Lessons Pokémon Go Can Teach the Banking Industry

Pokémon GO is a phenomenon that is capturing the attention of Millennial gamers and digital baby boomers alike. What lessons about technology adoption, gamification, data analytics and engagement can banking learn from this mobile app?

Subscribe TodayAt a time when most US consumers were looking for a fun summer diversion, along comes . If you’re not already playing it yourself, your kids and many of your friends most likely are. The mobile and augmented reality (AR) game from , a company founded by Google and Nintendo, is impacting consumer’s daily routines while providing somewhat unexpected benefits (physical and mental health, socialization, technological education).

For those unfamiliar, Pokémon GO is a free mobile game that uses your phone’s GPS and camera to see tiny creatures called Pokémon (short for “pocket monster”) through the window of your phone, as if they exist in the real world. The object of the game is walk around your town, park, mall and business district catching these creatures along the way.  Players can also visit Pokémon Gyms to train their creatures and PokéStops to collect items that help catch more Pokémon.


Popularity Explosion

At this time, the app is only available in the US, Australia, and New Zealand. In these countries, the app is on top of all app download charts. According to , the Android version of the app was installed on more than 5% of all Android devices in the U.S. within two days, giving it an install base larger than Tinder, the popular dating app.


Not only are people installing the Pokémon GO app, they are also using it … a lot! According to SimilarWeb, over 60% of those who have downloaded the app in the US are using it daily, meaning around 3% of the entire US Android population are using the app. This puts the number of Pokémon GO Daily Active Users close to the level of use of Twitter, with SimilarWeb predicting Pokémon GO will overtake Twitter usage in the next couple days.


Finally, in terms of usage time, Pokémon GO is draining battery life like no other social application. In fact, by the third day after being introduced, the app was being used for an average of 43 minutes, 23 seconds a day, higher than Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, and Messenger.

Usage _time_pokemon_vs_social_media_apps

This unmatched popularity of Pokémon GO has caused Nintendo’s stock to rise nearly 25% since its release despite a revenue model that may not have a bottom line impact for a while.

While Nintendo might not not profit immediately, are there ways for the banking industry to learn from the Pokémon GO craze?

According to , CEO of Moven, host of and author of the book, “,” “Pokémon GO isn’t a banking app, but it does give us a glimpse into how very different the world of banking, investment and financial advice will be in 10 year’s time. The game also illustrates why banking is no longer a place you go, but something you do – on a phone, in AR and as a person lives their life. It also shows that mobile is far from being a mature platform, it still has plenty of surprises left.”

The Power of Augmented Reality

To date, banking has only modestly embraced augmented reality (AR), which fuses digital technology with the physical world. Some organizations have used mapping overlays for mobile branch and ATM finders. Some financial institutions have also used AR for , where a consumer can see the location of houses for sale in a neighborhood and automatically get downloads of house details and financing options. The challenge in both of these use cases is awareness and usage.

According to the , Pokémon Go represents one of those moments when a new technology breaks through from a niche toy for early adopters to something much bigger. “This is the first time that there’s mass adoption of an AR application,” said , who runs . While gaming applications don’t guarantee a broader appeal of banking AR applications, awareness of the technology and engagement potential should have a waterfall effect.

According to , the augmented reality technology used in Pokémon GO is fairly rudimentary. There have been server issues, instances where players have been lured into traps by hackers, and in some cases, privacy issues. As with any mobile application, increased adaptation and usage bring security requirements.

“With Pokémon GO’s massive popularity, it has begun to teach a wider range of consumers AR interactions,” states , Mobile Strategy & Innovation Leader at . “As these experiences become more popular in other apps, it could present significant mobile banking AR opportunities other than just finding the nearest branch or ATM.”

The Power of Gamification

from believes that Pokémon GO may be the greatest incognito exercise app ever developed, making people walk from location to location to play the game. The success is because the game follows one of the key tenets of applying game design to an every day activity – set a goal to pursue an end.

There is a powerful, psychological impact in taking something mundane or outside the realm of something one typically enjoys, (like walking with Pokémon GO), and turning it into something engaging. The app doesn’t say that a walk is necessary, but placing a goal on the activity makes it fun.

Pokemon Tweet 1

Pokémon GO also has a social component that positively impacts its success. Communities have already formed around the game, discussing and meeting at PokéStops, and collaborating or competing at Pokémon Gyms. Over the weekend, it was also easy to spot people playing the game just walking around.

While some of the dynamics are different, is there any reason this type of gaming strategy can’t be used by the banking industry to encourage other somewhat painful and mundane tasks – like saving or budgeting?

“For a long time, we’ve talked about incentivizing consumers to spend and save smarter through gamification, but seen little real world examples of this in action, says , President of the  and Author of the book, ““. “Expect to see more gamification apps in the future and innovative bank marketers would be wise to sign partnership agreements with Nintendo and others fast. After all, when game companies make their in-app purchasing through a universal wallet, wouldn’t you want to be part of that wallet?”

, Vice President at agrees, “The Pokémon GO strategy would be a great use-case to incentivize savings behavior and spending behaviors for the younger generations. Activity benefits, social media benefits, and ongoing engagement/interactive campaigns would all contribute. The data a banking organizations could glean from patterns of activity seekers vs sedentary users could be golden.”

The Power of Geolocation Data

android-device-screenshot-map_custom-eb0530f22c3b2e3011e13ac1c58b1c187b182472While there has been some issues with the collection of more user information than players using Android devices were aware of, Pokémon GO uses a smartphone’s GPS information to track players’ locations – that’s how it can superimpose digital creatures into real-world environments. As a results, like other smartphone apps, Pokémon GO collects a great deal of geographic insight from game users. From where a player is at any moment, to where they came from and where they went next, the entire player physical journey can be stored. Even how long is spent at each location.

The primary benefit of location-based offers in banking is that it allows financial institutions the ability to move beyond traditional, calendar-based promotions to provide more relevant content in real time. This includes the cross-selling of banking products based on need, the offering of outside merchant offers to increase loyalty of current customers and the recommendation of services that can alleviate a potential negative event (overdraft, fraudulent activity, etc.).

According to , banking needs to follow the lead of retailers, turning to smart engagement techniques, including the collection of multiple sources of information, to create contextually meaningful offers to consumers. “Banking is well positioned to improve the relevance of offerings, since they possess detailed insight into customers’ transaction history and spending behavior,” says Cognizant. “Using this granular data – combined with geolocation insight – can allow for highly customized offers that steer customers to the right product or service at the right moment and at the right place.”

Ultimately, the application of insights for improved targeting and sales should become integrated into the daily lives of the consumer – moving banking from an outside influence to a desired partner. The collection and use of consumer data to deliver offers to consumers at the right time and place will be the key to success in a more digital world that expects nothing less.

This is already possible with merchant funded reward programs according to , SVP of Global Business Development, New Digital Businesses at . “For loyalty programs, you can integrate AR as part of affiliate offers through the bank’s credit card relationship. For instance, I could walk past a shoe store that my bank has a relationship with, and from my browsing history, my bank knows a pair I was looking at online. Using machine learning, my phone vibrates with the pair of shoes levitating with a 10% off sign from my bank and the store.”

The Power of Engagement

Possibly the biggest and most important lesson the Pokémon GO craze can teach the banking industry is the power of engagement. While local businesses can’t currently elect to become Pokémon Gyms and PokéStops, there are hints that this could become a sponsorship option in the future.

According to , some fortunate businesses have found themselves integrated into the game and are embracing players, a strategy that could allow them to convert Pokémon GO players to paying customers. Local businesses that are home to a PokéStop can leverage an in-app purchasable Lure Module which “attracts Pokémon to a PokéStop for 30 minutes.” Combined with Pokémon GO-specific messaging and promotions, that could increase Pokémon GO foot traffic and result in revenues.

has already embraced the excitement around Pokémon GO by encouraging customers to take pictures of creatures in the offices. And customers have responded, according to , Marketing Specialist at the bank. “We asked our social media followers to share screen shots of where they found Pokemon in our branches. Several have shared pictures which we have posted on .

Avidia Twitter

AvidiaBank Pokemon

“When it comes to customer engagement, Pokémon GO shows that gamification, reward ‘currency’ and a splash of augmented reality go a long way to keep the digital consumer coming back for more – all things banks must design into their digital offerings,” mentioned , Director of Global Strategic Business Development at .

But banking is not there yet as an industry. , Head of Fintech Strategy at Innovation asks, “How are banks leveraging contextual awareness? We have so much data on our customers and yet we don’t leverage this to benefit or delight our customers today. I think our mobile developers need to think of additional types of value we could add to encourage positive behaviors (be that related to health, wealth, or tangential activities like education and travel that can have positive impact on wealth building behaviors).

, FinTech Analyst and Digital Experience Strategy Designer, reinforces the importance of creating a memorable experience, “The concept of a ‘Delightful’ experience is not just a word the UX community choses to throw around for lack of a better term when they describe the essence of creating experiences. Instead, it’s a well thought out answer to what it is that makes lasting engagement. Silly or not, Pokémon GO is that to people. It answers primal emotional needs of play and discovery that delights them, which in turn is addictive.”

Bloomstrom adds,  “Bankers should not take this as a signal to place Star Wars virtual reality (VR) stations in every branch, but as yet more evidence that if we want truly connected consumers we need to give them delightful experiences that make them fall in love.”

“Capturing the lightning in bottle that is Pokémon GO is hard – predicting it before the fact impossible,” states , SVP of . “Today’s sensation shows that people like to be engaged in what they’re doing, have challenging but achievable goals, and compete against others. Banks should be asking how they can leverage these characteristics to increase engagement with their customers.”

Leimer agrees, “We simply need to think outside of the existing bank application paradigm for building out applications – whether it’s rethinking personal financial behavior like buying homes or cars, or finding a better restaurant for dinner. There’s a lot more banks can do to engage their customers. That’s a game we should be playing.”

Jim MarousJim Marous is co-publisher of The Financial Brand and publisher of the , a subscription-based publication that provides deep insights into the digitization of banking, with over 150 reports in the digital available to rs. You can follow Jim on and , or visit his .

This article was originally published on July 12, 2016. All content © 2018 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.


  1. Here’s a very good story on ‘Pokémon Go’ in banking from Chris Nichols at Center State Bank:

  2. Samantha says:

    Some errors in the intro: Niantic Labs wasn’t founded in part by Nintendo, Pokemon is short for Pocket Monsters, not Pokey Monsters, and most Pokemon aren’t tiny. Some Pokemon, such as Wailord the whale Pokemon, are huge.

  3. This is a tricky one. I see youngsters and adults alike glued to their phone all over town and I know what they are doing. I am not sure they are thinking about banking. If someone can leverage this to increase the value, visibility of their banking brand I would be happy to discuss it. But sometimes I think you have to let people enjoy and a game without trying to remind them that you offer free checking accounts.

  4. Vibrant Credit Union has been sending its own ice cream truck (a converted 1974 VW) to Pokégyms and Pokéstops.

  5. Ryan Jones says:

    Not really sure I want to invite random non-engaging people into my bank/credit union branch…feels like a security problem to me. Players are there for one reason and one reason only…to catch a Pokemon, not open a checking account. PokemonGo players are all about moving. Why would they stop and interact with staff, especially with how long it takes these days to open an account? Maybe if you were handing out free food, something portable might they interact. Even if it was a takeaway card with a great offer, I doubt anyone playing the game has an attention span long enough to remember where they were 5 minutes after leaving your lobby. I say just let them play and enjoy watching people walk into walls, street signs, and each other.

  6. When AR apps for mortgages were envisioned in circa 2010, I remember being very excited about them. But, half a decade later, you say they face challenges in awareness and usage. The CBA video you’ve linked to was published in 2011 and, in the following 5 years, it has managed to garner a measly 6349 views. To me, AR in Banking seems like a repeat of the excitement over mobile wallets – solution seeking a problem. What many people forget is that digital engagement has very low conversion rates from Awareness to Action stages of the funnel, so to create a viable digital engagement strategy requires huge volumes at top of funnel. It is virtually impossible to generate that kind of volumes via inbound channels in banking where the purchase and usage frequencies are simply too low compared to retail goods or gaming.

  7. Excellent report!
    I do believe that banks are still messing around and be fixing their eyes upon non-innovative ideas while they could be learning and improving products and services.
    This App really teaches how Banks can use Interaction Design, Big Data, Gamefication and User Experience to provide not only innovation, but a better connection between organizations and their consumers.

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