The customer experience(CX) battleground is now 30,000 feet above the ground. In the war to achieve differentiation through experiences, Delta Airlines recently announced that main cabin passengers on its international flights will receive "Welcome Aboard" cocktails and hot towel service, among other perks, starting later this year.

Delta's competitors aren't sitting idly by. United has been offering passengers everything from skincare products to complimentary DirecTV viewing in a concerted internal effort to generate loyalty by emphasizing customer service.

Leading airlines aren't the only ones who are doubling down on CX. Virtually every major consumer brand has attempted to reposition itself as new technologies fuel the adoption of new processes. But not all of them are succeeding.

Customers are people first

While it's logical to assume that a shift toward a more consumer-centric ethos among major brands will benefit consumers, studies show that brands stand to gain as well. That's because most consumers are willing to pay for superior experiences. A 2018 PwC survey found that they'd spend up to 16% more on products and services if better CX was part of the package. Yet that same survey found that consumers are mostly underwhelmed by their typical experiences with brands.

Their chief complaint? Brands aren't able to provide a human touch.

This finding shouldn't be surprising. Over the past decade or so, consumer brands have invested heavily in technologies like chatbots, digital payments infrastructures, and data analysis tools, all in the name of understanding and serving their customers better. But in the midst of this technological arms race, many customers feel forgotten.

Fortunately, more companies are starting to realize that digital transformation does not equal customer experience. While technology can augment a brand's ability to understand customers, human insights should ultimately guide any CX strategy. With that in mind, here are three ways brands can deliver superior CX based on human nature.

1. Anticipate customers' needs.

Most people don't want to have to explain what they're looking for. That's why the most successful companies are the ones that can proactively make changes to products or services, or recommendations for new ones before customers ask for them.

A decade ago, Adobe was simply known as the creator of Photoshop. Today, nearly every designer would agree that Adobe's programs are an integral part of the design process, but not just because of its design tools. Over the years, the company has transformed its entire strategy to ensure that everything it does aligns with consumer preferences. This approach led to its adoption of the cloud and a subscription-based model and has ultimately cemented it as an experienced leader.

2. Appeal to their senses.

CX can be a misleading term. Customers are people, and the customer experience is really just a part of an individual's human experience, which occurs via five basic senses. These senses control our emotions and drive our decision-making, including the decisions we make with our wallets.

A growing number of marketers are beginning to realize that our sense of smell, in particular, can significantly impact our shopping behavior. Nike has found that adding scents to its stores increases customer intent to purchase by as much as 80%. Similarly, Singapore Airlines, a pioneer in scent marketing, has been delighting customers by replacing stale cabin air with a pleasant fragrance for more than three decades. Studies conducted by ScentAir, a scent marketing firm, found that 82% of consumers would linger longer in a space that was pleasingly scented and that 75% of our emotions are prompted by scent. Good smells can lead to good returns for brands.

3. Give them more choices.

No one wants to be told how to spend their money. That's why most people tend to ignore traditional advertising and hang up on telemarketers. Younger consumers are especially wary of traditional selling methods and keen on looking for unbiased opinions before making a purchase. They want to know that they're making the best choice with their money -- and that they have plenty of choices.

The desire for options extends beyond having access to a variety of products and services. Modern consumers want flexibility on how much they pay, not just what they pay for. Waitrose, a UK-based grocery chain, effectively capitalized on this desire with its "Pick Your Own Offer" scheme, which allows customers to decide which goods they would save money on. The response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive, and the grocer is continuing to expand it.

Better customer experiences have undoubtedly been made possible by technology, but brands must remember that more tech doesn't always mean happier customers. Focus on humans first and the tools second. Otherwise, tech will be all you have.