Pokémon + big data = commercial opportunity

The following post was originally published by Bluefin Solutions, a Mindtree company and global SAP consultancy that specializes in technology strategy, implementation and change.

Not long ago, I hadn’t even heard of Pokémon GO—but now it seems that everywhere I go, people of all ages are hunting for these virtual creatures. I’ve been familiar with the Pokémon and Nintendo brands for many years, but I hadn’t really paid attention to either one until recently. Now not only do they have me considering the impact of augmented reality (AR) gaming, but I’ve also found myself thinking about the possible profit streams it opens up for businesses that choose to be canny in their use of big data.

For those who still haven’t heard of Pokémon GO, here’s my first question: Perhaps you’ve been stranded on a desert island for the past couple of months? Next I’ll point you to the Washington Post for a clear explanation of this phenomenon.

How does it work?

Everyone seems to consider Pokémon GO an AR game, but from what I’ve read, that’s only a small part of it. AR means a view of the physical world available on an electronic device, where that real-world environment is augmented with computer-generated graphics. (“Great,” I hear you say, “if you’re 10!” Bear with me for a moment.)

It’s true: There’s much more to this game than AR. The initial feature that struck me was how well it picked up on my geolocation. This is clearly important, as the concept of the game is to walk around trying to capture little critters. However, it doesn’t stop there—the game uses Google Maps and has a huge database of real-world objects that are submitted by players to make up the PokéStops. “What on Earth is a PokéStop?” you ask. Following some research (I asked a 10-year-old), I’ve come to understand that there are places in Pokémon GO that allow you to collect items such as eggs and Poké Balls, which in turn allow you to capture more Pokémon. This vast amount of data involved, coupled with the game’s significant user base, is big data working at its best!

What are the business opportunities?

Let’s pause for a second. We have a game with more downloads than any other app for both Android and Apple. Setting aside that parents can finally stop bemoaning the fact their kids are couch potatoes who get no exercise, consider what this phenomenon means for everyday business. It could easily be one of the biggest breakthroughs in digital marketing in a long time.

The big question is obvious: How can organizations use the mammoth amount of structured data collected by the game developers and translate it into something meaningful (that is, commercially beneficial)? A blend of gamification, mobile and big data creates the potential for new business models, and no industry need be restricted to the old ways of working.

This sparked a few ideas for me about mashing up all this technology and applying it to real-world situations.

Let’s throw in wearable technology, also currently all the rage. Consider what Under Armour could do with its running apps—say you’re no longer hunting for PokéStops but for “Armour Stops,” then collecting items and completing a virtual training session within a certain time period. The app’s developers could also offer sponsored Armour Stops for partners to promote and sell their products virtually.

This type of orienteering game can not only collect and combine data from within the app in real time, but it can also be linked to health wearables. Continuing with the same example, picture users being allocated points for lowering their BMI or blood pressure. This data could even be shared with a user’s personal doctor, who would then be able to provide tailored health advice and real-time recommendations on how to improve their fitness.

The power of this collected data could be worth a fortune to organizations such as Under Armour. It would provide them with a 360-degree view of their users and give them the chance to share (meaning sell) this data with other organizations. If data is the new gold rush, as we keep hearing these days, then companies that gather the most accurate user data and offer speedy insights will clearly win the race.

The music and film industries also have huge opportunities to find new ways of promoting songs and films. How about watching an augmented concert right in your living room, or wandering virtually onto the set of the next big Hollywood blockbuster to watch the movie being shot?

By collecting and combining personal customer data in meaningful ways, companies can further personalize what you watch, listen to and play. Why should this model be limited to Amazon, Netflix or Spotify? In years past, Apple took control of its music supply chain, and I feel strongly that Hollywood and other industries should also look at different ways of operating. New revenue streams may be available to these companies that lead to enriched analytics about their audiences—and an improved investment in the next blockbuster.

The possibilities are endless. Just start with the data, then add imagination and innovation.

Learn more about how to use data to improve customer focus and personalization. Read “Target state: The customer-centered digital enterprise.”