• Businesses are using popular gaming app Pokemon Go to attract businesses. (Supplied)
In 2016, Pokemon made a sudden and dramatic return to public consciousness, well after its '90's heyday - and small businesses are cashing in.
SBS Small Business Secrets
9 Oct 2016 - 5:35 PM  UPDATED 10 Oct 2016 - 11:22 AM

Pokemon Go has revolutionised how people are playing games - but it also has the potential to revolutionise how businesses market to consumers.

The augmented reality game requires players to physically travel to real-life locations in order to catch their prized Pokemon. What appears to be a simple landmark in real life, like a statue or plaque, may actually be a 'PokeStop' or 'PokeGym,' once viewed through the game. Businesses that happen to be nearby are finding themselves in luck - like the Portobello Caffe in Sydney's Circular Quay.

"I started seeing people going around looking at their phone and I tried to understand what was it for and quite quickly I understood it was for Pokemon Go," says Portobello Caffe manager, Matia Zoffoli.

His business is near the Opera House, where one of the more popular PokeGyms is located. Rare Pokemon are known to appear there - followed by hordes of players.

"We came up with an idea where we put a sign up offering discounts on coffee for Pokemon Go players," Matia explains. Winter is usually his slowest time, "but with [Pokemon Go] going on, it's lifted the bottom level [to a] little bit better position."

PokeStops in close proximity 

Andrew Sharkawi clued into Pokemon Go's business potential when he discovered his Brighton Le Sands restaurant, Dezerts, was next to a PokeStop.

"We've got [a PokeStop] just next door at the war memorial, and alongside the beach there are numerous PokeStops," he says. During quiet times, the restaurant advertises promotions on its Facebook page - enticing customers by offering a 15 per cent discount if they visit within a certain window of time.

The result has been a 10 per cent jump in profits.

'Luring' customers

As other businesses catch on, they are paying to be part of the trend. What The Fudge owner Andrew Duong buys in-app 'lures' to attract players to his Cabramatta business. 

"It costs about 1 dollar for 30 minutes," Andrew explains, as he taps on his phone to release the lure. "What that does is it triggers for everyone around here that there's a lure, now Pokemon will just start appearing [in the game]." And as Pokemon appear, so do players - and potential customers - hoping to catch them.

What The Fudge also provides chargers and free wifi, so players can stay as long as they like, without draining their battery or data plans - an investment that has paid dividends.

"Our first few weeks it increased business by a good 50 percent and as the game matured it was steady about 30 percent," Andrew says.

Playing for the win

Pokemon Go has become so popular that Yelp, the restaurant review site, now lists which venues have PokeStops nearby. 

As the monetary benefits accrue, tech consultant and Virtual Method CEO David Francis says this is much more than a game.

"Why cafes and restaurants do so well is because the average spend of a Pokemon Go player is around about 14 dollars. But lots of other small to medium [sized] businesses have products in that range [and] can also capitalise."

He suggests setting up a corner of your business that's Pokemon-themed and offering a discount if customers snap a photo of themselves and share it online. "That way you're creating social media hype," David explains.

 And despite headlines about the waning popularity of the game, he says not to believe the anti-hype.

"User numbers are dropping down... to 30 million people a day," he says with an exaggerated shrug. "It's still the most successful mobile platform of all time, so when people say the hype is over well, look, there's also a strategy that Niantic Labs has to keep this going and this is just the first of mainstream augmented reality."

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