From Pokémon Go to Going Shopping: Augmented Reality for Retailers


Augmented reality has been having quite the month. 

It seems like no matter where I go, I can’t get away from Pokémon Go.  It is filling my news feed and office talk, and I keep getting bumped into on the street by people staring at their phones.

In case you’ve been on a screen-free vacation in the Galapagos Islands for the past couple of weeks: Pokémon Go is a free-to-play location based augmented reality mobile game. The game allows players to use their smartphones to capture, battle, and train virtual Pokémon monsters who appear throughout the real world. It makes use of GPS and the camera of compatible devices.

I’ve heard mixed reviews. All the players milling around not paying attention to their surroundings irritate some people. On the other hand, I’ve heard from parents that their teenagers are getting more exercise in one day than they used to in weeks, walking around to find game characters.

According to a report by AdWeek in mid-July, the Pokémon game has added more than $7 billion to parent company Nintendo's market value. Variety reported that Pokémon Go was the most popular mobile game in the history of mobile gaming in the United States, surpassing both the popular Candy Crush and Draw Something games.

So what does this mean for retailers?

For brick-and-mortar stores, it can mean an increase in foot traffic. There is a “Lure Module” that’s part of the app that, when purchased, cause the Pokémon monsters to gather at a designated Pokéstop. These locations are clearly marked in the game app to draw in players. Inc. reports “local stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and other businesses are capitalizing on this massive opportunity, driving huge amounts of foot traffic and conversions.” The cost for Lures is fairly low, and can run just a few dollars per hour to drive traffic.

Looking beyond Pokémon Go, which is sure to be a fairly short-lived trend, experts agree that augmented reality and virtual reality aren't going anywhere. In fact, by 2020, the augmented and virtual reality market will likely be worth $150 billion. For retailers, this technology will become increasingly important. Shopping in a virtual setting allows consumers to interact with brands in meaningful ways. Augmented or virtual shopping can:

  • Provide an opportunity for individuals to seamlessly interact with retailers on a digital platform, in real-time, with instant feedback and results
  • Deliver the high level of personalized information that shoppers want before actually making a purchase. For example, a new augmented reality app from IBM acts like a personal shopper by using augmented reality to push information while someone is physically browsing at the shelf
  • Create a memorable, fun experience that can help to increase physical traffic in the store, as well as prompting purchase decisions. Lowe’s recently installed a space in several of its stores where shoppers can slip on an Oculus Rift headset to see a 3-D, 360-degree immersion of renovation plans filled with a selection of products from the store

And that’s just a small part of the appeal. Consumers want instant gratification, and they want technology to work for them. Today’s tech-savvy population is trending more and more toward making purchasing decisions online (from desktop and/or mobile) prior to the actual spend. Augmented reality bridges this gap for retailers to create stronger, meaningful relationships with target audiences while also influencing shopping behaviors. 

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