How Pokémon Go Can Revolutionize the Procurement World

It’s more than a game. It’s a game changer. And it’s going to transform procurement.

There’s a small, remote city in South Korea called Sokcho. Sokcho was a sleepy provincial center until a few weeks ago. But virtually overnight, as CNN reports, it’s become one of the top tourist destinations in Asia—a true “boom town” with people flooding in from all over the region.

Why are they coming? Because of a Google mapping glitch, Sokcho is the only place in Korea where people can play Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go. You may or may not have tried playing it, but unless you’ve spent the past month with your head planted firmly in the sand, you’ve heard of the phenomenon that’s taken the world by storm. You’ve seen the stories about people falling off cliffs and getting hit by cars because they were so absorbed in the game. You may have also heard that less than a month after its launch, Pokemon Go has already surpassed both Twitter and Facebook in key measures of engagement.

So what’s behind this viral explosion—and what could it possibly have to do with procurement?

What’s going on is our first massive, collective exposure to augmented reality. In Pokemon Go, players go out in the real world. They’re looking at what’s really in front of them. But in their phones, the “real” world is also inhabited—augmented—by Pokemon, and other things associated with Pokemon.

That seamless combination of real world and virtual world is proving to be incredibly compelling to humans. Especially to young humans. As Britain’s The Guardian points out, augmented reality has the power to erase the boundary between people and their machines.

The implications of this phenomenon for humanity (especially humanity’s business endeavors) are a bit staggering. Certainly along the lines of the Internet. Maybe right up there with fire.

Remember, Pokemon Go is a totally primitive version of augmented reality. People are falling off cliffs because they’re looking at their phone to get their addictive dose of augmented reality. Very soon (think Christmas), they’ll be wearing augmented reality glasses, the virtual world will be seamlessly overlaid on the “real world,” and the cliff-falling will (mostly) cease.

Companies worldwide are well aware of the potential power of this technology, and are right now hard at work rethinking the way they are going to sell their products. Catalogs, Websites—all that is going to change, and change dramatically, as people gain the power to bring anything, anything at all, into their personal (or professional) version of reality.

And that’s where procurement comes in.

Five years from now, give or take, procurement professionals will no longer look at websites to buy things for their companies. Instead, you’ll bring those things into your office, to view, test, and compare them to other products. Salespeople will be instantly available, 24/7, to interact with you in real time, do their best to sell you on the superiority of their product, and offer you special, face-to-face deals.

Want to test a widget? No problem. Just conjure up a faucet and douse that widget with water. Snap your fingers for fire and watch that widget burn.

Besides virtual salesmen, you’ll also have access to “independent” experts, virtual employees who will scour the world for the best deals on the best products, then report back to you with recommendations—for a reasonable fee, of course.

And there’s no reason to limit your augmented reality to just one overlay. Most likely, you’ll have your procurement software overlaid on your buying software, all tied in and overlaid on your company’s enterprise software. Need to show that cool new widget to the boss before you buy? Just beam it into her office for a quick virtual look-see and approval.

You may even catch a Pokemon or two along the way.