So what is all the current fuss about? If you haven’t heard of the latest gaming application, then where have you been? Hiding from the Pokemons maybe.
What is it? It’s a game for your mobile, so nothing new there. What makes this game particularly noteworthy is both it’s concept and how it has become a worldwide phenomenon. Developed by Niantic and Nintendo it combines simple game-play with location based augmented reality – utilising a game from the 1990s and brought bang uptodate with 21st century technology.
The gameplay uses your own location therefore creating a unique experience for every player and is one of the first successful games to bridge virtual and reality. For example the map in which your avatar walks, is the map of where you are (your street!) and when you discover a Pokemon (pocket monster) your mobile camera turns on, overlaying the monster against whatever you are pointing your phone at.
Worldwide phenomenons are pretty rare in this day and age, but this game has bridged numerous cultural barriers, partly because it doesn’t matter where you are, or what language you speak as the concept and game play render language obsolete.
What does this mean for retail? It could well be an opportunity on a number of levels. Already we see churches competing to become Pokestops (a landmark where you can collect bonus items) as they see this as a way to encourage visitors to their locations. So how soon before a retailer gets on board? Not only would it assist in promoting their store locations, but combined with special linked offers or unique Pokemans hidden inside their aisles surely users would flock to these outlets?
Once the customer is inside (after all driving customers through the doors and increasing footfall is the holy grail for all retailers) the retailer would need to convince them to stay and perhaps part with some of their real world currency (or virtual currency). The way in which successful retailers do this is through visual merchandising and engaging retail design.
If a game drives the customer into the store, it must be that store experience that ensures they don’t collect their points and run. If building structure is the operating system then visual merchandising is the equivalent of a new game in the ‘real’ world. Updating displays, delighting and inspiring consumers ensures they want to return to experience the next ‘level’ of the game. If anything the rise of these augmented reality based games could force retailers to up-the-ante when it comes to their store interiors, layering experiential (both digital and physical) alongside constantly evolving retail environments.
This could lead to architectural spaces that are as flexible as the store equipment within them. Walls that slide or rotate to form new or hidden spaces. Flooring that be laid and relaid overnight, ceilings that can raise and lower – all easily achievable in a digital world, but much more impactful in a bricks and mortar location!
Finally this could encourage retailers to diversify. When we have Apple is reportedly working on a fully fledged car offering (from a computer company?) is it really that strange to comprehend the likes of Adidas or Zara releasing a mobile gaming app? Many brands are already diversifying to reach new markets and to stay relevant to their target market and to do this they need to get into their consumers everyday lives, and capture their attention – like Pokemon, gotta catch ‘em all!