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How fashion retailers can use Pokémon Go to boost sales

By Vivian Hendriksz

Aug 8, 2016

London - For all those who are still confused by the increasing crowds of youths (and grown ups) wandering around the high streets, shopping centres and stores, staring at their mobile and shouting things like ‘Go Pokéball!”, it is time you learned about the allure and appeal of Pokémon Go. Chances are, if you grew up during the 1990s, you may remember the cartoon series, card game and Nintendo game bearing the same name. The main objective of the three was to catch all Pokémon, fictional animals, train them at gyms and battle rival trainers to become the ultimate Pokémon master. Now, thanks to the newly released mobile game, launched by Niantic Pokémon craze is once again on all millennials minds.

But what sets this mobile game in a league of its own is its use of augmented reality, which shows wild Pokémon in the real world, therefore encouraging users to actively get up and outside. In the app, wild Pokémon can show up nearly anywhere in public spaces, including stores, restaurants and museums, drawing players to these locations in droves. Trainers have caught Pokémon in stores ranging from H&M to Forever 21 and Rebecca Minkoff, but the majority of the fashion industry has yet to fully embrace the Pokémon revival and use it to their advantage. However, savvy businesses around the world have successfully managed to tap into the craze surrounding Pokémon Go and use it to boost foot traffic and sales. Interested in doing the same? In this guide, FashionUnited shares its top tips and tricks on how fashion retailers can benefit from the Pokémon hype.

Short on time? Then click here to read the short version.

1. Location is key - are you near a Gym or Pokéstop?

As previously mentioned, Pokémon Go makes use of augmented reality in the real world which forces people to leave the comfort of their homes to play. Part of the game sees players battling against each other at Gyms or collecting rewards and items at Pokéstops. Locations for these in-game stops are usually set in a public place and tend to draw in players, boosting foot traffic, without any extra effort.

However, in order to fully benefit from increased foot traffic to your store, retailers should work out if they are, or are near to a Gym or Pokéstop and engage with players accordingly. For example, retail property company Hammerson, which owns 58 shopping centres and retail parks in the UK and France, has embraced the hype surrounding the game by deploying teams with portable battery chargers in its UK shopping centres, while boasting on social media it’s impressive 26 Pokéstops and 7 Gym locations.

The app is known to drain mobile phones battery, so by offering players the chance to recharge their smartphones for free, Hammerson is increasing the period of time players spend in their shopping centres, thereby increasing chances of players making a purchase. “Pokémon Go has taken the UK by storm,” commented Fiona Campbell-Roberts, UK head of marketing at Hammerson. “Our Recharge Rescuers will be on hand to help people power up on the go and keep on playing for longer.” Retailers may also consider offering shoppers the chance to charge their mobile phones while they shop, or offer discount

2. Use Lures to “lure” players in

Of course, for retailers who are not afraid of spending a little cash to drive footfall, then there is always the option of using Lures. If you are lucky enough to be near a Pokéstop (shown on the game map as a blue diamond) then you can invest in the game’s Lure Module. An in-game app purchase, a Lure costs 100 “PokéCoins” (equal to about 79 pence or 89 cents) and attracts all wild Pokémon to a specific area for 30 minutes. These Pokémon are in turn visible and free to catch to all players in the area, who are drawn to Lures like moths to a flame.

While some may wonder if it worth splashing out the cash on Lures, the success rates logged by some businesses may help convince them otherwise. For example, Max Robinson, the cofounder of workwear clothing store Ace Workwear in Scotland, has spent 50 pounds on Lures, but stressed the amount is “next to nothing compared to the amount we can spend on advertising campaigns on social media.” Robinson revealed to Business Insider that the Lures were in fact “by far the best way we've managed to jump on the Pokémon Go train. We got people actually coming into our store which was great.”

However, one of the most successful example of the power of the Lure was set by L’inizio Pizza Bar in Queens, New York, which managed to boost its walk in business by 75 percent within a matter of days.

3. Available soon near you: Sponsored Pokémon Go locations

No Pokéstops or Gyms in your area? Fear not, for although at the moment it is not possible to create one of these locations yourself, in the future it will be. John Hanke, CEO of Niantic has confirmed that they will be introducing ‘sponsored’ locations in the future. Retailers will be offered the option of sponsoring locations, and likely pay Niantic a fee based on the number of in-store visit they attract due to the game. However, at the moment the exact cost of sponsoring a Pokéstop or Gym has yet to be announced.

Just here for the Pokemon

A photo posted by oscargrut (@oscargrut) on

4. Create a Pokémon Event

Nothing brings people together like a unique, free event. By organising a special event, such as a Pokémon Battle or Hunt, you will be able to bring together a group of like minded people together. Dutch teen fashion retailer Coolcat was one of the first fashion retailers to organise a Pokémon Battle at one of its branches in Lelystad, which was located near a Gym. “Our target audience is very much involved with Pokémon, which is why we wanted to organise something unique for them,” explained Laura de Man, social media marketer at Coolcat to FashionUnited NL.

Trainers who had pledged to one of the three teams were invited via Facebook to attend the battle, which took place on July 28. Every hour between 12 and 5, the current Gym leader was awarded a ‘Coolcat Pokémon-package’: 1750 Pokémon Coins, a Coolcat gift card of 50 euro and a Pokémon t-shirt. The event managed to draw in dozens of trainers and was deemed a success by Coolcat and the attending players. If you do decide to host a Battle or a Hunt for rare Pokémon keep the logistics in mind - a Pokémon Go crawl in San Francisco drew over 6,000 players last month.

5. Launch an social media/in store Pokémon incentive

A number of retailers and cafes have launched social media driven Pokémon incentives which draw potential customers to their stores. Some have been promoting the emergence of rare Pokémon in their stores in a bid to attract more players, whilst others offer discount to Pokémon trainers who catch Pokémon in their store. For example, luxury fashion retailer Rebecca Minkoff was offering 15 percent discount to customers who caught a Pokémon in their Soho store in New York, and shared the screenshot on Instagram under the hashtag ‪#‎RMcatchemall‬.

This is a simple way to drive foot traffic to stores and engage with customers at the same time. The custom hashtag helps retailers spread their message whilst ensuring the promise of discount is only offered to either the brand’s target audience, or new potential fans, turning it into a win-win situation for all. Other businesses have opted to offer discount to trainers belonging to a certain team, or on featured products for other in-game achievements (have you just levelled up your Pikachu?).

6. Pokémon as a (social media) marketing tool

Retailers do not necessarily have to rely on promotional offers to drive foot traffic in stores - a smart social media campaign can work wonders as well. For example, C&A and HEMA have been sharing screenshots of wild Pokémon waiting to be caught via their Facebook and Instagram channels, and Leeds’ Victoria Quarter remains shoppers that they will be able to catch them all, whether it be Pokémon or clothing or accessories they are after in their stores. Another way to engage with customers passing by stores on their mobile phone within walking distance is by using beacon technology to send special discounts their way. Once in the store, you can also ask if players if they want to sign up to mailing list to receive news on new Pokémon sighted in store, products and incentives.

A photo posted by C&A (@ca) on

Other retailers, such as Australia’s Woolworths, have been engaging with players via Facebook and trading tips and tricks on where to find the best Pokémon in store and catch them all, much to their followers and game players delight.

7. Pokémon Fashion

Of course, one of the most logical ways for fashion retailer to tap into the hype surrounding Pokémon Go is by launching their own Pokémon capsule collection. Think of inspired t-shirts, cute character prints, or accessories rather than a whole character costume to make it more accessible to other potential customers. Value retailer Primark, which was already stocking and offering Pokémon inspired collections before the mobile game launch, has been busy promoting its current offering of Pokémon merchandise both online and in store, and will be expanding its collections in the near future.

Gotta catch 'em allllll Pikachu sock set for only £2.50/€3.50 #Primark #PokemonGO #Pikachu

A photo posted by Primark (@primark) on

US teen retailer Hot Topic has taken the best of both worlds by offering Pokémon players 25 percent discount on Pokémon related merchandise in their stores when they show their Pokédex in-store or click the link in their Instagram bio, an offer which ensure everyone is winning.

Photos: Flickr.com