DSC02503I never understood the mechanics of going viral less after “Gangam Style”… until now. Pokemon Go didn’t even have a tipping point, just an immediate explosion of user adoption in what has already become the most popular mobile game in U.S. history. Its ability to overlay maps and characters onto the world around us has presented a fresh opportunity not just for muggers to lure victims, but for businesses to draw in customers. It’s called Gamification, and its potential in the business world has never been greater.

The idea is to apply our love of competition and reward to tasks which otherwise might be considered boring, and it’s been around for decades. When Deloitte wanted a better training system for its 200,000 employees, an incentives program with public leaderboards led to a 30% increase in participation. When Google struggled to get expense reports in on time, they engaged employees by letting them apply unused allowances toward savings funds or their favorite charities. Many businesses have used gamification to turn customers into evangelists via competitions and social media badges. Never before however have we seen demographic-defying armies of potential customers being driven around the city by a game. The key to this games success, beside nostalgia? Augmented reality.

The augmented reality in Pokemon Go uses your smartphone’s camera to overlay cartoon characters over real world imagery. Players hunt these characters through geo-location, and some savvy restaurateurs have already increased foot traffic by making their business more attractive on the Pokemon Go map. Its a clever way to glom onto the latest craze, but the real potential is in how businesses could use augmented reality to amp up the entertainment in their own offering. Why settle for a two-dimensional quote when a builder or interior designer can show you how the finished product would look in the room you’re standing in? Why make it difficult for prospects to learn more about a product when they could overlay the next step of the conversation right then and there? Clothing stores could even show after-hours window shoppers how they would look in the latest trends.

Up until now gamification for customers has largely been about sending them to the Internet and back again; to a game that increases brand awareness and evangelism in the hopes that it turns into a real-world sale later. With augmented reality, businesses have the potential to blend the place for entertainment and the destination they want it to lead to. The question is, who can create something this entertaining?