Pokémon Go in Kenya – Opportunities for local businesses 

By George Mugendi

Pokémon Go has been around since July 2016 when it was first released and it has quickly become the latest craze in the gaming world. Before we even delve into what opportunities Pokémon Go has for Kenya businesses, it’s important to first understand what Pokémon Go is all about.

Pokémon Go is a free to play, location based augmented reality game developed by Niantic for iOS, Android and Apple Watch devices. The game is the result of a collaboration between Niantic and The Pokémon Company, and was initially released in selected countries in July 2016. In the game, players use a mobile device’s GPS capability to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player.

The game supports in app-purchases for additional in-game items and it has fast become the World’s most downloaded app with more than 500 million downloads worldwide since the game was launched in July of this year. When the game was released it quickly became a global phenomenon and one of the most used and profitable mobile apps in 2016. It was credited with popularizing location-based and augmented reality technology, promoting physical activity among many people leading an otherwise sedentary life, and is also credited with helping local businesses grow via foot traffic. However, it also attracted controversy for contributing to various accidents, as well as becoming a public nuisance at some locations. Various governments have also expressed concerns over the security of the game, with some countries passing legislation to regulate its use.

Despite the success of Pokémon Go in other parts of the world, it is difficult to say if the same success can be replicated in Kenya.What is also not clear at the moment in Kenya is the demographic of the players of Pokémon Go in Kenya. We can only speculate that at the moment the millennials are most likely the early adopters and the game seems to have picked up followers in Kenya with increasing download numbers since the app was was officially released in Kenya about 2 months ago.

The real potential Pokémon Goin Kenya will be realised when the app starts focusing on having Pokéstops and Poké gyms in the middle class residential areas of Kenya starting with Nairobi. Currently, some of the Pokéstops in Kenya include; The Junction Mall on Ngong Road, World Conference Churches along Waiyaki Way, Lavington Mall and Karen Blixen Museum while the local poke gyms in the game include Nation Center, Kenya National Archives, Kempinski, Prestige Plaza and the Junction mall. These are all all pretty high-end locations and not readily accessible to the common mwananchi which is where the numbers for Pokémon are likely to come from if the app is really to realise its full potential in Kenya. However, the biggest challenge for Pokémon in Kenya is the potential security challenges that will come when the game goes really local that is when the game finally reaches mtaani! What I keep wondering is whether neighbourhood security watch will allow zombie like players wondering in their neighbourhoods looking for Pokémons and if players will not have their phones stolen bearing in mind that you must have a smartphone for you to download and play Pokémon Go.

However, we are likely to see Kenyan business benefiting from Pokémon Go in the following ways;

  1. If your business is near a Pokestop of Pokegym, you can advertise on the app so that you are able to push special offers and discounts to players who happen to come near the store on their way to the Pokestop or Pokegym. You don’t need to spend a lot of money as a simple signage will be enough to drive visibility for your business.
  2. Pokémon Go let’s users take photos of themselves with Pokémon in the shot. Incentivize players to share a photo of themselves with Pokémon, check in/tag your business and upload onto social media platforms by providing them with a discount offer code and more. A brand can also post fun brand photos regarding Pokémon and use the apps hashtags of  #PokémonGo and #Pokémon to stay top of mind within the social media conversation. Be sure to keep track of the social media conversations near your store and to repost the same to your social media pages
  3. Attract Pokémon players to your store with offers of free charging station or free wifi when they visit your store. Pokémon Go has the reputation of quickly draining your phone’s battery and is a heavy user of bandwidth so providing either or both these solutions would be good for driving traffic to your business. But here as a business you need to be creative to ensure your message captures the attention of the players. That means you have to break out of the clutter with your message in the ever busy out of home environment.

This means therefore that business have to first embrace technology in their marketing and be willing to embrace emerging communication channels. And with the growth in the number of smartphones in Kenya, PokémonGo is just one of the may apps that forward thinking business must embrace if they are to stay ahead of the pack in the race for the rare disposable shilling from the increasingly engaged millennial consumer.

(George Mugendi is the Managing Director of Posterscope Kenya).

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