Seamlessness is quite the buzzword these days. It seems that brands of all shapes and sizes are vying to achieve it — from cars, to shopping, to payments, to even “co-living” communities, the storied “seamless” experience seems to be everywhere. But are the experiences that we think are seamless in fact delivering superior experiences?

Many firms equate seamlessness with effectively integrating technologies. And that’s important — but it misses the key concept that great seamless experience starts where all great experiences start: with research and customer understanding.

How can firms get closer to the coveted “seamless” experience?

• Understand whether the experience is working. Seamless experiences don’t just happen — they are intentionally researched and designed. Making sure that each piece of an experience fits together with the others requires evaluative research, using methods such as usability and multivariate testing. Without putting your experiences through these tests, you risk creating something that might be a good idea but won’t work well enough . . . so whether or not it’s a good idea doesn’t matter.

• Understand whether it’s helping the customer, too. Seamlessness doesn’t begin and end with the experience itself — there is a higher order of seamlessness that all firms also need to be thinking about: How well do the experiences you’re offering seamlessly integrate into customers’ lives? Is this something that people want or need? Is it solving a problem? These are all questions that require discovery research, using methods such as ethnography and in-depth interviews. Forgo this research, and you’ll create something that might work well but that nobody cares about (ahem, Google+, Segway . . .).

• Build a research practice to support both types of understanding. Smart firms recognize that in a world where seamlessness is increasingly important, you need a research practice that supports creating experiences that both work well and are helpful to customers in meaningful ways. To do this, they are not only prioritizing research but also re-imaging the role that research plays in their organizations.

I’ll be digging into these challenges in more detail from the mainstage at Forrester’s CX SF 2018 on the morning of October 2, along with several other Forrester analysts and a great lineup of industry speakers — including Google Senior Director Ben Galbraith, Amazon Alexa Voice Services VP Pete Thompson, and Charles Schwab EVP and Chief Digital Officer Neesha Hathi. Check out specifics about the event here — and I hope to see you there!