Before rolling out proximity-enabled apps, retailers must be ready to execute carefully, ensuring not to annoy customers or violate their privacy. With so much to gain, retailers can’t afford to get it wrong. They may not get a second chance for the attention of participating customers.

The potential gains are substantial. Beacons hold the promise of getting customers off the computer and into their stores against the growing online marketplace chipping away at brick-and-mortar retail. The promise of what exactly? Consumer decisions often germinate with online research — comparing options, prices, features and availability. What is it about beacons that might draw consumers away from free shipping and competitive pricing? After all, the buy is only a mouse-click away.

Statistics show consumers are not always clicking “Buy”, at least not yet. Far more shoppers research products online and then make their purchase in stores. Shopping is still a real-world experience for many who prefer handling a physical product, talking to retail staff and exchanging or returning items.

In 2003, US shoppers spent $93 billion in online retail sales. Within a decade that figure rose $322 billion. As online shopping grows, retailers need to up their game or risk losing out to competition in the virtual aisles. Beacons can enhance the shopping experience with rewards, time-limited offers and surprise deals to keep customers coming back.

Studies show that real-world shoppers are far more likely to make impulse buys and unplanned purchases than online shoppers. Beacons can help with this too, alerting customers when in proximity to previously purchased or wish list items. If these alerts are not relevant to the customer, chances are high that they will delete the retail app and never look back.

Brick-and-mortar retailers should be thinking about ways to help customers in ways not possible online with the aid of beacons. The business data to be gained from beacon interaction has massive potential, but the customer’s positive first experience is crucial to the success of proximity-based consumer interaction.