The Pokémon Go Playbook for Retail Real Estate and Mixed-Use Centers

By: Brandon Chesnutt

If you’re a property manager or marketing lead at a shopping or mixed-use center, there is a very strong chance that you’ll see guests behaving rather strangely this weekend. Heads will be buried in phones more than usual. Crowds will congregate in random areas. Visitors will perform lap after lap at all hours of the day.

These are all behaviors exhibited by Pokémon Go players.

A viral megahit, Pokémon Go has successfully combined augmented reality, gamification and exploration to create a virtual world for an iconic brand. Here is a hype trailer that shows the application in action:

What retail real estate and mixed-use center property managers and marketers should care about is the strong emphasis the game places on community exploration. The app encourages players to venture out to hot spot locations to collect the famous pocket monsters, discover power-ups and progress through the game. Additionally, local gathering spots, such as churches, fountains and other landmarks, are designated by the game as hot spots to train Pokémon and gather key items. I know. It’s a lot. Just bear with me.

Here comes the important part: property managers and retail real estate marketers need to understand the ins and outs of how Pokémon Go works in order to capitalize on the app’s hype, while ensuring a great experience for guests and visitors.

Identity’s social media team has already been engaged in several conversations with our attraction, retail real estate and mixed-use center clients regarding Pokémon Go and how to engage with players. We’ve compiled several of our key takeaways into this outline to help you better plan for the influx of players that may visit your center. Check out our advice below.

Perform Your Research
If your shopping or mixed-use center is already considered a gathering place for the local community, there is a very strong likelihood that you’ll also be a hot destination for Pokémon Go players. However, it’s helpful to determine where players may gather. First, install the free app on your mobile device and open the game. Using the app’s in-game map, look around and identify if PokéStops or Pokémon Gyms exist on your property. You’ll be able to tell by the large blue signs and colorful towers on the map.

These are the locations players are likely to gather in larger groups. It’s important to note them and determine if a large congregation will disrupt traffic flows or inconvenience non-players.

Safety and Security First
While Pokémon Go will likely bring traffic to mixed-use properties, many retail centers maintain codes of conduct and center policies that are not conducive to playing the game. Rules against gatherings of large groups or loitering may lead to some encounters between public safety teams and guests. Since security will likely be the first individuals to encounter players, it’s important they are educated on the game and how it works, as well as how to communicate with players of all ages. While center policies should not be compromised in order to accommodate players, it’s important that guest communications reinforce a positive experience. Additionally, public safety teams should keep an eye out for distracted drivers and walkers throughout the center.

Disclaimer: Easton Town Center is an Identity client.

Check Wi-Fi Integrity
Pokémon Go leverages both GPS information and mobile data. As a result, shopping and mixed-use centers will likely feel a strain on free Wi-Fi services. Digital customer service and guest service teams should be briefed on how to address such concerns should they arise. From another perspective, your center’s Wi-Fi sign-on process should be equipped with some opt-in marketing component for text message programs, e-mail blasts or social media in order to build your audience. Keep in mind that the opt-in process should be mobile optimized and super quick. This is a more passive way to leverage the app’s popularity while driving visitors to key digital destinations.

Identify Charging Stations
With increased amount of data and battery life consumed, visitors will be looking for places to charge their devices. Charging stations can be included on visitor maps or clearly marked at key traffic points in the center.

Be Part of the Action
There have already been dozens upon dozens of stories regarding how retailers and small businesses are leveraging the Pokémon Go craze. Your shopping or mixed-use center, as well as its tenants, can certainly participate in the hype. Consider incorporating targeted social media content that shows creatures at key stops throughout the center or showing a capture of relevant PokéStops or Gyms that players can visit on property. Hosting a Pokémon Go meetup is also a great way to bring players together in large groups (just be ready to handle the traffic).

Disclaimer: Green Oak Village Place is an Identity client.

Tenants can also participate in the marketing efforts. Place signs outside of tenants offering players small discounts in exchange for showing their profiles. There is also the option of placing Lure Modules at tenants or other key locations at your center. This in-game power up is designed to attract rare Pokémon to an area for a defined period of time (30 minutes). All players in the area can see when a Lure Module is deployed and will come flocking to the area. It’s an instant traffic driver to a specific retailer or restaurant. Multiple Lure Modules can also be deployed in the same area, provided there are multiple PokéStops. These items can be purchased through the game’s in-app store.

A Game That Drives Foot Traffic
With shopping and retail centers already serving as key landmarks within their local communities, Pokémon Go offers property managers and marketers an amazing opportunity to leverage foot traffic driven by an engaging virtual world. This is a white-hot trend that is likely to impact property managers and retail marketers directly. Use these ideas and recommendations to build a plan that you can implement at your center, and help local players become Pokémon Masters.