We’re now well into the new year and many of us are already knee-deep into our sales and marketing strategies for 2011. Focusing on how to capture more sales is a good thing, but it can be beneficial to stop and take a look at some emerging market trends before becoming even more embroiled in the year’s strategies. One of the most critical for many businesses will be the convergence of online and offline commerce.

This year will bring an unprecedented increase and focus on internet and mobile technologies, but not just to influence online sales. These avenues are set to affect sales that happen through other, offline channels – like bricks and mortar stores. Even back in 2009, Forrester found that 42% of all in-store purchasers were affected by the internet activity of the buying customer. Expect that figure to jump up to 53% by 2014.

Some cluey businesses are taking advantage of this by guiding their customers to a conversion online for redeeming offline. Others are switching it around, bringing an online component to their stores. A great example of this is the in-store kiosk idea where customers can go online, browse product availability and then jump off to grab their purchase in-store. And of course more and more businesses are realising the importance of mobile site functionality as customers use their phones to find products online while they’re physically in store comparing prices and user reviews.

Still, many marketers are lagging behind when it comes to optimising critical mobile commerce strategies. Central to an effective m-commerce strategy is site search functionality. Customers need to easily search, locate and compare products on their phones. Help them out by combining data sources for them – integrate user reviews with site search for your online shoppers, giving them the ability to search for products by how they are rated and reviewed.

For most marketers, the capability to take advantage of this year’s emerging trends will just be a matter of reviewing their on-site technologies already in place, ensuring search functionality across e-and m-commerce channels and taking advantage of the ability to converge data. The benefits are significant – boost your brand, improve customer relationships and enhance sales opportunities for the year ahead.