Heatmaps. Click maps. Bounce rate. Conversion rate. Funnel velocity.

More data is available to us than ever before on our customers and prospects. It’s tempting to reduce those who are willing to spend their valuable time and hard-earned dollars down to these simple terms. We’ve become so caught up in identifying every person by their lead status and likelihood to close.

But are we missing something by not looking at them as people as well? Here’s the problem. Data analysis is logical, straightforward. It makes sense out of a decidedly nonsensical world and enables us to make more informed decisions. But there’s a misstep here when building customer experiences: humans aren’t as logical or as straightforward as your data would lead you to believe and there are often many other factors at play that even the most rigorous analyst would not capture.

Consumer goods provides the classic example of data gone wrong. Coca-Cola debuted “New Coke,” which had outperformed the traditional Coca-Cola recipe in blind taste tests. All of the data pointed to it being a slam dunk once it hit the shelves and winning over some of the Pepsi diehards. It failed miserably. Even though New Coke tasted better, the familiarity of the old recipe was too much to overcome for consumers.

As this example illustrates, your data may not provide the complete story of what is happening with your customer experience. You can get very close, but you also need to remember that your visitors are human first, and a collection of your datapoints second.

7 Things to Understand about the Human Behind that Click

Think back to the last time you clicked on a marketing email. Maybe you had choked down some coffee in between marathon meetings and putting out fires to check a few emails and came across the vendor’s email. Or you were waiting for public transportation, scrolling through a few emails before hopping on a bus or train and popping open your book.

The point is that the decision to click and respond to an email or other marketing offer is competing against a whole host of competing real-life priorities. Don’t approach your customer experience as if those customers have time to agonize and think logically through every decision or acknowledge that there is more to your story of how you can help get them promoted and impress their boss.

1. They’re bombarded with messages. We live in a noisy world and it’s only getting noisier. Advertising is taking over more and more of our space and creating powerful narratives in our prospect’s mind. Advertising is not about what the vendor says; it’s how the vendor makes you feel that counts. When you cut through the noise, you win.

2. They are busy. Voice assistants, interactive retail kiosks, one-touch ordering – digital experiences today are designed to simplify and remove the friction from our everyday tasks. But ask anyone who struggles to dictate a response to a text while mentally running through your to-do list and pouring a cup of coffee; we are still as busy as ever. When you throw in family priorities, a social life, and other pressures, we just keep getting busier and busier.

3. Why are they so busy? They’re spending some of their time researching. Every marketer can recite that buyers are anywhere from 57 to 80 percent through the purchase process by the time they engage with sales. We’re still not really taking it to heart when we think about content and messaging. We view these as the buildup to a transaction rather than a conversation that the prospect leads by asking questions. Your new marketing mantra should be to answer every question your prospect has about your product or service. Don’t ever let them get to a 404 page or a dead-end online; do in-depth interviews and analysis to uncover every single question a prospect has on their way to a purchase. Instead of guides for the latest trends or a few stellar case studies as the cornerstone of your content, start with gain a fine-grained and detailed understanding of your visitors’ questions and use that to guide your content.

4. They know about your competitors and are researching them too. The in-depth analysis requires time and money, but worth the investment if you want to stay competitive. Marketing and customer experience departments everywhere are slowly ceding control over to customers by creating more helpful and engaging digital experiences. If your buying process is a dance where the customer leads, your competitive landscape is the handful of suitors cutting in. Make sure your dance is unforgettable for the customer, and not because you’re stepping on their toes trying to lead.

5. They crave authenticity. Have you ever thought about the person who writes the emails that you receive from vendors? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. They’re often not personal and “feel” like an automated email coming from a company. Even worse, some feel like a deliberate drip of content intended to stoke your interest. Instead, rather than take your prospects through your set of emails with targeted messaging, focus on what they are telling you first (and not just on a landing page). Look at what they are searching for on your site, what pages they visit and how they landed on your site, as well as your conversations with previous prospects at this stage. Try to put yourself in the mind of your prospect and use that to create a customer experience that is authentic and empathetic.

6. They want to trust you. Even the most naive website visitor knows that marketers “follow” them online. Where many marketers miss the mark, however, is in how you use that data. Does it feel manipulative or helpful? Your customers want to trust you with their online behavior, but not to constantly push them toward purchase. Focus on what will help your customers as they research using that data.

7. They don’t want to feel like they are being marketed to. View your marketing as a helpful partner or concierge that is a resource for prospects as they research, not an extension of the sales team pushing out “buy now” messages. If you’re trying to constantly push them toward purchase, but hiding certain facts that may mean that your product isn’t a good fit, you’ll not only end up losing the sale, but also having invested more time into the lead conversion. View your customer touchpoints as opportunities to engage and help customers, not just opportunities to trot out your latest marketing message.

Use these principles to guide your customer experience transformation and focus on building the digital experience that your customers need – not the one your marketing team wants. Look at your data as only one part of the story and acknowledge where your data is going to mislead your marketers.

For more on building customer experiences, download this report from Forrester: The Five Essential Steps to Plan Your CX Transformation.