Can Pokémon Go and augmented reality improve customer experience in banking?

By now, even if you are not into Pokémon yourself, you have probably heard of the Pokémon Go phenomenon that has swept the US and other countries in the last several weeks.

Ever since Niantic, Inc. launched the Pokémon Go mobile game on July 6, augmented reality (AR) has taken over the lives of millions of people (including my kids’). Many have become obsessed with capturing Pokémon— like Squirtle, Charmander, and the adorable Pikachu. Some of you (or your kids) may have collected Pokéballs at Pokéstops, and joined other teams to wage battles at “gyms.” It is also possible that with your valuable Pokémon loot, you have reached a higher “trainer” status, and used “candy” to “evolve” your Pokémon.

All this might seem like it is just another passing fad, but I have a feeling the social trend Pokémon Go has unleashed is different. Pokémon Go is an exciting and unprecedented blend of the real and the virtual worlds. So much so that it is touted by some as the antidote to social deprivation by getting people out on the streets and interacting with others in fun and positive ways.

The game is so addictive for kids and adults alike that the app has been downloaded more than any other, and it reached the number one spot in terms of revenues faster than any other mobile game.  It is also set to surpass other leading apps in usage.  Who knew that an app based on AR would garner so many passionate fans! As a result, Nintendo, which has a stake in the Pokémon Company, has seen its stock price rewarded handsomely since the release of Pokémon Go.

The success of Pokémon Go was somewhat surprising, given that previous apps/games using AR have had only modest success. But many are beginning to believe that the Pokémon Go phenomenon could herald a new era for AR, and not just in gaming.

AR differs from virtual reality (VR)—another technology with a lot of hype surrounding it—in that, in AR, the real world is overlaid or “augmented” with digital/virtual information, such as text, images or sound, and this merged world can be experienced with any digital device, like a smartphone. What’s also important is that the digital information in AR can also be manipulated through interactions with real-world objects.


Until Pokémon Go arrived, one might argue that AR did not have a killer app that captured consumers’ imagination. But perhaps this will be the beginning of a new era in AR apps that are easy to use and serve a functional purpose, beyond pure entertainment. In fact, there are promising applications of AR in varied domains, including the military, health care, construction, automotive, education, sports, security, retail shopping, and advertising.

On the face of it, financial services might not seem like a hugely attractive area for AR. But there are a few use cases already, such as Transamerica’s “ART”: Augmented Reality by Transamerica®, which “allows users to point their smartphone at a printed advertisement, and the app will provide an added digital layer of content.”  Other companies have also developed similar AR apps for retirement education.

We also see evidence of AR experiments in banking as well.  A few banks around the world have developed interesting applications, such as finding an ATM, accessing real-time price information and other details on real estate properties, collecting coupons for stores nearby, and providing product information.  But, for the most part, previous efforts have not been as successful due to a number of factors.

As in gaming, there has been no AR killer app yet in banking that excites consumers and encourages mass adoption. As a result, bank customers have not been as motivated yet to integrate AR into their banking experience. After all, you don’t really need AR to find an ATM, but if that experience can be enhanced and made more pleasant or valuable, I am guessing consumers would be up for it.

I am beginning to believe that with the enthusiastic embrace of Pokémon Go by millions of consumers, especially the young, AR applications in banking—both in retail and institutional banking—will get a boost. I suspect we will see a fair bit of innovation in this area, now that we have evidence that AR can truly “augment” customer experience.

I don’t mean to be all Pollyannaish here, but, as with any new technology, there are also countervailing factors to consider with AR, especially security and privacy.

Nevertheless, in a few years’ time, we shouldn’t be surprised to see AR tools becoming common in banking. And we might even see customer experience improve meaningfully, as a result. If that happens, we will probably grateful to Pokémon Go.

What are your thoughts? Do you think apps like Pokémon Go will unleash a new wave of innovation in AR in banking? Or are they just part of a short-lived trend? Time will tell.

Source: Srinivas, Val. “Can Pokémon Go and augmented reality improve customer experience in banking?” Deloitte. Quick Look Blog, July 20, 2016,