Making popular fads profitable for your business

My Business speaks with a small business owner who used a popular smartphone game to raise his profits by an impressive 30 per cent in just one week.

The app Pokémon GO was launched in early July and quickly went viral, with at least 10 million downloads in its first week alone. The game places virtual Pokémon characters at certain GPS co-ordinates, and has players travel to various real-world locations to capture and battle these creatures via their smartphones.

Nintendo, which owns a portion of The Pokémon Company, saw its share price rise 60 per cent on the back of the game’s popularity. And, as at least one SME owner has discovered, Pokémon GO could boost your business.

Cashing in on the success

Jim Andrews, co-owner of Canberra’s Reload Bar & Games, which opened in 2014, made sure to jump on the Pokémon GO craze quickly.

“We saw a lot of potential in Pokémon GO,” Mr Andrews told My Business.

In the app, real-world landmarks can be designated as Pokéstops – places where players can find Pokémon.

Reload Bar & Games is fortunate to have three Pokéstops located close by.

“The first thing we did was change our [Facebook] cover page and then do a little Facebook post about it, and that got a great response,” Mr Andrews explained.

“We scheduled a Facebook post to go out at 10am Friday morning, and it just took off from there.”

Next, Mr Andrews purchased in-game Lure items, which can enable Pokéstops to lure in Pokémon for nearby players to catch.

“We [then] started dropping a lot of lures on the Pokéstops … [and] we told everyone in Canberra that we were the hotspot for Pokémon, and ‘come on in’, and we rewarded customers for catching Pokémon in the bar by giving them free Pokémon-themed cocktails,” Mr Andrews said.

The free cocktails handed out were based on customers signing up to the bar’s loyalty program.

“We weren’t saying, ‘You’ve got to buy a drink to be in the promotion’, but we did tie it to our loyalty scheme, so for people to be eligible for the promotion, we asked them to sign up for our loyalty scheme, so we’ve seen a big boost in numbers on that,” he said.

The results were very quick and very successful, with profits surging 30 per cent above what was expected for the week.

“We had a lot of people coming in on the Friday night, and even more on the Thursday. We had to call in extra staff and the place was just … a Poké-party, really,” Mr Andrews said.

“Winter is a pretty quiet time for a lot of businesses in the city, [but] we did one of our top Saturday nights.”

The launch of Pokémon GO hasn’t just been about profits for Mr Andrews, but also about cementing brand awareness.

“Of course you want to drive business to the bar, but it’s a great opportunity to get the name out there, and to get a lot of goodwill from our customers, and to really plant the flag and let people know we are the place to go in Canberra for Pokémon.”

How to make these profits yourself

Other businesses can follow in Mr Andrews’ footsteps and cash in on the Pokémon GO craze and similar games that may come out in the future.

One option, Mr Andrews suggests, is to provide discounts.

“[You can offer] a discount for people playing the game, or there’s certain teams in the game, [and] some businesses have aligned themselves with a team and are offering discounts for people that are in the same team,” he said.

Integrating yourself into a game, however, can deliver the biggest rewards.

“[For] businesses that are fortunate enough to have a Pokéstop nearby, then they can use that, because the Pokéstop is leading to increased traffic of customers walking around with their phones, and if you can find a way to tap into that, then you should do well out of it.”

Riding a winner

The success of the venture in Canberra has been such that the company is exploring further means of capitalising on this interest. Reload Bar & Games has planned three Pokémon party buses to take players around on a tour of the best hotspots to catch Pokémon.

“[The first bus] sold out in four hours … all 60 seats,” Mr Andrews said.

“So we put on a bus for Friday night, and that sold out in six hours, so we put on a third bus for Saturday, which is selling fast as well.”

Mr Andrews sees Pokémon GO holding out for the long term.

“There was Pokémania in the late-mid 90s when [Pokémon games] first came out,” he said.

“It’s remained popular and remained a steady, consistent [franchise] since then, but this game has certainly led to a second wave of Pokémania.”

While the initial hype will die down, Mr Andrews believes that Pokémon GO will remain popular, which means continued profit for Reload Bar & Games.

“There [are] plans for more content to be released in the game, so it’s really dependent on what the game developers do with the game moving forward.”

promoted stories