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Social proof tactics to build trust with Generation Z

March 26th 2019

Consumers born between 1995 and 2010 – often known as Generation Z or Gen Z – have grown up with digital media and social networks. When marketing to this digitally savvy cohort, it’s important to deliver authentic-feeling, ultra-relevant content on the channels they trust.

Our research shows that shoppers belonging to Gen Z are particularly interested in the behavior of others when making a purchase decision. Yet many retailers fail to capitalize on this opportunity across channels.

Here, we’ll cover the social proof tactics Gen Z expects when making a purchase, and how you can use these to build trust in web and email marketing.

Influencer social proof

Shoppers born after 1995 are more likely than older generations to be persuaded by celebrity and influencer marketing. Almost two thirds (60 percent) say they are more interested in brands that have been endorsed by a well-known individual they respect and like.

The key is that the celebrity must be someone who the target audience respects. The endorsement must feel authentic, and not like a “sell-out.” It’s also crucial that the personality aligns with your audience’s values. Gen Z is conscious of social and environmental issues, and won’t be impressed by celebrities who demonstrate a lack of awareness.

Brands hoping to resonate with youthful consumers can also work with micro influencers: individuals with a significant, highly engaged following in their niche, such as rockabilly fashion.

The appeal of Instagram stars over TV celebrities is that they sit comfortably in a user’s social feed alongside posts from friends. As such, they tend to appear more credible than celebrity endorsers. The best influencer content provides valuable insights on how to use or wear products in real-life situations.

ASOS is one brand using influencers to great effect. The fashion giant has grown influencers from within by providing shoppers with useful tips on how to style and shop the latest looks.

Influencer marketing example on website and instagram, from ASOSASOS uses influencer marketing across social and web channels

What makes ASOS’ ‘Insiders’ a great marketing initiative is the fact that they have a significant presence across the website, as well as all of the brand’s social channels.

After peers and social media, branded websites are the next most influential channel for younger shoppers. However, we found that very few brands (22 percent) are amplifying the influencer effect on their eCommerce website or in marketing emails.

Most surprisingly, not one of the beauty retailers we surveyed incorporates influencer marketing consistently across channels. Young adults are especially conscious of their appearance – 30 percent follow fashion influencers, while more than a quarter (27 percent) are interested in beauty influencers. Beauty brands could be missing out by not highlighting influencers on-site.

User Generated Content (UGC)

However, brands looking for ways to resonate with Gen Z shouldn’t necessarily throw all their resources into expensive influencer marketing campaigns. While many digital natives enjoy following the latest trends, less than one third (31 percent) of these savvy shoppers says they truly trust product information provided by influencers.

That’s where User Generated Content (UGC) comes in. On social media, loyal customers become a brand’s best marketers by sharing photos of themselves using products in authentic situations, without being sponsored by the brand.

User generated social proof doesn’t just build trust: customers view it as a key part of the decision-making process. In fact, two in five Gen Z shoppers find product photos taken by other customers useful when making a purchase.

>UGC adds social proof to web pages and harnesses FOMOForever 21 uses UGC on the homepage to encourage engagement

Here are some ways to incorporate user-generated content into your strategy:

  • Remind customers to share once they have received the product: promote your social media channels and branded hashtags in automated follow-up emails.
  • Inspire customers by telling them what content you are looking for. This could be a selfie featuring your product, including a branded hashtag.
  • Incentivize customers to participate by offering entry into a prize draw, or with the chance to have their content featured in promotions.

With customers’ permission, you can reshare this content on your own channels:

  • Add product selfies or positive social media mentions to your product pages to reduce purchase anxiety.
  • Incorporate social media feeds in web and email content to show what’s resonating with peers.
  • Showcase the best user generated images in your email newsletter.

Ratings and reviews

User social proof isn’t limited to social media. The concept of UGC in marketing stems back to the age-old tactic of ratings and reviews.

You’d imagine that younger shoppers find this kind of content old-fashioned in comparison to photos and videos. But of all the generations we surveyed, Z places the most value on detailed product reviews: almost two in five (37%) think that brands who don’t share customer reviews have something to hide.

And quantity is important – two in three ‘Z’s consult more than three reviews before buying a product. Unbiased reviews from other customers are the most scalable and effective way to demonstrate the authenticity that these consumers crave.

Detailed reviews on product pages reduce purchase anxietyFatFace uses detailed reviews on product detail pages

It’s quite straightforward to incorporate genuine customer feedback into your content.

First, you need to collect user generated reviews:

  • Use a trusted ratings and reviews provider to collect reviews from confirmed customers.
  • Encourage authentic reviews by asking customers for feedback in post-purchase emails.
  • Curate positive customer feedback to use in marketing content.

Then, you can display ratings and reviews at each stage of the customer journey:

  • Showcase positive ratings on your homepage and product listing pages to build instant trust with first-time shoppers.
  • Include authentic reviews on product detail pages to reduce purchase anxiety and increase conversions, since customers can’t touch or try on clothing as they can in store.
  • Enhance automated lifecycle emails with ratings and reviews. In bulk emails, star ratings encourage click throughs. In shopping recovery messages, detailed reviews reassure shoppers about the item they carted.

Social proof is more than a marketing tactic: for Generation Z, it’s a valued part of the customer experience. As this audience grows in social influence and spending power, it’s increasingly important for brands to take note.

Download The Retail Social Proof Barometer to find out which social proof tactics consumers expect across generations:

download report