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4 Creative Strategies For Driving Players to Your Web Store, Inspired by Pokemon GO, Merge Dragons, Candy Crush & Subway Surfers

Building a beautiful and profitable web store is hard enough, but many publishers find that the real challenge begins after their store is built and published.

That’s because they need to create a new behavior among their users: buying in a web store instead of the in-game store. 

If you manage to create this new habit, web stores will be a powerful afterburner to your product revenue.

But changing user behavior is not easy in this context. Here’s why: 

  • It’s quicker for players to buy items in the in-game store vs. an external web store
  • You can’t promote web stores in your game at all in the US
  • In the EU you can mention your external D2C web store in-game, but can’t link directly to it without Apple taking a cut.

So, how do you get players to your web store without getting a slap on the wrist by platforms?

In this article, we will look at 4 creative strategies – covering both best-practices and out-of-the-box tactics. Let’s dive in!

1. Build a social media community

Instagram post from the official Pokémon GO account featuring a 'Great Voyager Box' web-exclusive offer. The image shows an adventurer in a safari outfit peering through binoculars with a backdrop of lush green foliage, alongside a promotional graphic for the Great Voyager Box, teasing in-game items like Super Incubators. The caption announces a limited-time deal, with a call to action to visit the web store. The post has garnered 16,324 likes as of June 1, 2023

For your out-of-app monetization to have a solid foundation for sustainable growth, you must build a community to support it. 

This could be on Facebook, TikTok, Twitch, Discord, Reddit, or wherever else your players hang out. Some useful references:

Once you have an engaged community, weave promotions for your web store into your posting schedule. Promote time-limited offers and special bundles, along with cool features available in your store, such as gifts-for-friends and loyalty programs. 

2. Create an email newsletter 

It might sound left-field, but an email newsletter can be a great way to forge deeper connections with your community. You could do a monthly newsletter that features content about your game. 

For instance:

  • Facts about your characters
  • Interviews with your game designers 
  • Audience-sourced game art
  • News roundups 
  • Upcoming in-game events 

Gram Games are a good example. Since October, 2023, they’ve sent a weekly or biweekly newsletter for their Merge Dragons game, filled with intriguing game facts. These newsletters don’t directly promote their web store, but they consistently draw players to their website where their store is found.

If you manage to create a newsletter your players enjoy reading, you’ll be well-positioned to naturally weave in web store offers and drive traffic to your website. 

To ensure as many visitors convert into buyers, focus on optimizing your store with appealing game art, exclusive offers, and gamification mechanics. 

3. Run real-life events

Outdoor event at a park with a crowd of people gathered under a red bandshell, with a Team Valor flag from Pokémon GO displayed prominently. The city skyline looms in the background under a clear blue sky, indicating an urban setting. The photo has a Polaroid frame, suggesting a snapshot of a community gaming event.

If you’re a publisher with a large, dedicated playerbase, running real life events which brings together your community can be a highly effective way to onboard them onto your web store.

Niantic serves as your north star: they drew in 194,000 people to its three real life Pokemon Go events in 2023, each on a different continent. 

The augmented reality game is naturally suited to real life gamified events; the results are testament to this and the strength of their player engagement. From the New York City event alone:

  • 35 million Pokémon were caught during the Pokémon GO Fest 
  • Attendees walked an average of 18.6 miles while capturing Pokémon and making connections with other Trainers

Not only can Niantic promote their web store using QR codes and other marketing tools during their live events, but they can increase web store interaction before the event too.

As stated on their website: 

“Trainers who purchase their ticket from the Pokémon GO Web Store will receive an exclusive GO Fest 2024 T-shirt avatar item in an exclusive color. Like the GO Fest event badge, the T-shirt will arrive closer to the date of the Pokémon GO Fest event.”

Creating and executing a real life event is no easy task – consider pairing it with popular trade shows like Gamescom, where publishers run an array of fan-focused activities. You can create a separate event for your VIP players who are already in town for the tradeshow, for example. 

4. Leverage brand collaborations

Animated characters from the game Candy Crush in a pink convertible car, with whimsical candy-themed decorations, celebrating alongside a Barbie character, promoting the Candy Crush Saga and Barbie collaboration. A tag shows the Barbie logo with a reminder that the movie is in theaters July 21

With a growing number of businesses looking at games as a channel for brand marketing campaigns, publishers should capitalize on this opportunity to turn their web stores into hubs of exciting and exclusive branded content.

Here’s how that might look:

– Integrate brand collaboration into your game

– Leverage the excitement to offer one-off items in your store themed around the brand 

– To maximize conversions, offer exclusive deals and update store game art 

– Make sure the brand actively promotes your web store as part of the collaboration terms

To make this concept more concrete, here are a few collaboration references which you could apply the above blueprint to:

  • Candy Crush Saga x Barbie Movie: they collaborated on an in-game event which introduced Barbie-themed quests.
  • Fornite x LEGO: over 1,200 Fortnite outfits received an additional LEGO Style, playable in the game’s new LEGO®-themed experiences
  • Clash of Clans/Royale x Chess.com: Clash of Clans and Clash Royale launched chess-themed seasons, including chess Hero Skins and exclusive cosmetics. In addition, Chess.com featured Clash-inspired chess pieces and the chance to play chess with Clash characters. 

Final takeaways

If we look through the above strategies, we can see a theme. Be it a newsletter, social media channel, real life event, or brand collaboration, these strategies all serve to create and nurture a vibrant out-of-app ecosystem around a game that naturally complements web stores.  

Until publishers can link directly to web stores from inside their games without losing revenue or getting penalized (don’t hold your breath), leveraging out-of-app channels will continue to be key to driving traffic to your web store.

And if you’re looking for the best converting web store builder in the market, head to Appcharge.com and book a free demo.

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