $1,500, the traffic was his goal.
“The eyeball increase and the name recognition is really what I think is important, and what I was trying to do,” he says.
For businesses who may want to capitalize on Pokemon Go, or similar future trends, Pendley and Lynch offer some tips.
“It’s important for small businesses to be aware of trends and get in on the trend as it's starting, because the big guys are going to be getting in eventually,” Lynch says. “The advantage of being a small business is that you're going to be an agile business, so there's not going to be as much red tape to cut through to do something.”
“Find an expert in your field or your company who can explain what the game is,” Pendley says. And don't fear trying something new, she says.
“Maybe your competitors aren't trying it, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't. Jumping on these trends won't just help with your marketing," she says. "Your consumers see that you're hip, you're on trend. It helps with the PR aspect of it as well.”