Viral Mobile Apps: What Brands Can Learn From the Pokemon GO Craze

Pokemon GO has exploded overnight.

The app has been installed on more Android devices than Tinder, and its average users are spending twice as much of time engaged with Pokemon GO than with other mobile apps like Snapchat. The augmented reality game has pushed the boundaries of the traditional app user experience, and brands should take notice of how they can apply the same principles to create engaging apps that ultimately drive more revenue.

For the few who haven’t heard about Pokemon GO, the object of the game is to walk around the real world to find and ‘catch’ Pokemon on your phone. Through the use of GPS technology, the player can see digital Pokemons in their surrounding area, walk up to the creature, and use the camera on their smartphone (which overlays the Pokemon on the real world) to capture it.

Overnight Popularity

Pokemon GO surpassed Candy Crush in daily active users to become the biggest mobile game in US history. So with thousands of mobile apps released every day, what made this one go viral?

Two words: authentically mobile.

The creators didn’t take a game created for a video game console or computer and modify it for a mobile device – the game was designed specifically for a mobile user.

Mobile Apps: 3 Key Takeaways for Brands

Apps offer an additional revenue channel and a platform to build customer loyalty, but brands often miss the mark as 76% of shopping app users churn in the first 30 days. These brands can learn from the virality of Pokemon GO by incorporating these 3 principles into their mobile app.

1. Make use of the native functionality of the device

As the web becomes more app-like, speed and friendly user experiences aren’t enough to make an app stand out. Apps need to incorporate the native functionality of the device to enrich the user experience, just as Pokemon GO uses GPS technology and the smartphone’s camera to create a contextual user experience that’s only possible through a mobile app.

Brands should consider how they can make use of the the phone’s native functionality through barcode scanners, beacon-triggered push notifications, and voice recognition. Wal-mart allows its app customers to scan their receipt for additional savings, and the Sephora Go app connects with beacons to enrich the in-store shopping experience.

Wal-mart's mobile app offers additional discounts to customers.

2. Include interactive experiences to boost engagement

By using augmented reality (AR) to repurpose an old game for a modern user experience, Pokemon GO is able to create interactive experiences that keep users engaged. The data shows that players are already spending more minutes per day in Pokemon GO than in other popular mobile apps like Facebook – which boasts well for AR experiences.

Mobile Apps: Pokemon GO Usage Comparison (SOURCE: Sensor Tower)

While there has been a lot of buzz surrounding virtual reality (VR), it hasn’t fully taken off and analysts actually predict that the AR market will be 3x larger than the VR market. Unlike VR, augmented reality doesn’t require expensive hardware – so brands can make use of the device already in the hands of all their customers.

We’re already seeing brands begin to leverage augmented reality with Ikea launching an AR catalogue app that allows customers to see what the furniture will look like in their home, and the Converse Sampler app in which customers use their camera phone to see how any of the shoes would look.

3.Make an app that is highly shareable

Pokemon Go is creating a social media frenzy with more than 6 million Twitter mentions in less than a week. Players are turning to their social networks to share their humorous experiences within the app as the little creatures pop up in unexpected places.

Viral Mobile Apps: Best Twitter shares from Pokemon GO.Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 1.48.08 PM

Brands need to create engaging experiences that delight customers in order to be worthy of social shares. This all comes back to creating an app that is authentically mobile and delivers interactive experiences by utilizing the native functionality of the device.

Transposing your website into an app won’t cut it for today’s mobile users, and there’s no way you’ll hold on to that precious homescreen real estate with such an app (that is if you even get the download).

Draw inspiration from viral mobile apps and re-imagine what your app could be capable of.