Everyone is suddenly crazy for Pokémon Go. Nintendo has set the world alight with their Augmented Reality (AR) game and watched their share price soar by 53% in the three days since the game launched. Nintendo has further boosted investor confidence by announcing the November launch of the Classic Mini NES console - packed full of classic games such as Super Mario and Donkey Kong.
But the really interesting cultural phenomenon around Pokémon Go is that it has very quickly normalised AR. Instead of it being a difficult concept, understood only by techies and app-creators, now it's suddenly mainstream. Media channels all around the world are explaining to people young and old that this new game blends reality with game play.
Some people are upset. The US National Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery are featured in the game as locations where players can visit to load up on free in-game items. They both want to be removed from the game because the museum and cemetery administrators both see it as tasteless - game players are visiting a holocaust memorial to stock up on in-game weapons.
Some business owners are delighted with the game though. They have discovered that it's possible to pay for a Pokémon to be located inside their business - which attracts players who want to catch it. A pizzeria in Queens, New York claims that they are getting new customers all day long trying to capture their Pokémon.
What is incredible about the phenomenon of Pokémon Go is that the media has immediately normalised an AR experience, the public has adopted it as just another way to play games, and business owners have quickly seen the opportunities of involving their real life business inside the game environment.
Imagine the opportunities for larger businesses? What if Starbucks put a Pokémon in every café? What if JD Wetherspoon puts a Pokémon inside every pub? What if Tesco puts one in every supermarket?
But this is just the start. Businesses need to get used to AR quickly. If small pizza stores can figure out how this gives them a competitive advantage then surely the big players need to start thinking how they can improve the customer experience by integrating AR into their own business.
Starbucks has already seen remarkable success with their app. It allows customers to pay for a drink before they arrive at the café so they can walk in and avoid lining up to pay - because the app also allows the customer to pay. It also captures all transactions so loyalty is automatically rewarded when due. Imagine if the same app that comprises loyalty, payment, and an improved customer experience also included AR? Loyalty bonuses could be available in-store and customers would be alerted that a bonus was available for a limited time so they need to go and capture the bonus - in the same way people are capturing Pokémon. The AR experience could trigger a visit to the café.
Or think about the opportunities for helping customers with information? How many times have you visited an unfamiliar supermarket and had to walk every single aisle searching in vain for the Marmite? Why not just provide an AR-enabled app to guide the customer to what they are looking for?
A few months ago I was talking to audiences about the customer experience opportunities for AR and a common response was 'that's all stuff we can plan for in the future...' Except now the future has arrived and the people who understand it are the small businesses, like a pizza restaurant in Queens now making a fortune because the owner could see the opportunity of AR today.
The same is going to happen with Virtual Reality (VR) soon. With new VR system launches by Sony later this year and Microsoft early in 2017 it's suddenly going to be affordable and inside millions of homes. If you missed out on AR then now would be a good time to start thinking how your business can take advantage of VR because that's no longer far off in the future.
Customers are demanding these new experiences. Are you ready to deliver service in the way that they expect?
This article was originally published in Engage Customer.