Video continues to win over both marketers and consumers, offering a rich medium to attract, educate, delight and increasingly convert viewers into customers. YouTube is already the world’s second largest social network and search engine, while the mainstream crossover of micro-video from Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, MixBit and animated GIFs was one of the defining content trends of 2014. Mobile devices and tablets already represent more than 25% of all online viewership, share which is expected to reach 50% or more within the next three years

Online Video Viewing by Device

But as we approach 2015, online video is still a media landscape dominated by user-generated content, music videos and media companies, despite significant effort and investment by brands. It’s time for marketers to step up their content game. For one, research has found when consumers have a good branded video experience they’re 39% more likely to research a featured brand or product more, 36% more likely to tell a friend and 19% more likely to share other content from that brand. But more importantly, there are three emerging trends in video that have the potential to dramatically impact marketers’ results — and ROI — on social and other channels:

 1. YouTube will take a cue from Pinterest and become an e-commerce referral engine. YouTube’s beta test of Video Interactivity Templates (interactive branded overlay cards that appear in the upper-lefthand corner of a playing video) is another sign the network is working to give video viewers the ability to buy products directly from YouTube. As YouTube deploys these capabilities, it will emerge as a major social commerce referral alternative to Pinterest and Facebook. Amazon will also deploy more embedded video call-to-actions, but in a closed loop system that refers traffic and sales back to itself.

Social Referral Traffic to E-Commerce

Social Referral Traffic Volume for E-Commerce for Facebook Twitter and Pinterest

Recent data from an AOL Platforms study on paid and organic advertising already indicates YouTube has a greater effect on consumers’ purchasing decisions than Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+. After tracking 500 million clicks and 15 million website conversions during early 2014, the report authors determined YouTube is the most influential social network for introducing new products (the first funnel stage in a customer’s path to purchase) and driving sales (the last step of the funnel). YouTube is also the most likely to convert users into buyers based on video ads alone, where purchasers had no exposure to a product on other social channels. The introduction of direct conversion cards inside YouTube will further strengthen the social network’s standing as an e-commerce purchase generator in 2015.

YouTube is the most influential social network for e-commerce purchases

 2. Shareable video becomes more of a science (while still preserving the art). Big brands and agencies are increasingly using biometrics like eye movement and skin conductance to measure how much viewers will like and share their videos. This type of data-driven approach helped fine-tune Budweiser’s Super Bowl XLVIII hit “Puppy Love,” a spot with 53 million views and a 97% positive sentiment rate on YouTube. But even if you’re not a top global advertisers like Anheuser-Busch InBev, hyper-targeted, promoted dark social posts are letting marketers experiment with different video approaches and edits in order to perfect their audience appeal.

 3. Autoplay will challenge pre-roll as a social video format, further blurring the lines between content and ads. YouTube remains the go-to platform for online video, but new autoplay video ad offerings from Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr will force more branded video to stand on its own entertainment value, rather than as an ad placed before a different desired piece of content. Instagram’s new 15-second autoplay spots, first released in October 2014, already have buy in from Disney, Activision, Lancome, Banana Republic and CW, offering segmented audience targeting by age, gender and country. Similarly, Tumblr’s video units have launced with creative from Lexus, Unilever’s Axe, Universal Pictures, JCPenney Hulu and CW, with the ability to target by gender, location and user interest.

Overall, data capture from newer approaches to creative testing alongside better, deeper audience data from platforms like Facebook and YouTube will enable brands and agencies to deliver targeted, personalized and objectively better video experiences for customers in 2015. Video will also more directly influence customer purchasing, as YouTube — as well as video newcomers like Facebook and Twitter — seek to position video as a full-funnel media format that drives conversions.

As marketers, social and mobile will provide us with an amazing opportunity to be more effective and relevant with our video storytelling in the new year. Let’s not squander it.

To learn more about the most important trends in video marketing we’re paying attention to heading into 2015, download our latest report, “Essential Video Marketing Trends for 2015.”