Marketers want their customers to have a positive experience interacting with them, but what they really want is to sell things. Right? Actually, the tide is shifting, as a growing number of surveys show. The number one emphasis among many large brands is now—not sales—but customer experience.

The importance of customer experience is highlighted in a survey just released by Accelent Consulting. The survey, released in January 2017, finds that the top three drivers of digital marketing agility (the ability to react quickly and effectively to customers and issues on the ground) are 1) enhancing the customer experience, 2) improving competitive position, and 3) increasing sales. (Yes, increasing sales came in third.) Furthermore, Accelent found that, among B2B customers, enhancing the customer experience is almost twice as important as increasing sales.

We see this in other surveys, too. EConsultancy’s Digital Marketing Trends report found that, when it came to the most “exciting” trends for 2016, enhancing customer experience topped everything else. Twenty-two percent of respondents gave this answer, with content marketing following at 15%, mobile marketing at 13%, and personalization at 11%. Similarly, Walker predicts that, by the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as a key brand differentiator.

You can look at other surveys, but they all pretty much say the same thing. Customer experience and customer engagement are at the top of marketers’ priority lists. How can customer experience be more important than sales? Because when customers have a positive experience with a brand, they remain loyal and engaged. Customers that are loyal and engaged with a brand keep buying from them, driving higher sales in the long run. Customer experience is the bedrock of everything else.

According to Genesys, the three top reasons to improve customer experience (often shortened to CX) are:

  • Improve customer retention (42%)
  • Improve customer satisfaction (33%)
  • Increase cross-selling and up-selling (32%)

Those are pretty good reasons to make CX a top priority for the coming year, don’t you think?

How do you help your clients improve their customer experience and thereby improve customer loyalty and, by extension, sales? A quick Google search yields a library of research and recommendations, but they all boil down to this: maintaining cross-channel consistency, ability to respond to customer preferences, and making things easy.

You cannot control every aspect of customer experience, but you can be knowledgeable about and offer recommendations in the areas you can. Whether it’s marketing only, or whether it includes logistics, fulfillment, or anything else, know how CX plays into your piece of the puzzle and be prepared to talk to your customers about how you can help.