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Pokemon Go - How Retailers Can Capitalize On The Power Of Games

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Hordes of walkers move towards the same target. They are looking for something, and willing to fight to catch it. This is not the plot of a post-apocalyptic drama. This is what is happening right now with Pokemon Go.

In less than two weeks, the brand-new mobile game of the Nintendo franchise has gone from an experiment to a social phenomenon, to a business case. A story that every retail brand should listen carefully.

Pokemon Go, developed by Niantic, is the demonstration that, in the social age, mobile games are a winning marketing tool. The whole thing is quite ironic if you think about it. Nintendo, in fact, has long awaited before entering the mobile app arena, because it was scared that the smartphone would affect its core business, the home gaming consoles.

This is the same distrust that we can somehow perceive in those companies that rely on the physical store for large part of their revenues. It is the fear of an innovation that might transform into a revolution. And yet, love it or hate it, you have most certainly heard of the Pokemon game by now.

Since the app was released, it has already reached more users than popular dating app Tinder. It has outranked Facebook in user engagement and is a more popular search term than YouPorn on Google (now, that’s a news!). More, it is set to surge past Twitter in daily active users on Android devices and is ranked ahead of Instagram and Snapchat in Google Play.

Thanks to the incredible - and unexpected - spread of the mobile app, the parent company Nintendo has already cashed in more than 7.5 billion dollars by now. Smart retailers are wisely following the trend, and they are trying to understand how to capitalize the fact that people are forced to move around the city to compete in the game.

If we had to find the one single reason why Pokemon Go is having such a remarkable success, it would be exactly the ability to fuse the digital and physical worlds. Despite not being a true augmented reality application, the game is using this technology to integrate the fantastic elements into the real-life outline. 

Users play as Pokemon trainers, and they have to stroll around to search for new monsters to catch and add to their collection. They can then train them in proper gyms, or upgrade their abilities visiting the PokeStops, geographically designated points within Google Maps.

One of the most popular items for purchase are the so-called ‘lures’: When activated, lures attract Pokemon creatures to an area. They cost roughly 1.20 dollars/hour and only work when activated as a module in a PokeStop. Here is how the developers at Niantic monetize their app.

More often than not, while users walk around, they might find themselves entering a retail store. The creatures can be literally everywhere, as they are automatically localized within a map. The dislocation might look random at first sight, but it is more studied than it looks.

The frenzied race in search of the next item has already created surreal situations:

  • A player arrested after visiting a Police Station PokeStop;
  • A church that asked to sign up to become a PokeStop;
  • A strip club assaulted by teenagers, not for the reason you might suppose;
  • A dead body found by a player while he was trying to catch a Pokemon;
  • A group of users running and screaming in the Holocaust Museum, searching for a rare monster.

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Pokemon Go is not the first mobile application that drives people to move. Without considering the bunch of health and fitness apps (plus the EU’s Pegaso Fit4Future project), we need to cite at least Foursquare, and the race to become the mayor of whatever place.

Foursquare is a good example of how retailers can take advantage of the game dynamics to attract new customers and build loyalty. According to Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen, "it has the power to transform retail. In our view, the new free-to-play [augmented reality] gaming app has broad implications for retail as it addresses declining mall traffic, plus emerging trends toward social experience, health, and wellness."

Paul Shapiro, director of search innovation at Catalyst, says that the game is exposing a pretty large set of consumers to augmented reality: "It is incredible how it is everywhere. It is all ages, genders. It is obviously massive." Catch after catch, the game is redefining how people connect to the store. The retail customer experience.

If you own a brick and mortar, it is utterly useless to reject people or try to create a ‘Pokemon-free’ area. You should capitalize this opportunity, instead. How? To get back to lures, if your business happens to be situated relatively close to a PokeStop, you can attract people to your location for little more than a dollar per hour.

It is what many local businesses are doing in the United States, with analysts reporting as much as a 75 percent increase in profitability due to the lure usage. And this is not even the result of a planned strategy. It is more a ‘give it a try’ attitude that Niantic is already thinking to exploit.

In a recent interview with Financial Times, John Hanke, CEO of Niantic hinted at plans to develop partnerships with retailers within the game: "There is a second component to our business model at Niantic, which is this concept of sponsored locations.” Why not, given that both gyms and PokeStops are real-world locations that attract the players?

Players will be encouraged to visit specific a location (your store) to collect items and gain experience. This might change the way businesses interact online and also in the real world, with evident consequences on the digital customer experience.

Retailers should take note of what is going on in the streets these days. Here are three major takeaways from the Pokemon craze:

  • Mobile technology is not your enemy. The smartphone is a powerful ally that will help you to connect the online life of digital customers with the physical experience of the retail store.
  • Augmented reality has yet to express its full potential, and so virtual reality. Both can be surely used in innovative ways to engage customers, enhance the experience and support the purchase.
  • Gamification, customer engagement, and brand loyalty are strictly entwined. In the Age of the Customer, the path to conversion is full of good game mechanics focused on the experience.

Pokemon Go is making history, and you can be part of it. Only time will tell if the app is destined to become a temporary fad or an enduring success. What really matters, in a business perspective, is that games are never just games, after all.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

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Topics: Digital Customer Experience Mobile Retail Gamification customer engagement

How Mobile Commerce Is Disrupting Your Business [Infographic]

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We check the phone on average 150 times a day. We turn in on within 15 minutes of waking up in the morning. While we are in a store, we turn to our smartphone to get suggestions, compare prices and decide what - and where - to buy.

Is this affecting your business strategy? Mobile commerce already makes up 34% of all e-commerce transactions around the world, and it is destined to disrupt the retail industry. How are you going to keep up?

Today, every company - regardless of the industry - needs to find an answer to two very distinct demands: The first one is to stay relevant in a world where customers dictate the agenda; the second one is to build a memorable mobile strategy, to engage customers in every moment of truth.    

In a relatively short amount of time, we have witnessed at least three significant proofs of the growing influence of mobile on the life of customers and businesses:

  • The arrival of the so-called mobile-friendly algorithm, launched by Google, that has changed the way we live (and create) websites and online experiences.
  • The overtaking of search queries from smartphones at the expenses of those coming from desktop computers and tablets. This has changed SEO forever.
  • The launch of the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project by Google, a new way to build mobile-friendly web pages destined to become the standard in the next years.

Google, in the forefront of this innovation, has perfectly summed up this complex scenario in its report about the emergence of Micro Moments. Mobile technology is acting as the main catalyst for a digital transformation that is rewriting the rules of the game. You are either in, or you are out.

The multiplication of touch points leads to a combination of physical and virtual elements, which will ultimately change the retail experience. The web goes mobile; your customers go mobile; commerce becomes mainly mobile. What about your strategy? 

In this regard, mobile commerce is a piece of the puzzle called digital commerce, which takes place online and offline, and might end up online or in store. This type of interaction is more fulfilling and results in a transaction of value where the digital customer experience becomes the real differentiator.

Taking care of mobile commerce, therefore, does not simply translate into bringing your e-commerce to the smartphone. It implies a complete change of perspective, to redefine your business priorities and focus your customer experience on the pervasiveness of mobile devices. 

In a few words, mobile commerce is as much about monetization as it is about the revitalization of the engagement and loyalty. Customers already live submerged in this new ecosystem, and brands must acknowledge the shift to revamp their business strategy and stay relevant.

To understand the role of mobile in today's markets, and the trends that will transform your business in the next few years, check out the infographic below, created by Coupofy.

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Topics: Mobile Digital Customer Experience Retail customer engagement

Conversational Commerce - A New Paradigm For The Customer Experience

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2016 will be the year of conversational commerce.” With these very words Chris Messina, Developer Experience Lead at Uber, introduced in 2015 the idea of conversational commerce as the main trend of customer-facing apps.

Today, with the chatbot mania in full swing, it is time to review this topic, and see what has happened in the tech world since the pioneering Uber’s first integration into Facebook Messenger. And how this trend is affecting the digital customer experience.

Powered by Uber’s API, Messenger has enabled users to sign up for Uber with one tap and request a ride, even if they had not downloaded the Uber app. All important information were delivered to a private conversation between the customer and Uber on Messenger, without having to leave the discussion.

The landscape, as we know it, is made of mobile devices that disrupt the way people communicate, share, and connect with each other (and with brands). The spread of the smartphone has brought the entire world into the hands of customers, and for years they have experienced it using mostly mobile browsers and apps.

Now, things are slowly - but steadily - changing. The first step in this evolution comes with the huge success of messaging applications. WeChat, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, Kik, Slack come in the form of apps but they are not like all the other apps. They show that it is possible to engage customers in a more meaningful way. In a conversational way.

When you look at it from a business perspective, the difference between the traditional and the conversational patterns is evident: in the first one there is interaction but not real-time communication (just think about the push notification); the conversational one, instead, is all about ‘the right moment’. Content and context become so tangled up that you can have one without the other.

Some analysts already say that we are moving towards an ecosystem where the conversational commerce could live without the apps, with the improvement of the vocal assistants (i.e. Siri, Cortana, Google Now), or the development of alternative technologies (i.e. Amazon Echo, Google Instant Apps).

Right now, however, messaging is so huge that it is no wonder more and more brands are willing to join the league. According to eMarketer, 1.4 billion customers used messaging apps in 2015 (31.6% more than 2014), and we will hit 2 billion by 2018. Around 75% of the world’s Internet users use these services, not only chat with friends but also to connect with companies, make a purchase, and get help.

We are seeing at work the same forces that have shaped the social commerce trend in the last two years: Brands discover and embrace the business potential of a tool created to entertain.

What happened with Facebook is now happening with Facebook Messenger, ultimately unveiling what Mark Zuckerberg predicted at the 2015 F8 Conference: Messenger will become a business platform, in the name of a superior customer experience.

That is exactly what we are witnessing today, with the chatbots running all over the place, and bot stores growing within the apps. It is not by chance that Facebook has announced the launch of an API connected to the e-commerce Spring, which will allow users to communicate directly with the service in private chats.

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Since messaging apps now attract more monthly active users than social networks, it is no surprise that companies see them an ideal vehicle for delivering a better experience, creating deeper customer engagement and retention, and ultimately sell more.

The bots (r)evolution is only one piece of the conversational puzzle, and yet bots are attracting attention and investments because their promise is tempting: The automation of services and the creation of more meaningful interactions with customers, at the lowest price.

Conversational commerce (as I see it) largely pertains to utilizing chat, messaging, or other natural language interfaces (i.e. voice) to interact with people, brands, or services and bots that heretofore have had no real place in the bidirectional, asynchronous messaging context.” (Chris Messina)

Chatbots, and conversational technologies in general blend human elements, machine learning, and artificial intelligence so that you do not really know whether you are engaging with a human being or a software.

If properly developed, this is the real deal for the improvement of the digital customer experience. A win-win situation for both the customer and the company:

  • Customers could chat with support representatives, ask for product suggestions, compare product alternatives, get personalized recommendations and offers, purchase with a tap, all from within the messaging app.
  • Companies could automate customer service routines, resolve the issues rapidly, engage in real-time, provide order information and delivery notifications, recommend products (up-sell, cross-sell), analyze wishlists to tailor offers.

The synergy between the conversational commerce and the mobile messaging has the potential to revolutionize how customers connect with brands. It is a step closer to make the online shopping experience more akin to that in the store.

Of course, technology is just a tool, not the purpose. Once again, the main focus should be on creating and delivering an experience that is utterly unique, satisfying and engaging for the customer. Only then the chatbots will be good news for the business and the people.

 

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Topics: Digital Customer Experience Mobile Innovation Future Retail Social Networking