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Pokemon Go in Aisle Five? Perhaps a new way to lure in customers

Australia's Woolworths and Britain's Morrisons among stores aiming to capitalize on Pokemon Go phenomenon

Pokemon Go-Woolworths

You’d have to be stuck in your store’s freezer for the last week not to have heard of Pokemon Go.

The smartphone game has exploded since its release by Nintendo last week in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. It’s just launched in Canada as well.

In a nutshell, Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game that sends users into the real world to search for the mythical digital pocket monsters known as Pokemon. The monsters appear onscreen when users hold up their iPhones or Android devices in various locations at various times of the day.

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The game’s already gotten plenty of praise and criticism. On the former, Pokemon Go has been hailed as a potential cure for obesity. Gamers are getting off the couch to—gasp—do some actual walking. Some players have also turned into Good Samaritans. In Cincinnati this week four Pokemon hunters helped save the lives of a couple in the throes of a drug overdose.

On the downside, criminals are luring players to alleyways to rob them. And gamers too busy staring at their screens are causing mayhem. On Wednesday in Quebec City a Pokemon Go player backed his car into a police cruiser.

But it’s not just the general public enthralled by Pokemon Go. Many businesses hope to capitalize by making their stores destinations for players.

That includes supermarkets. In Australia, Woolworths has been busy promoting the fact that there are Pokemon monsters to be found in its stores.

On its Facebook page Woolworths informed gamers of the best places to search.

“We’ve had several reports from customers around the country of wild Pokemon appearing in our stores,” the grocer posted.

It then gave three tips to catching various Pokemon monsters in Woolworths: “We hear that Pikachu has been seen near batteries, lightbulbs and power boards. Don’t confuse “Oddish” for “Radish”. One goes great in a salad, the other not so much. If you see a Zubat, ignore it. You can find them everywhere.”

One of Britain’s Big Four grocers, Morrisons, has also gotten into the act. It tweeted a picture of a Weedle, a common Pokemon monster, in its refrigerated aisle and asked customers to share their own in-store Pokemon finds.

It’s only a matter of time before other supermarkets jump on the bandwagon. No doubt, the marketing folk at consumer packaged goods companies are now scrambling for ways to link Pokemon Go to their brands as well.

Meanwhile other retailers—notably restaurants—are finding ways to attract Pokemon hunters.

An Atlanta cafe owned by digital ad agency Huge turned out to be roughly 30 feet away from two prominent “Pokestops”—game representations of physical landmarks where players can stock up on digital game gear. So it spent about $40 to add digital “lures” to the stops, refreshing them every 30 minutes.

The lures increase the chance that rare Pokemon with names like Starmie and Poliwag turn up nearby—in turn drawing players to the cafe.

In San Francisco, enthusiastic players working for Kawika’s Ocean Beach Deli set out lures and branded the store as a “charging station” for drained phones. (The game is notoriously hard on batteries.)

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Given that the shop is bracketed by Pokestops on one side and a battle arena on the other, players “have no choice but to walk past us,” said owner David Nottage III. “So we put up some signs.”

“As Pokemon Go users traverse their towns in search of Pokemon, local stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and other businesses are capitalizing on this massive opportunity, driving huge amounts of foot traffic and conversions both with simple in-app purchases and creative marketing campaigns,” Walter Chen, CEO of Idonethis, wrote in an article on Inc.com, in which he offered advice on businesses can use Pokemon Go.

Whether there’s a payoff in such an effort remains to be seen. But for now, it’s hard to ignore Pokemon Go and the gamers who play it. After all, they gotta eat too, right?

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