Technology innovation is happening all around us, and at a pace that’s never been seen before. While this is leading to many exciting developments across verticals, it also means that keeping up-to-speed with the changes impacting your own industry becomes a job all its own. For CMOs, this is certainly the case.

Recent research from Gartner revealed that marketing departments will outspend CIOs on technology in 2017, highlighting just how important marketing technology has become.

Technology investments are important for any company, but simply spending more money is not the answer. A study by Kitewheel found that only 6 percent of agencies use all their marketing technology weekly, and 66 percent of companies say a skills shortage is to blame. So on top of everything else, CMOs have to make sure they’re recruiting the right talent with the right skills.

In an example of just how daunting navigating this sector can be, Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic shows that there were 3,874 technology solutions on the market in 2016. When Brinker first published the graphic in 2011, there were around 150.

CMOs need some help, and one way to focus on what’s important is to look forward to the trends that are going to dominate in 2017. Here are my top three smart bets for the year ahead:

IoT

According to Pew Research Center, 95 percent of Americans own a mobile phone. For millennials, smartphones are even more important and a vital part of everything they do — and that includes shopping. Therefore, harnessing the power of smartphones is crucial for providing a seamless customer experience. Research from the Data & Marketing Association shows that 80 percent of millennials use their phone in-store, and 74 percent are willing to receive location-based mobile alerts. By investing in areas like beacon technology, businesses can ensure that they’re delivering the right message to the right people at the right time.

Consumers expect to have the ability to interact with businesses in a variety of ways. Whether by tapping their smartwatches to pay for goods or having a seamless shopping experience on their tablets, consumers expect businesses to offer a connected, personalized experience.

Analytics and AI

As the world becomes more connected, the amount of data companies can gather on their customers and their habits is increasing exponentially. At the moment, CMOs and their departments are simply not taking full advantage of this data, which provides incredible insight into how their business is operating.

For example, the Data & Marketing Association reports that 70 percent of companies still don’t collect data on their customers from social media channels, despite the fact that 47 percent of marketers see social channels as offering the greatest opportunities for companies to convert data into sales.

By using data, companies can get the insights they need to make the right decisions, and by analyzing the huge amounts of data available and leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning — tools which are increasingly available to businesses of all sizes — companies can make technology decisions that they know reflect what their customers want and need.

Application UX

In 2017, mapping the customer journey will become one of the key trends for companies and brands. A crucial part of the customer experience today is mobile, and unless you pay attention to the details of how your app works, customers will have a negative view of your brand.

As we’ve seen, smartphones are a key tool for most people in the U.S. today, especially the increasingly important millennial demographic. As these mobile natives begin to have more disposable income, they’ll expect to have the ability to seamlessly move between your brick-and-mortar store to your website and smartphone app. It’s crucially important for CMOs to make mobile app development a key component of their ongoing technology investment strategy, and ensure that the app takes advantage of any new features available through improved software and hardware.

There is unlikely to be a slowdown in marketing technology innovation in the coming years, and by making smart technology investments, businesses can continue to give customers what they want and keep them coming back for more. CMOs should redouble their efforts to make sure they’re acquiring the best solutions on the market and using them in the most beneficial way possible.

By investing in the latest technology, businesses can also boost employee productivity and increase engagement.