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It’s time for bricks-and-mobile

March 15, 2011

Steen Andersson is cofounder and vice president of marketing at 5th FingerBy Steen Andersson

There is an exciting new retail revenue driver emerging in mobile: “bricks-and-mobile,” a clever term to describe the innovative in-store mobile marketing opportunity opening up to retailers this year.

We all remember the term “bricks-and-mortar” and “clicks-and-mortar” to describe offline only and hybrid online/offline retailers in the late 1990s.

Taking a cue from these traditional forms of commerce, bricks-and-mobile retailers are ones who have deployed mobile in-store experiences to drive sales in-store.

Store value
There are also direct-to-consumer applications such as RedLaser or more involved shopping and game apps such as shopkick which would be considered bricks-and-mobile apps.

This new focus area – in-store mobile apps – poses significant opportunity for retailers.

Every year, tens of billions of dollars of revenue walks out of major retailers’ doors. These are consumers who enter a store with intent to buy, but they are uninspired, cannot find something they like, are unsure of their purchase or the product is out of stock.

Many retailers think about capturing missed transactions such as these via mobile commerce, but the reality is mobile commerce does not change purchase decisions.

Purchases made via mobile commerce are an act of convenience, a sale that would otherwise eventually be made when the shopper was near a computer or store.

One percent of retail revenue currently is attributed to mobile commerce and, while growing, it is not the area where mobile can make its largest effect on a retailer’s revenue.

That leads us to the notion of mobile-enabled commerce.

Me commerce
Mobile-enabled commerce bridges the gaps of mobile commerce by providing not just a purchasing solution on the phone, but most importantly, in-store tools and experiences on your customer’s phones which convert shoppers into buyers by addressing the consumer behavior that often lead to missed sales.

That said, mobile-enabled commerce in a bricks-and-mobile in-store environment means a range of consumer experiences and marketing tactics. Some of the more common approaches are:

 Enhanced product information
 Buyers’ guides/decision support
 What’s new
 Product reviews
 Product inspiration
 Socially integrated recommendations
 Offers and coupons
 VIP customer services
 Price comparison, if you are a really brave retailer. Will your customers be happy to pay a little more than online for the convenience and satisfaction of having the product in their hot little hands?

By responding to existing consumer shopping behavior, the in-store app experience is motivating purchases through these tactics and by informing and inspiring on the spot.

For many retailers, decision-making mobile tools are what stand between a sale and a walkout to think it over.

Seeing that most real world retailers generate 90-plus percent of their revenue in-store and not online, using mobile to influence the in-store purchase behavior is a huge opportunity for retailers to affect their top-line revenue numbers.

In terms of opportunities, bricks-and-mobile with mobile-enabled commerce is the most exciting prospect for retailers in mobile today.

Steen Andersson is cofounder and vice president of marketing at 5th Finger, San Francisco. Reach him at

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