4 Things Online Business Owners Can Learn From Pokémon Go

Let your business take a lesson from this popular game: Forge a connection between the online and offline worlds.

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By Thomas Smale

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Everybody's talking about Pokémon Go, the free mobile game that allows you to integrate the real world with the virtual one. In your new, augmented reality, you can capture adorable monsters by walking around the "map," which can be as accessible as your own backyard.

Related: 3 Ways to Level Up Your Marketing With Pokemon Go

Originally released July 6, Pokémon Go is already dominating popular culture, media and conversations everywhere.

If you're looking to grow your online business, there are plenty of valuable takeaways to be learned from the game that has boosted Nintendo's valuation by as much as $7.5 billion.

Here are four things online business owners can learn from Pokémon Go.

1. Adopt an omni-channel strategy.

One of the appeals of Pokémon Go is that it offers a unique user experience -- the things that happen in-game are connected to the things that happen in the real world. As you walk and move about in the real world, you have opportunities to capture monsters and level up in-game.

Many known businesses, such as Wal-Mart, are focusing on their omni-channel strategy. They already have a strong offline presence, but they're also looking to dominate the online space.

Online business owners should be thinking about just the opposite -- creating an offline presence when their online presence is already strong and established. This can lead to new opportunities, even when they don't have a physical storefront.

Think about ways to integrate your online and offline experience. For instance, if you're an ecommerce business, you might consider reaching out to complementary brick and mortar businesses and asking about in-store advertising or promotional opportunities, such as bulletin boards or coupon stacks.

Whether it's bringing iPads to your next client meeting, or using QR codes in your direct mail campaigns, look for ways to bring some excitement to your marketing, and create a seamless experience between the online and offline world.

2. Incorporate interactivity and gaming into your business.

Games are fun. And although they can run the spectrum from "amazing" all the way to "horrible" in terms of quality, once you're hooked, you tend to go back to them over and over again, especially those that are your favorites.

Game developers know how addictive role-playing games are, because they create a sense of progress through "leveling up," as your character becomes stronger and gains new abilities.

Pokémon Go is no exception, but it also takes things to a new level, bringing a whole new meaning to the word "collecting." Plus, the community aspect of playing and enjoying the game with your friends is another major draw. "Go" can be enjoyed on a hobby level, but it also appeals to hardcore gamers who aren't satisfied until they've completed everything.

So, whether you're incorporating some aspect of interactivity and gaming into your business, or adopting it fully as a business model, there are opportunities galore for you, using games, to engage users and keep them coming back for more. For an example, look no further than the U.S. Army, which has been using training games as a recruitment tool for over a decade. Gamification is a powerful way to promote your business.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Are Cashing in on Pokémon Go

3. Use iconic images or characters in your marketing.

Undoubtedly, one of the reasons Pokémon Go has become such a huge success is that its brand is enduring and well established. The franchise was originally created in 1995, and there have been dozens of handheld and console games released since that time. If that weren't enough, Pokémon's brand has also spawned a manga/comic and anime/cartoon series, and has hit the big screen about 20 times. Cult games and cartoons, it seems, can develop into profitable and iconic spectacles.

The fact that Fulfillment by Amazon is gaining traction lets you easily set up a passive online business capitalizing on the gaming trend. You can optimize your FBA site and add new products to your digital shelves with just a few clicks, allowing quick updates as soon as games like Pokémon start making headlines.

Would it make sense for you to hire an illustrator to design characters that represent your business in some way? Could you use them in your branding and marketing? Could you license popular characters to use them on existing products? These are questions to ask of your business, because people are passionate about the brands they know and recognize.

Think about ways you can integrate the same kind of buzz and recognition into your business.

4. Embrace collaboration and competition.

One of the appeals of Pokémon Go is that you can enjoy it with your friends. After a certain point, the game prompts you to join one of three teams and you can assign the monsters you've caught, to Gyms, to defend them. You can compete with other teams for these Gym locations, which are found at real locations in your locality.

There are really two sides of the coin here -- collaboration and competition. This is what makes playing the game so much fun.

Business owners would do well to remember that both collaboration and competition create some of the biggest opportunities. Collaboration can open up new markets and provide valuable learning experiences. Competition keeps you on your toes, as you look for ways to innovate and outmaneuver those in the same industry.

But there's also something to be said for merging the two. Collaborating with your competition can be a healthy and profitable thing to do. Just think of joint ventures or affiliate programs. The value of an affiliate website can increase as you build more connections.

Your competition can actually become your most valuable partners in business.

Final thoughts

There is no shortage of lessons to be learned from the release of Pokémon Go. It wasn't necessarily the first game of its kind, but it was probably the best-branded one. From nostalgia to social proof, Nintendo has managed to pull a lot of the right triggers to make GO a viral success.

And the game's huge popularity only reinforces the importance of the connection between the online and offline worlds. As an online business owner, you'll likely find your focus naturally gravitating toward everything you're doing online. But, making a connection to the offline world as well can offer you new opportunities and make it easier for people to trust and share your business with others.

Related: 8 Weird Reasons Pokémon Go Isn't the Game Craze We're Used To

Your task is simple: Create a unique and valuable experience, and watch people come.

Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010. He has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

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