Millions of mostly-young people are roaming around this week with their heads down and smartphones in hand, looking for pocket monsters and training their Pokémon at Pokémon Gyms and PokéStops inside malls, retail stores, and at community landmarks. They’re playing Pokémon Go, and many of the businesses they’re walking past and traipsing through are looking for ways to get in on the action.
With interest in the augmented reality game reaching a fever pitch this week, savvy local merchants and national retailers are using social media and targeted rewards to lure in Pokémon Go players and turn them into paying customers. Here are six examples of ways that merchants are doing that right now.
1. Advertising PokéStops on social media. The makers of Pokémon Go determined where PokéStops would be located before launching the game, and now some lucky places that happen to have multiple Pokémon Gyms and PokéStops are using their connection to the game to bring people in. The Sacramento Zoo, in Sacramento, California, has posted screenshots of the game across its multiple social media accounts. In posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the zoo boasts that it is home to nine PokéStops and two Pokémon Gyms, and it encourages players to hit play Pokémon Go while visiting the animals.
2. Rewarding people for playing nearby. Rather than chasing away Pokémon Go players, Tanger Outlets in Phoenix, Arizona, is trying to bring them in. On Monday, the outlet mall posted a limited-time deal on its Facebook page—the first 20 people to take a picture of a Pokémon at the Tanger Outlets and bring the photo to Shopper Services would receive a $10 gift card. The deal not only brings new people to the shopping center, but it also promotes social sharing by encouraging players to post pictures of themselves playing on Facebook.
3. Offering free charging stations to players. Augmented reality games can quickly drain smartphone batteries. Virgin Mobile has found a way to keep players in the malls where their stores are located, even when their batteries start running low, by providing free phone charging at all of its retail stores and kiosk locations in Australia. At selected food courts, the company is also offering free secure charge lockers. Anyone can use the free charging service, not just Virgin Mobile customers. Not only does the program bring potential customers into Virgin Mobile stores, but it also builds stronger brand affinity among grateful Pokémon Go players.
4. Using Lures to incentive customer visits. When businesses have certain Pokémon inside, it can encourage players to stop in. Although most stops were determined before the game was launched, merchants can use lures—which are purchasable items that attract Pokémon—to bring customers inside. In Sydney, Australia, a Chinese restaurant called Tanghui announced it would be activating a “Lure Model” at certain times each day, and customers have to be in the restaurant during those times to participate.
5. Giving discounts to Pokémon Trainers. Elixir Lounge is a smoothie and juice bar in Gainesville, Florida, that just happens to be close to two PokéStops. In an effort to capitalize on the game, Elixir’s owners posted a large sign out front that says, “Attention Trainers: Every Trainer that places a Lure Module on nearby Pokecenter locations gets a $1 Bud Light or $2.99 Smoothie.” Although the business hasn’t posted the deal on its own Facebook page yet, Pokémon players have been sharing the deal across social media and on Reddit.
6. Retweeting Pokémon Go screenshots. Applebee’s has started re-tweeting and responding to customers who post screenshots or pictures of themselves playing Pokémon at Applebee’s restaurants and tag the restaurant in their posts. The strategy is likely to increase the number of people who visit Applebee’s locations looking for Pokémon and it also encourages social media users to post pictures of themselves at their local restaurants in the hopes of having their tweets shared with the large Applebee’s social media audience. Any business could do this by looking through their mentions without spending a dime.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.