business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

It was a Wow! moment, the reaction every retailer wants from a shopper and it happened to me as I entered my favorite supermarket.

Sadly though, it had nothing to do with the displays, products or even the nearby sample station. No, it was better than that. I had just entered the store and there they were: three Pokémon I could capture and one Pokémon Stop where I could collect some supplies.

Now I’m betting your reaction to that previous sentence goes one of two ways. Some of you will want to know exactly where I was to collect the same haul, while others will roll their eyes in much the way my wife (and the woman at the sample station) did when I said what I found.

But don’t scoff long. The craze that is Pokémon Go is not something to be ignored, in fact, it’s something you need to engage and even consider taking to another level.

I’m happy to say many are not ignoring it. There have been countless reports of businesses of all kinds looking for ways to tie in to the craze by signing on as a site and that makes lots of sense. We may not always understand or appreciate every craze or fad out there. However if shoppers like - and every number suggests millions of shoppers worldwide really like Pokémon Go - we need to engage.

In fact, there’s even a church in my neighborhood hoping that playing on the game will bring prayers in the pews. (See the picture. Say hallelujah.)

Still I think this gets even bigger. We are constantly writing here about electronic commerce and the challenge of doing it correctly. Consider that just yesterday Kevin had a story about Walgreens shutting down two e-commerce sites that simply never performed profitably, just as last week I wrote about the margin crushing efforts to bring opera to the masses. Transforming the shopping experience won’t be easy.

Unless there is another way to enliven the shopping experience ... and that’s one reason why we need games. There’s no explaining why something like Pokémon Go is so insanely popular although granted, I am a poor source of information. (Although I keep capturing the characters and rising in levels, I freely admit I don’t have a clue as to what I’m doing.)

But here’s what I have learned. Players are constantly getting information about interesting local sites, historical and otherwise. For instance, where I live I’ve discovered a series of murals and the gravesite of F. Scott Fitzgerald, so there is actual educational value in this game.

Plus, elements of Pokémon Go actually encourage the user to get out of their houses and walk around. Think about that: a video game has actually attacked and beaten the lure of sitting on the sofa.

That’s a lesson for all of us. I know nothing about how these games are built and how Pokémon Go actually combines my location with the arrival of characters, but it does. Who’s to say we can’t do the same inside supermarkets to help turn the shopping trip from a chore into a treasure hunt. We could hunt components of specific recipes, special savings or even involve children in filling our shopping list.

It could even be a device to feature nutritional information that entertains and educates at the same time.

Technology is already mixing with mealtime. Numerous restaurants already feature tabletop devices to keep diners entertained and yesterday Kevin also had a story about McDonald’s bringing new technology to improve their customers’ experience.

So like it or not, the gaming experience is already in the marketplace, we simply have to figure out how to win in the process.

Which reminds me, I think there’s a Tentacool outside my office.

Gotta catch ‘em all you know.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.

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