Marketers may recognize the need for experiences, but they’re still falling short. Brands simply aren’t doing enough to deliver a compelling cross-channel experience.

In fact, the latest Forrester U.S. Customer Experience Index reports that the overall quality of the U.S. customer experience is stagnating—and differentiation on the basis of customer experience is evaporating—as more brands become mediocre. Brands that aren’t keeping up with changing customer desires are quickly losing value.

Why? For far too long, the focus has been on the customer experience, placing product before purpose. Instead, marketers need to see customers as they really are: Humans with hopes and dreams, desires and feelings. Humans who respond to personal connections, enjoy sensory experiences and build emotional bonds. Even in the digital world, the need to deliver a human experience becomes even more important.

Connecting on a personal level comes first, before any transaction will ever take place.

What’s human? Start with time

Instead of looking at the market through a wide-angle lens, let’s zoom in on what is most important to the human.

Time is one valuable resource that always seems to be in short supply; the digital world can help make the most of time by simplifying tasks or it can fill the days with useless data. Time is precious; for marketers, being an exceptional experience maker is about engaging the right person in the right moment with the right experience. That can make the difference between time that’s well spent or time that’s wasted.

The smartest brands recognize the value of using time to help people be more present in the moment by appealing to the five senses.

Instead of “selling” to customers, are you telling stories that encourage thought and reflection? Are you creating human experiences, reinventing interactions, and breaking down traditional barriers? Today, marketers are equipped with the right enablers—data, technology, talent—to design timeless experiences that lead to enduring brands. By investing in digital capabilities you can tell stories that connect with customers on the most personal level: boosting confidence, easing fears or simply bringing a smile.

Three crucial building blocks

Where should companies begin their journey to deliver a more human-centered experience? Here are three building blocks for creating experiences that meet the human need to be seen, valued and heard:

Capture and respond to emotional data: About 80 percent of decisions humans make every day are driven by emotion. Emotional and traditional data can provide insight into how context—where they are, how they are feeling—influences behavior. By developing a deeper understanding of emotion’s impact on how an individual responds to an offer, communication or interaction, marketers can begin to optimize their creative approach.

Invest in the digital capability to deliver personalized experiences: Every hour of the day, consumers are surrounded by digital stimulation and disruption. And they are looking for experiences that touch them on a personal level. Brands are challenged to use the right technologies, channels, and timing to create a human experience. But there’s good news: In the coming year, 63 percent of CMOs expect their innovation budgets to increase, per Gartner. Smart marketers will take advantage of this opportunity to invest in digital platforms and strategies that will allow them to engage with customers on a more human level.

Rethink how products and services are delivered: Keeping the human experience top of mind should become a priority that’s recognized across the organization. From manufacturing to supply chain to customer service and beyond, every functional area needs to embrace the human experience.

Some brands are successfully reinventing how products and services are created and delivered, disrupting entire markets with a human experience designed around creating a sense of belonging. Retail companies are redefining beauty standards, offering individualized styling and delivering a complete lifestyle experience. Fitness brands offer equipment, classes and coaching, all designed to create a sense of community around the customer.

Marketing is no longer a one-way street marked by advertising and promotion. Now, it’s a continuous journey focused on building connections, delivering experiences and earning trust. Companies that are able to make their customers think and feel have an opportunity to generate unparalleled consumer devotion, bring out the endorphins and redefine what a technology- and innovation-driven relationship can be. Creating customer journeys with an emotional “human-centric” experience can help shape successful brands, and in turn, lead to considerable financial benefits.