There are many changes currently unfolding in the social media landscape that will have a profound impact on the buying experience as we know it today. Here are the top trends you really have to know about and you can’t afford to ignore this year if you are a retail professional. Are you ready to evolve?

Trend 1 – Social commerce: The use of social media in the context of e-commerce is gaining traction and the shopping experience is finally becoming more sociable. An increasing number of e-commerce sites are starting to incorporate basic (but powerful) functionality to provide different ways for people to interact. Customers are now allowed, among other things, to share purchases and recommendations with friends, which opens a wide range of opportunities for companies. If you are wondering where all this social commerce concept is headed, take a look at this video about The Future of Shopping.

Trend 2 – Group buyingCollective buying saw an important growth last year and will keep on growing in 2011. Key players such as Groupon.com, LivingSocial, and BuyWithMe are set to drive this trend to new heights. Matching products and services at significantly reduced prices on the condition that a minimum number of buyers make the purchase  is proving to be an interesting alternative to move inventories and sales for businesses.

Trend 3 – Online Video: Did you know that 89 million people, only in the US, are going to watch 1.2 billion videos today? Online video is quickly becoming the preferred way of consuming online content within all age groups globally. Online video viewing growth is outpacing ad spending growth by far. Are you leveraging this powerful, social medium? Brands have a unique opportunity to connect with customers, express their core values and deliver messages with different objectives in creative ways people like. Be honest, who wasn’t touched by the viral power of VW’s The Force video recently?

Trend 4 – Social search engine optimization (SEO): Recent changes introduced by search engine leader Google show the increasing importance of social media buzz and quality content in relation to positioning within organic search results. If you want to increase your visibility through search engines, you now have to start taking care of your social media efforts too. New factors such as numbers of followers/tweets/retweets on Twitter, number of fans/likes/shares on facebook,  the quality of your shared information, among other things, will increasingly affect the authority and trust of your social media links and therefore your SERPs. This trend will only grow stronger in importance throughout 2011 and beyond.

Trend 5 – Virtual commerce: Virtual goods are a fundamental part of social gaming, a market that is expected to pass $1 billion this year according to eMarketer. With this market potential I am sure you can see why so many brands are starting to creatively think about how they can tap into what is considered an aspirational youth market with the power consumers of tomorrow. If you think social currency – already in use by top brands to transact virtual goods using gift cards – can enter the mainstream as a trusted global currency, you are right. Virtual commerce is a reality that is coming sooner than you think.

Trend 6 – Mobile: There are 3.4 billion people with mobile devices today (roughly 1/2 half the population of the planet) and the number keeps growing. Just imagine, 1/3 of global internet users access the Internet only via mobile. Add the surge and power of geo-location social networks such as Foursquare, Facebook Places and Gowalla and you have the ability to reach customers anytime exactly where they are. Just out of curiosity, is your website mobile-friendly?

Trend 7 – Social Media Adoption: Consumer usage and usage frequency of social media is still rising across all generations. From a business perspective Social Media has proven by now to be a valuable, cost-effective marketing tactic to reach, connect and engage your customers around your brand in ways you could not imagine before. Every day more brands are jumping into the social media wagon to avoid being left behind. Are you still not convinced? Wake up, it’s time to rethink your marketing mix.

Would you like to find out how your brand can respond to these new challenges? Contact us for a free consultation and let’s get creative!