What Pokémon Go can teach us about email marketing

pokemon-goLast month, Pokémon Go exploded onto the scene, mainstreaming augmented reality and blowing engagement rates out of the water. Now, talk of augmented reality is everywhere, especially in branding and marketing circles.

Pokémon Go is not the first app to integrate augmented reality technology into its platform, but it is certainly the most popular. And it’s the first time we’ve seen AR scaled to a mass audience at this level.

The game’s overnight success speaks for itself. Since its release, it has outstripped Twitter in number of daily users and Facebook in terms of engagement. Of course, it’s every brand’s dream to see these levels of engagement, so now the question is how to replicate the game’s best features and apply them to marketing.

How Pokémon Go engages consumers

Pokémon Go works by gaining access to users’ data, namely their GPS (Global Positioning System) location and Google accounts. Using Google Maps, Pokémon Go creates a virtual universe mapped onto a user’s real-world location. This allows users to discover and then capture the in-game characters, Pokémon, which the app integrates into their terrain.

But what makes Pokémon Go so successful is its simplicity and its reward system: Users download the app and immediately begin collecting rewards based on the distance they travel and the Pokémon they capture.

Even better, the app responds to your real-world surroundings, adjusting the type of Pokémon you can find depending on your location. You’re more likely to find grass-type Pokémon at parks, water-type Pokémon by water, and nocturnal Pokémon at night.

Then there are PokéStops. Generally located in prominent real-world locales — think local landmarks — these spots reward users with extra items to help them power up and catch even more Pokémon.

The key here is that the game is personalized to each user’s precise geographic location.

Why AR should matter to marketers

A couple of months ago, I wrote about virtual reality for marketers. I suggested marketers start looking at VR as a delivery tool for brand experiences, and clearly, the same is true for AR.

As Pokémon Go has proven, augmented reality is perfect for mobile platforms, and geotracking is a great way to personalize the individual user experience. Consumers want personalization, especially if it provides them with a better, more individualized customer experience. This isn’t new information, but 64 percent of brands don’t personalize email copy, and only one-third use customer data to personalize the products and services featured in an email.

So how can marketers personalize their emails while delivering an engaging brand experience to people’s smartphones? The answer is AR. It is the email marketing trifecta: mobile, personalized and engaging.

How marketers can use AR to engage consumers

Through cross-channel integration, email can harness the power of personalization. Just as Pokémon Go has done with its responsive and immersive platform, email can truly drive the user experience.

When marketers send out an email, they can include a link to an app or platform that will allow customers to make use of AR technology that draws from their preferences, location and demographic data — delivering an experience unique to them.

Say the customer has a birthday or anniversary coming up. Brands can send triggered emails that integrate AR and deliver a customized template, such as a digital birthday “party” complete with a virtual cake and balloons. If this sounds foreign, remember that Snapchat already does this to some extent.

And this can work for almost any vertical:

• Automotive: The automotive industry was an early adopter of AR technology. Brands like Ford, Volkswagen and MINI have co-opted the technology in various ways, such as giving viewers a 3-D tour of a new car, complete with specs, dimensions, design and all.

With a successful cross-channel distribution program, carmakers could implement trigger campaigns that target consumers on the hunt for a new car and offer them a 360 AR-enabled tour of the cars they have researched online — perhaps right in their own driveway.

• Retail: Retailers, on the other hand, could develop an app that enables the user’s camera to scan the surrounding area and “place” products within their environment. Instead of an abandoned cart email reminding the user of the coat waiting in their online shopping cart, the app can offer them the ability to try it on via AR, and perhaps even offer them a discount if they end up buying.

This could work for household goods, too. Think furniture and decorations: couches, dining room tables, paintings, or even wallpaper. Consumers can truly visualize and experience the products they are about to buy.

• Travel and tourism: And for the travel and tourism industry, users from colder climates could find their snowy surroundings suddenly superimposed with a tropical beach.

Or perhaps users considering a trip to the city could glimpse the New York skyline just ahead on the horizon.  The possibilities are endless.

If Pokémon Go’s meteoric success and mass appeal have taught us anything, it’s that consumers not only respond well to the immersive and personalized nature of AR, they are eager for it. This has opened up a window of vast opportunity for email marketers — the chance to engage customers when, where and how they want it most.

By integrating individual user data and utilizing the right combination of trigger campaigns, email marketing can do more than simply inform or entertain; it can create a unique experience for consumers, enriching their lives at the touch of a button.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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