Brick and Mortar: Everything There Is To Know

By
Nicole Georgiev
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Before eCommerce existed, people used to just go out in person and purchase the items that they needed. They would pick up a product, take it to the cashier to scan the UPC code and pay for it. Most transactions used to be conducted in different types of marketplaces including shops, malls, etc. One thing that most of these places had in common was that they were brick and mortar locations.

While online shopping is more popular than ever these days, like with O2O (online to offline), it doesn’t take away from the fact that brick-and-mortar locations are essential and still thriving.

When it comes to brick and mortar, there are a lot of things to understand. The true definition is just the beginning and this article will cover everything there is to know about it.

Define Brick and Mortar

Brick and mortar businesses commonly refer to physical locations where people do business. The two main materials used to construct buildings are bricks and mortar and that's why the term is used to represent businesses that are in physical buildings. This kind of business or marketplace offers people a face-to-face experience. If you're still asking "what is marketplace?", consider it a store, office, or restaurant, these locations can sell products or services.

To put things into perspective, brick and mortar is a marketplace business model that describes the way the business operates. Brick and mortar businesses make money through face-to-face transactions that occur in buildings or other structures. 

What Does Brick And Mortar Mean?

Most businesses these days have multiple different methods to sell their goods and services. While some might rely on eCommerce, many choose to go with a solid and well-known business model, like D2C, and that’s brick and mortar. 


When people want to purchase things or services in person, they’re going to search for a brick and mortar store. This involves going to a physical location - a building or some kind of structure - to purchase their items. This is how most people define brick and mortar. 

Why Is the Term Used?

While some might just want to refer to businesses as “stores”, it’s not always easy to understand what they mean in this sense. A “store” can be a brick and mortar, or it can be an e-commerce store. The term “brick and mortar” has been used since eCommerce and eCommerce marketing blew up and became widely popular. 

Brick and Mortar vs. Online

In the early 2000s, eCommerce or online stores began to rise and gain more reputation amongst shoppers. The eCommerce definition refers to an online store. Even though they are continuing to grow, brick-and-mortar businesses are still thriving. In fact, many people continue to prefer to have an in-person shopping experience. This is typically to see and test out the product before actually buying it. There are quite a few differences between brick and mortar businesses and online businesses. 

The Difference Between Brick and Mortar and Online Businesses

The factors that help you distinguish the difference between the two types of businesses are: 

  • Location: A brick-and-mortar shop will have a physical location whereas most online businesses lack a physical storefront.
  • Marketing: Traditional forms of B2C or B2B marketing and advertising are common when it comes to brick-and-mortar businesses. These can include billboards, TV and radio commercials, etc. Online businesses tend to rely on digital advertising methods, SEO terms, and social media. 
  • Customer Connections: Clients who shop at online stores might have a tough time connecting to the brands. This is because they won’t have the same physical connection with them as they would in person at a brick-and-mortar business. Face-to-face connections in this case are crucial and can make a difference.

Why People Prefer Brick and Mortar 

People oftentimes want an engaging shopping experience and in brick and mortar stores, they tend to get this, unlike with online businesses. Clients can put a face to the name of your business in two cases. One is when they can touch and feel your products and the other is when they can interact with people in the store.

Here are reasons why people tend to prefer shopping at brick and mortar businesses compared to businesses that sell online

  • Time for physical interaction
  • Being able to obtain the goods and/or services instantly
  • Access to customer service through sales agents
  • Quicker and easier returns process for unwanted or defective products
  • No domestic or overseas shipping costs 

Benefits of Brick and Mortar Businesses

A brick and mortar shop can have quite a few benefits to consider. Here are some: 

  • Foot Traffic: With a physical location, you’ll likely be able to gain business through spontaneous foot traffic. This can help you attract new customers and in turn, more sales, without the need for DTC advertising
  • Different Payment Methods: Online stores tend to limit people with plastic payment methods like debit or credit cards that are processed through a credit card payment gateway. They only accept payments online. Brick and mortar locations can typically accept different payment methods. Most of these businesses work with POS systems that accept plastic payments, as well as cash and checks. 
  • Instant Customer Satisfaction: People who shop at physical locations can get instant satisfaction. This typically occurs because they go home with the products they want the same day compared to waiting for them to ship. 
  • Staff and Personnel: Most brick-and-mortar businesses have some kind of staff and/or personnel that can help clients in their shopping experiences. They can explain products and also recommend others, answer questions, and more. 

Benefits of Online Businesses

Businesses can take advantage of online marketplaces to sell products and services through the internet. This is an ideal option for people who don’t have time or are unable to go shopping in person. Here are some benefits for online businesses: 

  • Smaller Store Fees: Online stores won’t have large fees like a brick-and-mortar business would have like for rent. 
  • 24/7 Business Hours: Since everything is online and there is no need for employees. Online stores can be open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to make sales. 
  • Larger Range of Customers: Most online stores can reach potential clients on a global level instead of just locally.
  • Fewer Costs for Operation: Operating an online business won’t require much of an investment. There’s no need for a warehouse or a store. 

What's a Brick and Mortar Store?

A brick-and-mortar store is one that operates from a storefront or in a physical location. This compares to other retail methods such as online shopping or through catalogs. People visit brick-and-mortar stores more often than they think. They aren’t just small businesses, but they’re also chain stores like grocery stores, banks, and more.

Brick and Mortar Store Meaning

If you’re still asking yourself “What’s a brick and mortar store?”, think about the businesses or retail outlets that have a physical location. The stores located in your shopping mall are brick and mortar stores. 

Why Are Brick and Mortar Businesses Still Successful?

In most cases, virtual businesses allow the customers to serve themselves without having to interact with sellers. However, brick-and-mortar locations provide clients with an engaging experience that is in-person. This is something that online channels will always lack. 

People will likely have a more enhanced customer experience when they have the chance to physically touch and feel products that they're interested in. They can also have a better experience when interacting with sellers in face-to-face conversations. This is one of the many advantages to brick and mortar businesses and what keeps them successful. 

How They Work

Brick and mortar business owners tend to operate in owned or rented storefronts, offices, and/or factories. The business will acquire employees to be salesmen to give clients and customers a personalized experience. The goal for these businesses is to develop in-person relationships with the customers. 

Brick and Mortar Store Examples

There are different kinds of brick-and-mortar stores out there, and they’re not all the same. Most of the stores are successful due to their retail formula. Smaller businesses will focus on a specific selection of products whereas larger businesses or stores will have multiple categories. Here are some examples of large brick and mortar stores: 

  • Walmart: This is the largest brick-and-mortar retailer in the world with more than 11,400 stores across 26 countries. 
  • Target: Another store that sells products across multiple different categories from groceries to clothing and even pet supplies. 
  • McDonald’s: Brick and mortar businesses can also include restaurant chains that started with a physical location and kept it that way. McDonald's is a great example of this.


Smaller brick-and-mortar businesses can include local grocery stores, gyms, pet stores, banks, convenience stores, and more. 

BlueCart marketplace benefits

What Is a Brick and Mortar School​​?

A brick-and-mortar school is similar to a store in that it involves having a physical location. It’s a school with an actual building. These can include grade schools, colleges, and community colleges that have physical buildings. For example, classroom buildings, living spaces or dorms, libraries, and other facilities. 

Brick and Mortar School Meaning

Brick and mortar schools will typically have classes and activities that occur regularly so that teachers and students can attend in person. There are some schools that offer classes online, but they don’t have physical buildings, and they don’t classify as brick and mortar schools. 

While online schools don’t classify as brick and mortar schools, those that do have physical locations can also offer online classes. 

Brick and Mortar Shop Takeaway

A way to summarize and define brick and mortar stores is a business with a physical location. It’s the opposite of an online business. Even though brick and mortar businesses can also have an online presence in conjunction with their physical location. 

These businesses offer goods and services through face-to-face transactions and engagements, like at shopping malls, banks, gyms, convenience stores, etc. Choosing which route to take for your business depends on your goals, preferences, budget, and more. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Brick and Mortar 

What Are Brick and Mortar Stores?

Brick and mortar refer to a street-side business that provides products and services to customers from a physical location. Customers come face-to-face in a store or office. These include grocery stores, banks, and convenience stores. 

What Are Online Stores Called?

Online stores are referred to as eCommerce stores. They can also be known as internet commerce or electronic commerce. It’s a place where the buying and selling of goods or services take place on the internet. During this process, there is typically a transfer of money and data in order to complete the transactions. 

What Are Examples of Traditional Brick and Mortar Stores?

Examples of traditional brick and mortar stores include Trader Joe's, Walmart, Target, and Home Depot. Many of today’s brick and mortar stores also have eCommerce stores associated with them. This provides customers with an option to shop face-to-face or online through digital sales. 

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