- Pokémon released a mobile app that urges customers to visit select Target stores to collect in-game rewards. The Pokémon Pass app will let players of "Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu!" and "Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee!" add uniquely colored virtual creatures to their game while visiting Target between May 11 and June 23, according to a company announcement.
- Pokémon Trainer Club account owners can get exclusive digital rewards when they're at designated retail locations. Pokémon Pass uses geolocation to notify players automatically of nearby rewards when they're in Target stores.
- Account owners who enter a participating Target store will see several prompts in the app, including one to scan a QR code to claim the Shiny Pikachu or Shiny Eevee virtual creatures. Pokémon Pass is available for free download from the App Store and Google Play.
Pokémon Pass's collaboration with Target is the latest sign that retailers are using geolocation and augmented reality (AR) technologies to steer the real-world behavior of mobile consumers. Hit mobile game "Pokémon Go" from 2016 and image-messaging app Snapchat helped to popularize the technologies, opening the door for gamification of everyday activities like shopping.
"Pokémon Go," which required mobile users to explore their surroundings to collect virtual creatures, initially was controversial. Some stores advertised on Facebook that its creatures were in its stores, while some retailers banned the game. Now, Pokémon's partnership with Target is a direct attempt to use the game to boost foot traffic in stores, with the goal of driving sales for when players are in the retailer's locations.
While the Pokémon Pass app provides the AR experience, Target has worked with the technology in its own app. The retailer in 2017 added an AR feature to help furniture shoppers place virtual versions of its home furnishings in their homes before making a purchase. Earlier that year, its website introduced 360-degree shopping that showed virtual living rooms to help customers visualize the size and scale of its products. Target last year doubled its Christmas tree sales with its "See It In Your Space" AR feature in its mobile app, an indication of consumer acceptance of the technology.
Pokémon Pass arrives as Pokémon promotes its latest movie, "Pokémon Detective Pikachu," its first live-action movie after releasing several animated films. In the lead-up to its U.S. premiere on May 10, its promotional tie-ins include AR experiences at convenience store chain 7-Eleven and promotional trading card packs that are only available at Target, Walmart and GameStop.
Pokémon has been a pioneer at driving store traffic with video games. In 2006, its Pokémon Red and Blue games for Nintendo Game Boy urged kids to visit Toys 'R' Us, the toy store chain that later filed for bankruptcy, to collect a rare Mew creature featured in the movie "Lucario and the Mystery of Mew." Coffee chain Starbucks in 2016 ran a similar campaign that urged players to visit its locations to try a special Pokémon Go frappuccino.