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Intelligent Search and the Lesson of Pokemon GO

In recent months I’ve noticed that in vendor briefings and conference presentations, search, and more specifically intelligent search, have come up as opportunities for improving customer experiences. Intelligent search, whereby a search engine tracks a user’s search behavior and adapts its algorithm to their habits, is one way to reduce the time and effort an online searcher must spend to get to a relevant result.

Intelligent search … for Charizard*

The issue of search, and how we respond in searching situations, came up a bunch of times during last week’s Sitecore Symposium in New Orleans. In one keynote, Jane McGonigal, a game designer and futurist, shared some recent data about Pokemon GO. In case you’ve been living in a cave somewhere and haven’t heard about it, Pokemon GO is a game that launched in July 2016 and that blends virtual reality with real world physical locations. It can be downloaded for free to iPhone and Android devices, and gamers can do either single play or multiplay.

Even if you do not play Pokemon GO, yourself, if you have seen a group of people, adults and children, rushing across a major city intersection in pursuit of something invisible up in a tree (as happened yesterday in Tokyo), you have probably observed Pokemon GO in action.

Anyway, according to McGonigal:

  • Pokemon GO is the fastest growing product in human history. That’s right: not fastest growing online game, fastest growing product. Ever.
  • It is also the fastest downloaded app in the 8-year history of apps.
  • In the U.S. alone, there were initially 50 million daily players, of whom 54% are women. The daily use number has since declined to about 30 million players.
  • Phone usage of Pokemon GO is 2 times as many minutes as usage of Facebook.
  • Pokemon Go’s daily user count surpassed that of Twitter within 2 days.
  • There were more installations of Pokemon GO than of  Tinder & Snapchat, and half of those installs were adults over the age of 25.

McGonigal believes in the positive power of games and takes them seriously as a framework to understand human behavior. She wasn’t just citing the above statistics to show how great Pokemon GO was as a game and as a business venture, or how it shows that a video game can appeal to wider audience beyond the usual young male demographic. Rather, she stressed that Pokemon GO did what all great games do: they give anyone a chance to succeed whenever they want to, to achieve a goal, and to “find something wonderful around the corner.”

McGonigal’s relentless optimism about games and their ability to “make us better” is somewhat exhausting to listen to after awhile, but I found her explanation for Pokemon GO’s appeal plausible. We now have access to gigabytes of information on our phones, laptops, cars, and household devices, yet we spend a lot of our time searching – or swiping – for relevant information. How satisfying it is to have one goal – catch that creature on your screen a half a mile away – and to know that you can just walk outside and collect him, and get rewarded for doing it, and play again whenever you want, picking up where you left off.

That said, not everything should be a game, or made into one. But the lesson of Pokemon GO, extended to the universe of buyers, sellers, partners, and digital and physical connections between them, is that search done well can lead to good outcomes all around. This applies everywhere from from a consumer finding the right size and color of a jacket to an enterprise procurement leader finding the preferred brand of a particular model of an industrial part at the right price and delivered within the desired timescale. Intelligent search, like the search for a Charizard, can be intuitive, personalized, and visual, helping to move a customer closer to achieving their goal (without of course violating privacy regulations and ethical boundaries: see our recent report that goes into the topic of personal data for more details).

Interested in learning more about the role of intelligent search in customer experience management? Contact us.

*Charizard is one of the rarer types of Pokemon you can find in Pokemon GO.


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