Could Pokémon craze capture a bonus for businesses?

People playing Pokemon Go on St George's Street, Norwich.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

People playing Pokemon Go on St George's Street, Norwich.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The breakthrough of Pokémon Go marks the coming-of-age of augmented reality you can carry in your pocket. But what opportunities does it offer for business - and how can they capitalise?

It's the mobile app that has seemingly come from nowhere to take over the summer.

Pokémon Go has already been downloaded more than 40m times, with crowds of players roaming the streets in search of the game's imaginary creatures becoming a familiar sight to many.

But with such an extensive and enthusiastic group of users, what opportunities do gaming networks such as Pokémon Go present for businesses to reach new audiences?

And with so many players using Pokémon Go, travelling to places they might not have otherwise, how can businesses capitalise?

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Since its release, Nintendo has seen its share price soar by 60%, despite announcing its profits were not likely to be affected by sales.

The game uses augmented reality technology and GPS alongside a smartphone camera to track a player's position in the app, as they hunt the Pokémon – pocket monsters – which give the game its name.

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Real-life landmarks feature in the game as PokéStops – places to collect in-game items. Bait can be placed on these points to attract the virtual creatures, which in turn attracts players.

And for businesses reliant on footfall, that means more potential customers visiting the area, and staying for longer.

Tourism attractions have been among the first to catch on, keen to bring more visitors in, and repeat the success of participative trails such as Norwich's GoGoDragons or Ipswich's Pigs GoneWild.

In Lowestoft, the town's Business Improvement District (BID) has bought 'lures' – the bait which attracts the virtual monsters – to encourage families to visit for the launch of Discover Lowestoft's turtle trail.

Darren Newman of Lowestoft BID said: 'We want people to come in to the town and spend time in the town centre and this seemed to be a different way to do that.'

He said it was too early for figures but anecdotal evidence suggested an increase in footfall from Pokémon players during the summer holidays.

'It is something that a family can do together or the children can do it while the parents go shopping. You hope that they will use at least one or two services while they are there,' he said.

Banham Zoo will be holding a Pokémon Go 'lure day' on Saturday to encourage visitors to come along and play while seeing some of the real animals, and 900-year-old Norwich Castle has also found itself becoming a popular hunting-ground.

But it is not just tourist businesses looking to latch on to the craze. Car-pooling service Liftshare used lures in Pokémon Go to attract people simply to find out more about the company.

Lex Barber, marketing manager at Norwich Liftshare, said: 'There were people outside playing Pokémon and they were standing and chatting. We are a sharing economy so anything we can do to get people to share or interact a bit is really good for us.'

Carole Osborne, managing director of advertising agency Osbornenash, said businesses could make the game work for them.

'As well as driving an increase in footfall, it presents a fantastic opportunity to interact more meaningfully with customers and demonstrate a personable and fun side – a far more valuable tool for ensuring new customers become repeat customers once the current craze dies down,' she said.

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