This four-part series presents the top findings from The Driving Business Growth Series, developed in partnership with Google and based on a recent survey of 514 executives at companies averaging more than $1 billion in 2016 revenues. Previous posts looked at measurement as an engine of growth, the new role of local and how audiences are now crowds of individuals.

Survey respondents have been divided into two groups based on performance. Leaders significantly exceeded their top 2016 business goal and comprise roughly one-fourth of the sample. The remaining 75% are designated the mainstream for comparison.

Throughout the research, the differences between these groups are significant and educational; leaders are consistently further along in building organizations that are data-driven, focused on larger business goals and committed to customer experience as a path to growth.

Let’s look at three secrets to leading in customer experience..

#1 Leaders are internalizing a customer-led model

Discussions of modern marketing usually center on knowing and serving the customer, and rightfully so. But it’s easy to forget why brands have come to obsess over customer experience; they lost control. New technologies sparked changes in consumer behavior and in less than a decade, the customer had the upper hand.

Executives in virtually every sector know this to be true, but knowledge doesn’t necessarily equal action. That’s contingent on whether an organization believes that they will be affected and need to adapt.

Many companies are reluctant or unable to make the significant changes, but leaders have operationalized a customer-centric view. They recognize that their growth is directly tied to their ability to know their customers as individuals and to provide a connected experience to them regardless of channel, device or platform.

While marketers broadly believe that it is important to understand and enable the customer journey, nearly 90% of leading marketers are responding by building teams that uniquely solve for end-to-end customer experiences and journeys, across channels and devices.

Similarly, while there is industry-wide consensus on the importance of first-party data, marketing leaders are 72% more likely than the mainstream to strongly agree that they are investing in improving the quality and/or volume of the first-party data they capture.

#2 Leaders can’t move fast enough

In the digital age, time has become the ultimate luxury. As consumers we define the best experiences in a number of ways, but speed is a constant, especially when we are mobile.

A strong connection between speed and satisfaction is taken for granted by leaders. 93% believe improvements in speed for mobile sites and apps are helping to drive increases in their customer satisfaction scores.

Leaders ensure that faster performance stays in the spotlight through measurement. They are 44% more likely than the mainstream to strongly agree that they are using KPIs like page-load time and transaction time to improve the speed of mobile experiences.

This attitude necessarily drives investment; 71% of leading marketers have increased investment in technology that make site experiences faster.

For leading businesses, speed of service is a customer priority with internal implications – they see that to make experiences as seamless as possible requires faster insight. 68% of leading marketers agree that they’re using real-time insights to make faster decisions about their marketing and customer experience strategies.

#3 Leaders establish the profit connection

Like any priority, the ability to deliver personalized customer experiences requires a commitment of time and budget.

Forward leaning organizations might make the investment based on their long-term vision and the belief that custom experiences will differentiate them. But most companies require a financial argument for the short to medium term, and find it challenging. More than three-quarters of mainstream marketers state that proving return on investment is the main barrier to investing more in personalized experiences.

Fortunately, companies that have already taken the plunge overwhelmingly connect personalization with profit; 90% of organizations that invest in personalized consumers experiences agree it significantly contributes to increasing business profitability.

The full research reports in The Driving Business Growth Series are available via Econsultancy subscription.