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Should a local business remove Pokestops?

2016-08-21 13:18:00

A lot of people who're playing the hugely famous smart-phone game Pokemon GO are upset because some businesses are having Pokestops and Gyms at their location removed, and some even put up signs saying it's a "Pokemon-free zone". At the same time, other businesses embrace the game wholeheartedly, decorating with Pokemon GO style, and will even give players discounts and other benefits.

In Pokemon GO, the idea is to walk around in the real world and catch various pokemon creatures by using your phones GPS. Pokestops are placed in various locations and players need to frequent them to acquire useful items, and they can also be used to attract pokemon to the location using lures. At gyms you can show off your strength in battle and capture it for your team.

If there's a Pokestop or Gym at your business location, you can have it removed by contacting Niantic - the creators of the game. If you play the game then the removal certainly affects you negatively, especially if there aren't a lot of them in your area. But the question of whether or not a business should remove it is actually a very interesting one - and it also generalizes to any kind of "event or happening" which a business might choose to embrace and take part in, or shun and dismiss.

Does more people equal more profits?

If you have a Pokestop (or Gym) at your location then more people will show up, and that's generally considered a good thing. People who show up could buy something and so you'd want to have more of them.

But two of the most essential questions which you can't forget are "Are they actually likely to buy anything?" and "What does it cost when they don't?". There's a computer-store where I used to work and the owner would always insist that it should be open when there were special events in town, especially since it was located more or less where these events would usually take place.

And while there were a lot of people outside the store, inside was always empty. The extra opening hours were costly, but we'd always have close to zero customers. On the other hand, the restaurant and tiny convenience store next to us would be full. You see, when people spend all day at a carnival or other event they get hungry and thirsty. But buying a new wireless router, that they'll put off to an other day even if they remembered that they actually needed one.

Pokestops and Gyms at a business location

So if you serve food or sell drinks and snacks, targeting Pokemon GO players seems like a good strategy, but we're supposed to be talking about Pokestops, and if a business should remove them or not. So how does a Pokestop (or Gym) located at a business actually affect it? That's the tricky question.

Obviously, if enough people decide to buy a soda from your convenience store when they passed the Pokestop (or Gym), then it should of course be kept. But what if a bunch of people start hanging around, or even in, the store? As the number of people increases, it becomes more difficult to keep track of shoplifting. That doesn't mean the players are stealing anything, but they still work like both cover and distractions for those who might.

Theft can be a real issue for certain stores depending on location, goods and what margins they're working with. But an other issue is simply the fact that a lot of people in, or around, the store will block other customers. They might not even be able to get in, or simply go some place less crowded.

This capacity limit is an interesting concern for a lot of stores but especially for restaurants and other places where you can only fill so many seats at the same time. The question becomes "How much money does a customer bring in per unit of time?". A regular customer might eat, drink and leave so that an other customer can take their place. A Pokemon GO player might stay seated without ordering much if there's a Pokestop with a lure. The revenue cut due to this might actually be substantial.

Considering your clientele

I was walking outside and playing Pokemon GO with my friends one day and when a couple passed us the woman actually commented angrily on how our faces were "glued to the screen" as she saw it. I don't know if she realized that we were actually hanging out in person and being outside because of what was on our screens but it doesn't matter.

If I owned a bar with customers like her (yeah, she did seem drunk) then having a Pokestop removed and even banning the game in the bar could be a good move for the business. It's often more worthwhile to keep established customers coming back rather than recruiting completely new ones, especially if the new ones are part of a completely different group.

If you try to attract young Pokemon GO players to a bar frequented by older Pokemon GO haters, then you're going to dilute your brand and end up with neither group being interested in your place.

The most important question for the business here might just be to ask the question "Do I have more to gain, or more to lose?". Do you have fewer customers than the average for that market segment in your area? Do a lot of my established and potential customers, respectively, feel strongly one way or the other? And how profitable is each group really?