Alter Ego Comics using the power of the mobile app to boost sales
Interview and story by Taylor Johnson
Let’s face it – it’s a Pokémon Go world, and we’re just living in it. In just two weeks, the augmented-reality game has become the biggest mobile game in U.S. history and divided the world into two populations– those playing the game, and those complaining about everyone else playing the game.
It’s even increased Nintendo’s market value by almost $18 billion.
The instant pop culture phenomenon has turned millions of kids and adults into phone-gazing zombies roaming the streets chasing Pikachu and friends. While much of the success stems from GenY users – a generation known for gobbling up nostalgic content – the fantastic hybrid of reality and fantasy has reached new audiences.
“My 7-year-old son is actually the one that taught me how to play,” laughed Marc Bowker, owner at Alter Ego Comics.
Bowker’s not naïve to modern-day technology– he started his e-commerce website in 2003 and has since grown it to be one of the top online stores in the pop-culture collectibles industry.
However, Pokémon Go, a game that uses real locations and forces you to spend real time and energy searching for Pokémon, is new territory for everyone. Players are required to roam the streets, looking for the digital monsters and locations called Pokéstops. These locations are usually in high-traffic areas and have hidden items like Pokeballs – the essential tool needed to catch as many characters as possible.
While the game is free-to-play, players can also visit the Pokestore to purchase additional beneficial items. A particularly popular one is the “lure” – a module that attracts Pokémon to a specific location for 30 minutes a pop. Each Lure costs 100 pokecoins – or 99 cents in real money.
Once familiar with the game, Bowker saw the “lure” as an opportunity to increase foot traffic at his storefront in downtown Lima. He purchased $10 worth of Lure’s and launched a Facebook campaign on Alter Ego’s page, promoting the first-ever “Catch a Pokémon” event at his store. The rules are simple: show up in the time frame of the event, and “catch ‘em all,” as they say.
During the first-time, two-hour event last Thursday, Bowker says sales doubled.
“It’s one of those things we figured out early and knew if we were going to jump on, we better do it quickly,” he said. “When you’re a small business owner, you have the ability to pivot more quickly as far as how you want to reach new customers. You don’t have to jump through a lot of hoops. ”
Pokémon Go event at Alter Ego Comics:
In total, Bowker spent only $20 on the entire event – half on Lure’s, half on Facebook promotions. He encourages other local businesses, specifically retail shops, to do some research and see how best to maximize the game for their business. If it makes sense, redirect some of their marketing spend as the mobile game racks up a bigger user base.
“It’s like any other types of advertising. It can be hit or miss. But without risk, there’s no reward,” he said.
But for Bowker, it’s not just about bringing in new customers to his business.
“I’ve really seen the power of the game…the positive affect it can have right in my own home.”
Bowker and wife Angie have three boys, ages 16, 14 and 7.
“With the age difference between our 16-year-old and 7-year-old, they obviously don’t get along the best. They don’t spend much time doing things together because their hobbies are very different at those ages,” laughed Bowker.
But just the other night, following an 8-hour shift at his summer job, Bowker’s eldest son changed his normal routine of getting home, having dinner, taking a shower and then “doing his own thing.”
“He went up to my youngest and asked him if he wanted to go ride bikes together through the neighborhood and look for Pokémon. My wife and I were in shock – it was a really neat moment. It gave them something to do together; something they can enjoy as brothers.”
That’s not to say Bowker’s middle son isn’t up on the Pokémon craze.
“Actually, this past Sunday, my oldest son said he was going to look for Pokémon, then my 14-year-old wanted to go, and I just said, ‘hey, why don’t we all just go?’ So, the four of us hopped in the car and drove to Faurot Park to look for Pokémon. That’s what is really special about this game and we had a really great day hanging out together.”
When asked if his wife partakes in the game, Bowker laughs.
“No, but she’s still a fan of it because it got her an afternoon to herself!”
Alter Ego Comics is an award winning comic book store located in downtown Lima, Ohio at 230 N Main St. Their mission is to spread the word around the globe that comics are for everybody & they’re awesome!