Shopping in 2011: More Buzz, More Freebies

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Advertising on TV and in newspapers is so last year. In 2011, the most important tool for promoting a product will be consumers themselves, according to a new report from Trendwatching.com, a firm that tracks global consumer trends.

All in all, the trends highlighted in this report generally represent a positive shift in the way consumers and companies do businesses. Next year, consumers are expected to share, broadcast and recommend more products to friends, family and acquaintances through social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the firm predicts, which will lead shoppers to base their purchasing decisions increasingly on what people they know say about a given product rather than what the TV says about it.

In a very real sense, word of mouth shopping is about to make a comeback.

“Consumers will talk more about brands in 2011 than ever before, and opportunities for brands that create engaging content that consumers want to share, or that have personalities that actually engage consumers will also be bigger than ever,” the site says.

Largely in response to this, Trendwatching also believes that companies will try to encourage consumers to talk more about their products by offering more virtual status symbols like badges and awards when shoppers make a purchase. This way, consumers will be more likely to boast about a recent product they’ve bought, and will promote the company in the process.

But companies won’t stop there when reaching out to consumers next year.

Trendwatching predicts that more brands will offer random acts of kindness in order to engage with their customers by offering free gifts. As an example, the report highlights one British flower delivery service that actually searches for users on Twitter who have posted something sad, and then contacts those users with an offer for free flowers to brighten their day.

The site also thinks that consumers will focus less on owning products and more on sharing them, a phenomenon that MainStreet highlighted recently in our Secondhand Nation series. As the report notes, not only is it better for the planet to borrow and share resources – like renting a car through Zipcar or sharing clothes through Threadless – but it’s also more cost efficient.

We would add at least one trend to this list, which is that 2011 will probably go down as the year that people learned to splurge again. American consumers have already opened up their wallets more during this holiday season than any time since the recession began, and it seems likely they will continue to do so.

And can you blame them? Americans have been cutting corners for more than two years and need to let loose a little, though we’d wager that they’ll continue to look for deals and focus on getting the most for their money.

To help you make the most of your money, check out our smart spending tips, regularly updated with the best deals around.

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