One untapped opportunity in AR is to position it as a local discovery engine. Similar to Google Lens, the idea is to evoke informational overlays for storefronts. When done organically, it can boost local commerce, as examined in ARtillery Intelligence’s recent geo-local AR report.

Another way this can be done is in tandem with location-based gaming. And the model there is Niantic’s Sponsorship Platform. In short, it positions sponsors’ real-world locations as in-game waypoints, which results in measurable foot traffic and ringing cash registers.

So far, Niantic has worked with multi-location brands such as McDonald’s and 7-Eleven. And its self-serve program opens it up to small businesses. How is it doing this? This was uncovered in a Niantic presentation at AWE – the topic of the latest XR Talks (video and takeaways below).

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Natural Gameplay

Before getting into Niantic’s sponsorship program results, what is it and how does it work? As noted, it allows sponsors to position real-world locations as in-game waypoints such as gyms and Pokéstops. They can then stimulate in-game raids by choosing when Pokémon hatch.

This essentially happens as an offshoot of Pokémon Go’s Wayfarer program, which lets players vote on locations for Pokéstops and Gyms. Businesses can now name those locations for a price. They can even choose days and dayparts to boost traffic (think: slow hours).

The key word in all of this is organic, says Niantic. Sponsorship isn’t contrived but rather aligned with gameplay.  Moreover, players can work up a hunger through PGO’s migratory play – making sponsorship a natural fit for quick-serve restaurants, convenience stores, and coffee shops.

So how does Niantic achieve this organic alignment? Its primary guiding principle is to put player experience first. If followed, this can keep priorities straight and ensure that sponsored elements are always natural to gameplay, rather than interruptive or commercial-feeling.

It also emphasizes the importance of stories to keep things sticky. This involves putting players at the center of narrative and gamified experiences. For example, there are in-game incentives for things like visiting a Pokéstop (that happens to be sponsored) five consecutive days.

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Proof Positive

By following the above tactics, Niantic has reported that 73 percent of players deviate from their regular walking routes – sometimes to sponsored locations – to achieve in-game milestones. 84 percent interacted with commercial locations and 58 percent transacted.

But the ultimate proof is in the performance data from brands that have launched campaigns in Pokémon Go. Highlights include SK Telecom’s 10.8 percent boost in loyalty program signups (a campaign objective) during scheduled raids around its locations in Taiwan.

7-Eleven similarly activated raids around thousands of its locations in Taiwan, Mexico, and other regions. And it saw a tangible boost in revenue across the board, to the tune of 10.5 percent on average. Convenience stores, again, are a prime category for Pokémon Go sponsorship.

Beyond these ROI signals, there are other macro benefits such as boosting brand sentiment, says Niantic Sponsorship Platform product lead Carla Li. This happens as players associate brands with their positive experiences with the game – in some cases to fuel them for play.

We’ll pause there and cue the full video below, including additional insights and case studies from Li and Niantic’s Maryam Sabour…

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