How Technology Companies are Changing “Brick and Mortar” for Good


Brick and mortar has been a staple of commerce since the days of desert-crossing caravans and flea market bazaars (even though there weren’t any bricks or mortar back then). Remarkably, physical stores haven’t changed that much in the last 3000 years.

Instead, the advent of eCommerce has completely changed the practice of buying and selling goods. Customers can now engage in the entire buying process—from research to purchase—from within the comfort of their own homes.

Even so, customers love being able to physically touch the items that they intend to purchase, and that’s why brick and mortar stores will never die. In the wake of eCommerce innovation, however, there is something left to be desired from the brick and mortar experience.

That’s where technology companies come in.

Cross-Channel Commerce with Beacons

We’ve all heard of beacons, right? They’re small Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) enabled devices that can tell your phone all kinds of things when you pass within a specific range.

Technology companies, like Codal, are working with retailers to finding lots of new and exciting ways to integrate beacons into the traditional shopping experience. Recently, we helped one of our clients, OmniChannelDigital, do just that.

And thanks to their unique talents, beacons have successfully introduced the first major update to the brick and mortar experience in millenia: simultaneous cross-channel commerce.

Here, cross-channel commerce refers, in part, to the idea that a customer can be reached through multiple channels at the same time. But it’s not just about reaching customers—it’s about enriching the process of retail shopping by combining the brick and mortar experience with that of the mobile application.

Two Lessons from eCommerce

Much of the functionality added by the introduction of beacon technology is actually inspired from the world of eCommerce. In this way, beacons act as medium through which concepts that are abundantly popular on the internet can make their way into the physical world.

For example, eCommerce has taught us that:
1. Contextual shopping is the key to quick decision making
2. Marketing and UX are virtually inseparable nowadays

Contextual shopping—the seamless handoff of information between store shelves and customers’ phones—is more than just a novelty, it’s a game changer with the potential to introduce a wide variety of drastic consequences down the road.

It works like this: a customer, who is assumed to already possess the mobile application for a specific retailer, is able to interact with the products around him / her by triggering well-placed beacons that inform the customer with contextual clues.

For example, a customer may be more inclined to make a purchase decision if all of the discounted items in a particular aisle are listed on their smartphone as soon as a hidden beacon is triggered by the customer.

The second lesson is that marketing and UX are now inseparable, thanks to IoT, and specifically, beacon technology. Shopping and marketing are deeply intertwined, and context is the bridge between the two.

Think of those banner ads that you see after you’ve shopped for something. Beacons are the banner ads of the physical world.
As you shop for items, you will build up historical data for your shopping habits. The mobile application could, in turn a) suggest new items for you to buy, b) direct you to your commonly visited aisles, and c) inform you of newly discounted items that are related to your purchase history, among other things.

Conclusion: “Brick and Mortar” is Now “Brick and Beacon”

For a while there, it was close. Before the introduction of beacon technology into the retail ecosystem, it looked like brick and mortar institutions would soon become extinct. Mobile shopping is just so easy.

That’s not the case, however.

“Brick and mortar” isn’t dead yet, and it doesn’t look like it will be dying-out any time soon. In tying the digital and physical shopping experiences so closely together, beacons have essentially become the savior of brick and mortar establishments.

By adopting lessons learned in the world of eCommerce, beacons have made it almost as easy and insightful to shop on-site, as it is at home.

If only they could make it easier to get up off of the couch.