With over 21 million daily users in America alone, Pokémon Go has easily become the hottest mobile game ever. Many business are jumping on the bandwagon to boost sales and increase customer traffic. You might’ve heard about this Washington ice cream shop that was saved from closure by Pokémon Go, or this car dealership that is offering a contest to win a Pokémon Go chauffeur for a day.

Recently, the game sparked a lively debate on the Self-Storage Talk forum.

U-Lock Mini Storage found some Pokémon to feature in screenshots on their Facebook page. Image courtesy of U-Lock Mini Storage via Facebook

AmPreFabStor commented on the popularity of the game in his area and hinted at the future of the game, where companies will be able to pay to become a PokéStop.

AmPreFabStor commented on the popularity of the game.

KellyW commented on the positive social aspects of the game and the great health benefits of so many people getting outside and walking.

KellyW likes that the game gets people outside.

Tall Terri added that Pokémon Go players may be able to catch Pokémon and do some good for animal rescues at the same time. The free GPS-tracking app ResQWalk donates money to animal rescues to reward users for completing physical activity outside, such as walking, running or biking.

JAMiAM offered some insight on how virtual consumerism like that in Pokémon Go could affect the future of self-storage.

JAMiAM compared the trend to the beanie babie phenomenon of the 1990s.

KevinSC also jumped in with a witty comment, writing, “Sorry I haven’t been in the office this week to comment on this earlier - I was too busy catching Pokémon.”

Forum commenter Manager_1986 added her perspective as a self-storage manager and avid Pokémon Go player, commenting, “I turned 30 this year, so Pokémon is from my generation. When people comment and say that someone my age shouldn’t be playing Pokémon, my response is using something like ‘I’ve waited my whole life to catch a Pokémon in the real world.’”

Manager_1986 also commented on some of the recent negative press about Pokémon Go players in cemeteries, writing:

“As far as the cemeteries go, I think it is nice to have ‘life’ in them, so to speak. I read about a lady who was visiting her child’s grave on day and there was a group of kids laughing and chasing Pokémon in the cemetery and it brought joy and tears to her eyes to see children playing where her child had been laid to rest. If they aren’t disturbing headstones or gravesites, I don’t understand the issue or how it could be seen as disrespectful that they are there.”

Pokemon go players flock to cemeteries to catch Ghost-type Pokemon and reach PokeStops. Image by SonnyandSandy via Flickr

Khemnis agreed with Manager_1986 about the positive nature of the game, adding, “I'm playing. I'm 44 and I love it. I was young when I had my son and he started playing Pokemon when he was young and I listened to endless hours about the game. It gave us a connection. Now that he's older it's done it again.”

Pokemon themed cupcakes would surely make any young child's day at a birthday party this year. Image by Angie Chapman via Flickr.

What the heck is a PokéStop?

Whether you just want to understand the phenomenon or you’re looking to capitalize on the game to grow your business, you need to understand the basics of Pokémon Go gameplay. Here’s the quick & dirty lowdown:

Ponyta is a Pokemon with fiery unicorn qualities.

Pokémon

These are the adorable (or sometimes fierce-looking) little creatures that Pokémon trainers are after. There are more than 700 creatures in the Pokémon universe. They are categorized by their combat powers, with some having the ability to evolve into stronger Pokémon with higher combat power. Players attempt to capture and evolve as many Pokémon as they can.

Poke Balls are the item of choice for Pokemon trainers looking to capture wild Pokemon.

Poké Balls

These are the items that players use to capture Pokémon. A stronger Poké Ball, like an Ultra Ball, can be used to capture more powerful Pokémon.

PokeStops are where Pokemon trainers go to fill up their virtual backpack with gameplay items like Poke Balls and Lures.

PokéStops

PokéStops are checkpoints where players can pick up game items for free, such as Poké Balls, Eggs, Revives and Lures. Players try to fill up their virtual backpack with items from PokéStops so they can catch and battle more Pokémon. PokéStops divvy out a random assortment of game items to Pokémon trainers at every check-in.

Lures draw both virtual Pokemon and real-life Pokemon trainers to Pokestops.

Lures

You can use a Lure to attract wild Pokémon to a PokéStop for 30 minutes. Pokémon trainers can buy Lures in the game store or pick them up for free by checking-in at PokéStops. Lures show up on the map as pink flowers next to PokéStops and can be seen by anyone nearby who is playing the game.

Pokecoins are the official currency of Pokemon Go.

Pokécoins

This is the official currency of Pokémon Go. You can buy Pokécoins with real money or earn it through Pokémon battles. Trainers use Pokécoins to buy things like Poké Balls, Lures, and Egg Incubators.

Pokemon Gyms are the place to go battle and conquer other Pokemon.

Pokémon Gyms

A Pokémon Gym is a location where trainers can battle and train their Pokémon. Teams compete against rival Pokémon to obtain control of Gyms.

Pokemon players are out in park areas to catch Pokemon. Image by Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office via Flickr.

Get off my lawn, Pokémon Trainers!

The Pokémon Go phenomenon has been to blame for the recent problems of some unlucky homeowners and business owners who feel the game has hurt their business. This homeowner was surprised to find out his home was a Pokémon gym when players started showing up to battle Pokémon. Pepe Delgado's Restaurant blames Pokémon Go for excessively long lunch lines and wait times.

Some players have cited Pokémon Go as their excuse when caught trespassing on private property. Because players can reach Pokéstops or Pokémon Gyms from as far away as 40 meters, business owners shouldn’t fear players trespassing onto their facility to reach a checkpoint. But, like any fad, there are plenty of bad eggs joining in on the trend who may use it as an excuse to wander onto private property.

Small businesses get creative with street signs to attract Pokemon players. Image by Jamey M. Photography via Flickr.

Turning Pokémon into Cold, Hard Cash

Some small businesses like these have made local news after seeing huge sales increases thanks to Pokémon Go. This ice cream shop even credits Pokémon Go for saving their business from closure. L'Inizio Pizza Bar of Long Island City, NY saw their sales nearly double after one week of dropping Pokémon Go lures.

Many downtown area shops and small businesses like these are also seeing a big spike in business from Pokémon Go players. Since the game encourages players to get outside and move, many people are choosing to use the game while running their errands at businesses that are close by Pokémon Gyms and PokéStops. The biggest winners of the Pokémon Go fad aren't the creators of the game, but the small business located by Pokémon Gyms and PokéStops who are effectively marketing to Pokémon players.

Small businesses get creative with street signs to attract Pokemon players. Image by Ian Stannard via Flickr.

How Your Business Can Become a Pokéstop or a Pokémon Gym

First, make sure you’re not one already. If you have noticed more foot traffic nearby your business or you’ve seen large groups of people walking by with their face buried in their phone, your business might be in luck.

Download the game for free on the Google Play Store for Android or in the App Store for iPhone. Open it up when at your facility and view the virtual reality space in the game. If you see a nearby PokéStop or Pokémon Gym, click on it to view its location. If the PokéStop or Pokémon Gym is located at your self storage facility, your business name will come up when you tap on it. If the PokéStop or Pokémon Gym is at a nearby business, you can still reap the benefits, especially if Pokémon trainers can “reach” the PokéStop or Pokémon Gym from your facility.

Businesses who lack a nearby PokéStop or Pokémon Gym can still get more foot traffic from the game. Rare Pokémon like these are hard to find and even harder to catch in the game, and many Pokémon trainers will travel out of their way in pursuit of rare Pokémon nests. The easiest way to find out if your business is a home for rare Pokémon is to play the game and catch em’ all yourself. However, if you want to find out without becoming a Pokémon trainer, read Pokémon Go social media discussions for your area, such as this subreddit describing various Pokémon nests in Kansas City.

If you don’t have a PokéStop or Pokémon Gym nearby, your business might be able to become one in the future. Niantic’s CEO John Hanke, the creator of Pokémon Go, has confirmed that in the future retailers will be able to become sponsored locations where people can fill up their virtual bag of Poké Balls and battle against rival Pokémon trainers. You can use this Niantic support page to submit a request to have your location considered as a Pokémon Gym or PokéStop.

Pikachu is a favorite among Pokemon trainers. Image by Christian Bucad via Flickr.

Get Pokémon Trainers in your business with smart marketing

Here's a collection of tips to help you capitalize on the Pokémon Go phenomenon for little to no cost:

Post on social media

Even if you're nowhere near a PokéStop or Pokémon Gym, you might still have rare Pokémon nearby. Get more people to come to your business by showing off the rare Pokémon players are catching at your location on social media. Run a promotion offering discounts or free prizes to players who can capture screenshots of rare Pokémon at your location. Then, share the screenshots on social media to attract potential customers and Pokémon players to your facility.

If you’re a PokéStop or Pokémon Gym, you can get even more creative with social media blasts. Get competitive by keeping score of which team is winning and offering a discount to players who are members of the winning team. You can tell which team is which by their color:

  • Team Mystic: Blue

  • Team Valor: Red

  • Team Instinct: Yellow

Take screenshots of the PokéStop or Pokémon Gym and post them on your favorite social media sites. Don’t forget to use hashtags like #PokemonGo or #TeamMystic to show up in players’ social media feeds.

Get certified as a PokéStop on Yelp

That’s right, Yelp now has a “PokéStop Nearby” filter to help Pokémon trainers narrow their options. The PokéStop Nearby filter is enabled for iOS and Android and is currently available in the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Spain, and Italy.

To get certified as a business in the vicinity of a PokéStop, have customers check-in to your facility on Yelp, leave a review and answer a few questions to identify the location as having a PokéStop nearby. After the location is marked as nearby a PokéStop, Yelp users will be able to see your business when using the “PokéStop Nearby” filter.

Buy Lures

PokéStops and Pokémon Gyms bring in foot traffic with zero effort, but using a Lure increases traffic even more. Lures are the most important in-app purchases available for small businesses. And the cost is definitely worth it: for $100, you can get 14,500 Pokécoins, and an eight-pack of Lure Modules costs 680 Pokécoins. Here's the cost broken down:

14,500 Pokecoins/680 = 21 eight-packs of Lure Modules

(21 x 8)/2 = 84 hours of luring

$100/84 hours = $1.19/hr

For only $1.19 an hour, you'll get 84 hours of luring in Pokémon playing customers. Check out what other small businesses are saying about lures on this Reddit feed. The big takeaway: If your facility is a PokéStop, it’s worth it to spend the money on a lure to get more customers in the door.