A Small Business Guide to Pokémon Go

Rachel Mahnke / 29th July 2016 / Comment / Marketing

What is Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go is an augmented reality mobile application, based off of the popular Pokémon video and card game from the 90s. The app launched in early July 2016 and has quickly become a cultural phenomenon – amassing more users than Twitter within weeks after launch. When these things happen, we see an opportunity to get involved that businesses shouldn’t pass up.

How Do You Play?

small business guide to pokemon go

A Psyduck spotted on the Wheelhouse dock.

Pokémon was created in Japan based on the widespread hobby of bug catching. Now, real trainers across the world can catch Pokémon “in real life” thanks to the augmented reality app on their smart phone. The app’s map feature overlays a PokéMap ontop of real city streets, so players (“trainers”) walk around in the real world and discover Pokemon in their virtual world. The main things you can do on the app include:

  • Trainers catch Pokémon by throwing Pokéballs at the creatures they find while exploring the real world.
  • Trainers must visit PokéStops to replenish their supplies (e.g. PokéBalls, and food to attract Pokémon). These locations have been preselected by the app developers, and correspond to real-life landmarks, buildings, and businesses.
  • Trainers are motivated to visit PokéGyms to train their Pokémon. Trainers can join a team as well to help them take over gyms: Red Valor, Yellow Instinct, or Blue Mystic.
  • The goal is to complete a Pokédex by catching all 150 original Pokémon in the real world while training them at local gyms and battling other Pokémon.

What Does This Mean for Small Businesses?

Because the game requires players to walk around (in real life), many local businesses have noticed increased foot traffic around their neighborhoods and storefronts. But what do you do with that? Here are some quick tips for navigating Pokemon Go as a small business:

1. Download the app

It’s free! Download the app and see for yourself what is going on around you and your place of business. The more you know, the more Trainers will appreciate your business’s participation. Create an account, yes a personal one, and name your trainer after your business!

2. Find out if your business is a PokéStop (or near one)

If you are a lucky business that hosts a Pokéstop, you’re in great shape. Trainers will find you through the game’s map, and they have to be very close to the Pokéstop to “visit” it (to restock their supplies). The Pokéstop already distributes free goodies and supplies to Trainers every 10 minutes, which they use to catch their Pokémon.

3. Set up “lures”

The game allows players (and PokéStop owners) to set up a “lures” to attract rare Pokémon to that area. This in turn will attract Trainers (who are trying to catch the Pokémon). You can collect lures yourself for free and set them up throughout the day for your customers, or you can simply purchase a package of them through the app. You do however have to create your own personal account as a trainer – you cannot register as a business.


A few of our team members are really embracing the Pokémon Go experience, here at the Wheelhouse PokéGym.

4. Find out if you are the location of a PokéGym

If you happen to “own” a gym – you’re in great shape too! Check to see if there is a gym at your business. Let people know that you are interested in meeting the owners (and potentially rewarding them with special deals or goodies). Be proud to own a gym and make sure that your customers know that you are loving the experience!

5. Be inviting, nonetheless

Even if you do not have a PokéStop or PokéGym at your location, you can still invite Trainers to stop by – they’ll be walking by your business anyway. And, Pokémon can be found anywhere (even inside buildings). Be genuine and original to let trainers know that you welcome their business. Consider putting up a little sign with a PokéBall or Pokémon, offering a small discount to players.

6. Use social media

Another way to get involved with your customers is to engage with them on social media platforms. Encourage them to share about famous or rare Pokémon found in your office or retail space. Challenge them to hunt for Pokémon nearby and post pictures of Pokémon in your business online. This shows other customers that they are finding great Pokémon at your business – and having fun too! Consider offering a discount to or creating unique hashtags that players could use.

7. Create a live scoreboard

Encourage Trainers to stop by and say hi after they’ve caught an exciting Pokémon nearby or even in your place of business. Write their Trainer Nickname, the Pokémon’s name and Combat Power on a board and keep track of who’s catching what. This is a great way to show others that your spot is full of Pokémon and give customers pride in what they’re finding.
pokemon go small business sign

8. Keep an eye out for rare Pokémon on PokeCrew.com

Check out PokeCrew.com, which tracks Pokémon sightings, and keep an eye to see if any rare Pokémon happen to be nearby. When you see something cool pop up, let your customers know! This gives you an opportunity to get ahead of the game and share this with your customers.

9. Have fun!

Lastly, have fun with it! Even if your business is not a traditional retail space or you don’t need loads of people coming to your office each day – share the funny photos of a Magikarp hanging out in your boss’s office. This is a great way to show the fun side of your office culture with customers outside of business interactions.


Pokémon Go has taken over Seattle – and it’s a great marketing opportunity for small businesses! For more context on the game, check out Everything You Need to Know About Pokemon Go.

By Rachel Mahnke