When Ron Rogowski, Vice President, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, took the stage today at Agility Summit 2013, his message was simple:

“We’ve entered an age where the customer is so empowered, where they have so much knowledge before they even have an interaction with your company, that the experience they have has never been more important,” Rogowski said.

Rogowski noted that most people in online marketing and ecommerce are already trying to know their customers better in order to respond to their needs because it’s become a competitive advantage.

Agility Summit 2013

The problem: Not everyone has the same definition of “customer experience.” But Forrester defines it as how customers perceive their interactions with your company.

And that’s the tricky part. Since everyone is different, creating a great customer experience for each person becomes more difficult. But that doesn’t make it any less important, especially online.

“Ultimately, when we think about digital, we’re trying to cater to a person’s specific needs, without having to design one million different interactions,” Rogowski said. “We need smarter, more contextual interactions because those are critical to delivering those customer experiences.”

Rogowski covered a lot throughout the presentation, but left the audience with some recommendations to deliver a great customer experience across touchpoints and devices.

1) Use data the right way to understand customers.

The first step is to combine quantitative and qualitative data. Most companies have a lot of information about customer demographics, purchasing patterns, etc. But do those companies know what the real triggers are that entice people to certain behaviors?

Going to quantitative data to look at what’s happening, and then pattern-matching those journeys and behaviors can enable companies to predict the next likely customer behaviors. And that’s required to understand the needs, wants, and motivations of customers, as well as the non-verbal cues they are giving to brands throughout the purchase cycle.

2) Expand the definition of digital.

We’re living in a very digital world, and that world is becoming more and more connected. It’s crucial to take advantage of device capabilities, which requires companies to get creative. Although marketers are very reliant on data, marketing has been an art for a very long time, according to Rogowski.

Now, thanks to data, marketing is a lot more science – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still an art. Rogowski suggested using the science to understand what to deliver to customers and how, while using the art to understand what engages customers.

3) Focus on context, not touchpoints.

While there’s a lot of attention paid to touchpoints, Rogowski says touchpoints are only a portal to an experience. Instead of focusing on them first, companies should work the opposite way: Focus on the experience they want to deliver, and then match that experience to the right touchpoints.

4) Deliver unified, not uniform, experiences. 

A unified experience is not a uniform one. In fact, the word consistency is often associated with the word “uniform,” and that’s something Rogowski says brands should perhaps avoid. Instead, they should create and leverage unified experiences that deliver the right content at the right time.