It must have been somewhere around the third mile, err—fifth kilometer, of that evening’s quest that it started to dawn on me. This was something truly different. Here we were—me, my wife, our two boys (ages 5 and 7) and ever-accommodating infant daughter, trekking through an open field near our home in search of cartoon monsters. Ostensibly our destination was the picnic pavilion in the park near our house, but more precisely it was the virtual waypoint located at the pavilion being displayed on our two iPhone screens. We were headed there to re-stock supplies that would aid us on our digital quest to find, hoard collect and train Pokémon. All so that they might one day compete in anime-style gladiatorial combat in service of our family’s honor.
I’m talking of course about Pokémon Go—the mobile gaming sensation that is sweeping the planet and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. A week prior, the paragraph above would have sounded crazy to me. My wife and I are both a tad too old (sorry, honey) to hold any sort of nostalgia for the Pokémon brand. But our two sons are both at an age ripe for Pokémon obsession, so there we found ourselves out and about in our town, trying to catch ‘em all. And, if my level of perspiration were any guide, we were darn near exercising! Once we reached the picnic pavilion—an in-game re-supply location called a “Pokedrop”—we even continued on to the dog park and local playground before returning home.
Pokémon Go and Location Data
Launched on July 6 in the United States, and dozens of countries since, Pokémon Go was created by Niantic—a Google/Alphabet Inc. spinoff headed by many of the brains responsible for Google’s Maps and Earth products. What has made the game not just a popular download, but a worldwide phenomenon is its unique recipe of game design. The app elegantly combines the fundamentals of geo-caching with smartphone-enabled augmented reality, sprinkles in the most addictive bits of role-playing games and packages them all using a beloved franchise with a wide range of age appeal.
Pokémon Go’s use of location-based gameplay (built on those Google roots) is truly its secret sauce. The player’s goal is to capture as many Pokémon as possible, and train them to battle other nearby Pokémon and control territories called gyms.
In addition to overlaying crucial gameplay locations such as Pokestops and gyms, Pokémon Go simply rewards exploration. The more you travel while playing the game, the more Pokémon you’ll encounter, and the higher your chances are to find a coveted rare species. What Pokémon Go does best is applying location data to encourage you to get out in the real world and move around. As a member of the video game console generation, to me this is its most remarkable feature.
From Pokestops to Pokesales
Since the day Pokémon Go launched, the downtown area in my town is packed with more foot traffic than I’ve ever seen before. And predictably, savvy business owners and retailers are already finding creative ways to turn Pokémon Go into sales. For instance, a coffee shop in my town is drawing that foot traffic into their establishment by offering a 10% discount to players battling at the nearby gym. In fact, the game’s creators seem to welcome this behavior--you can even make a request to Niantic for a Pokestop or gym to be placed at your location.
Check the news, and you’ll see there are no shortage of large and small scale businesses seizing the opportunity:
- Pokémon Go Boosting Sales at Gamestop Stores
- This sweet Pokémon Go player set up a lemonade stand for trainers
- Pokémon Go Is Driving Insane Amounts of Sales at Small, Local Businesses
- Electronics retailers, seeing sales bump, tap into Pokémon Go frenzy
The Power of Location Data
Success breeds imitation, so we can safely assume there will be a crop of Pokémon Go-style mobile offerings in the near future. Perhaps it doesn’t make sense for you to add a Pokestop to your business or store locations, or to develop your own zeitgeist augmented reality app. But a clear takeaway from all of this is to start thinking about what opportunities location data can unlock when applied creatively.
What might you achieve if you knew exactly where your customers were located and what products they were buying? Nearly any business could apply location data to its marketing and promotions to track results and drive better performance. Would you find efficiencies in your fulfillment operation if you could compare warehouse locations and inventory levels with regional or seasonal demand? Perhaps gaining deeper insight your physical store locations could aid in your expansion or acquisition plans. Even healthcare providers could benefit from this type of approach, to know where their caregivers and patients are located in order to route tests more effectively.
The fact is that many businesses don’t yet apply the same rigor to their location data as they do to other domains such as product, customer, supplier and physical asset data. But any of these independent data domains would benefit from the strategic application of location information. These are rather simple examples that are all possible today using a multidomain approach to enterprise data.
So how will you choose to weave location data into your existing data management strategy? It has the potential to be a game-changer… you just need to get out there and catch it all.