I’m trying new brands every day, looking for the best new stand-by products. Turns out, I’m not the only one. Loyalty is low these days — consumers are on “The Hunt.” Switching behavior is running rampant as people look for deals– 33% of consumers are changing the stores they visit (up 13% since 2008) and 57% are buying different brands (up 5% since 2008, according to comScore.  The internet is getting more and more important in aiding that search.

This is a scary environment for businesses – but it’s also a huge opportunity. Just think – you can acquire a ton of new customers if you can get them the information they need in The Hunt.

Where is The Hunt happening? Two words – Facebook and Twitter. This makes sense; people are searching for product information where conversations are happening and they can get an inside scoop. In fact, 23% of Twitter users are specifically looking for deals or product reviews.

Facebook and Twitter are mainstream and attract an exciting group of consumers – it’s not just for college students anymore. Facebook’s demographic profile mirrors that of the general population – even my Dad, a self-described tech laggard with an AOL email account, is an avid Facebook user. Facebook and Twitter users spend more money online than the average non-networked online shopper. I recently heard an industry analyst say, “Ignore Facebook and Twitter at your own peril.” This traffic trends graph from Compete.com drives his sentiment home.

How can you help consumers find you in The Hunt? That same question has been inspiring us and it drove the innovation in our new SocialConnect™ social marketing suite of products that we’re launching today. SocialConnect weaves your brand and social networks together to acquire new customers, promote loyalty and most importantly, drive sales.

GolfSmith, for example is enabling customers to post helpful product reviews, answers and stories directly from the GolfSmith website to their personal Facebook profiles. All of the poster’s friends – on average 150 potential customers – will see the review in their news feed. Some of our clients are seeing up to 28% of new reviews being shared on Facebook profile. That’s a tremendous amount of free advertising to potential customers from a source that people trust most – their friends.

Gina reviews her club, it posts to her wall, and...

...it shows up in Maria's News Feed

Benefit Cosmetics is taking a different approach and giving shoppers access to their full product catalog directly on Facebook, where new customers are already hanging out. They allow customer to browse and submit reviews all on Facebook, while being only a click away from the purchase path.

Customer acquisition in this time of trial is a big opportunity, but there’s a hidden challenge businesses can’t ignore. Given that switching behavior is high, you really have to work to keep your current customers and any new ones you win. Flash sites like RueLaLa.com and Groupon are doing a great job of this right now – they attract people back to their sites by offering something new to check out on a daily basis. They’re smart – this frequent communication appeals to heavy online buyers, who spend 20 times the amount of money online that light shoppers do– about $592 vs $30. (comScore) Capture their interest and you’ve got a goldmine.

The Container Store and Laithwaites are two companies appealing to this demographic in a creative way. They regularly tweet user-generated content like product reviews to their corporate Twitter accounts. They can filter what’s tweeted, tailoring the content based on seasonal factors, like showing champagne reviews around Valentine’s Day, for example.

It’s official – The Hunt is on and the battles to win and keep the next generation of loyal shoppers are being won on Facebook and Twitter. Bazaarvoice is paying attention to this and the SocialConnect product suite is our answer. Expect a lot more exciting news and investments in this area in the future.

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