Customer experience is your brand. How you service your customers across channels can either make or break your business.

$41 billion is lost by U.S. companies each year due to poor customer service (NewVoiceMedia).

Smart and savvy marketers and business leaders know they must prioritize investments in systems, technology, infrastructure, data, and even training of staff that help them understand and serve and delight their customers. Customer experience is one way brands can stand out from the crowd in even the most crowded marketplaces.

  1. Brands will prioritize and streamline customer touch points.

Over the past few years, brands have become quite overzealous in adopting new technologies and communication mediums with the hopes of better serving their clients. While there has been some good that has come from this in areas such as innovation and customer service improvements, there have also been some frustrations.

Many of these technologies have been patched on top of old processes, integrated quickly without proper planning or testing, and have at times caused more problems than good. What was intended to create more a meaningful and simplified customer experience actually did the opposite. Many users were left overwhelmed and confused, often leading to the dreaded abandoned shopping cart.

In 2017, we will see brands start to better streamline customer touch points to improve the customer experience. They will do the “double click” and go deep with a focus on optimizing every point versus trying to be everywhere all the time.

Smart marketers will be reminded again that success will come with refocus on being something to somebody versus nothing to nobody.

  1. Brands will realize they don’t really know their customer like they should.

Marketers are going to have a tough awakening in 2017 realizing they may not know their customer as well as they think they do. 2016 was a year many social- and digital-savvy marketers focused on shiny objects such as live video, more integrated use of chat bots, integrated social support, and the list goes on.

While their email subscriber lists may be growing like wildfire, their knowledge of the people on these lists is not catching up.

After marketers try to make sense of their return on their investment in customer experience improvements in 2016, they will realize they lost sight of why they were chasing many of the shiny objects to begin with. Many of them know they lost touch with their clients, prospects, and even partners.

In 2017, they will quickly refocus to realign efforts and investment in systems such as customer relationship management (CRM), support, and interactive technologies. The goal: to get reconnected personally (in a human way) with their customers, prospects, and broader community.

  1. Data takes center stage again and will drive technology investment prioritization.

I don’t think there will ever be a year that data is not a prediction or trend. I’ve worked in technology for more than 20 years with brands the size of entrepreneurs to Fortune 50. I can validate that every year, data has been a key focus.

The truth is that data is not just a fad or a buzzword. Data is at the heart of business and understanding and serving our customers. In 2017, marketers working in organizations of all sizes will realize they need to simplify the way they look at, think about, and use data.

Marketers will assess and choose technologies based on a multi-dimensional view. For example, they will look at customer service technologies such as chat bots as not only a way to deliver better service with improved self-service options, but also as a means to extract data to help empower a live agent, learn about the customer, improve service, and even feed the data back to product and service development teams.

While some brands are already doing this, we’ll see the trend grow into more organizations as they become more focused on prioritization and technologies that can provide multiple benefits.

They will quickly prioritize what their goals are and what they want to achieve with the data. The days of investing in bloated systems that promise the world but deliver little, due to organizational teams without the knowledge or bandwidth to leverage the systems and data, will start to decrease.

I look forward to seeing even more small and midsize businesses learn and understand how powerful data can be in helping them create amazing customer experiences.

  1. New media such as live video meets the conversion funnel and ROI.

2016 was definitely the year new media and communication platforms such as live video took off. Many social-savvy marketers jumped head first into these technologies, yet found it difficult to align the results back to a solid ROI. Often, they didn’t know who was attending the live event. Unfortunately, even if they did know, most brands were unable to dig deeper than a name or Twitter handle.

In 2017, we’ll see marketers start thinking beyond simply the sales funnel, which has changed in recent years. Buyers are on less of a straightforward path to purchase and more on a zig-zag journey, and today’s “funnel” is as much about conversions as it is about sales. For marketers, and digging deeper into understanding both and developing the sales/conversion funnels that help them nurture business is going to be key. These sales and conversion funnels will need to focus on end-to-end user experience designed in a way that it provides value to the end user and creates the most valuable experience possible. They will be integrated into everything from their websites, blogs, social platforms, email marketing, and more.

Many consumers and leaders, even in the business community in B2B markets, are getting smart about conversion funnels. Marketers are going to have a tougher time not only getting their customers into the funnel, but also keeping them there once they dive in (willingly, you hope). That’s also where the importance of using a CRM platform as part of your integrated marketing efforts comes in. Tracking this information by way of a spreadsheet, or having your sales team keeping it in their heads, is most definitely not the way forward.

These shifts in focus on the conversion funnel and measurement of ROI will also put much pressure on the social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others as marketers will demand more data to understand the value and return on their marketing investments. They will begin to ask for more customer data, and it’s doubtful these problems will all be solved in 2017.  I believe this is a challenge we’ll continue to see for years to come as the customer-facing systems are changing faster than the measurement and service systems can keep up.

What trends do you see taking hold in 2017 that will help drive and improve customer experience?

This article has been brought to you in part by SAP Digital CRMVisit the SAP Store to find out how SAP Digital CRM can help you supercharge your marketing and sell more, and register for the free 30-day trial.

Blog originally published on SAP Digital.