“Gen Z is looking at brick and mortar retailing as a way to, ‘disconnect,’ from the stress of social media while at the same time getting emotionally closer to the online influencers and celebrities they follow,” – Nora Kleinewillinghoefer, from A.T. Kearney
Generation Z is coming of age, and they come with a lot of buying power. They’re both more financially cautious, and more interested in brick-and-mortar shopping than their predecessors.
Though they’re digital natives, they’re media wary in a way, meaning traditional marketing and ad campaigns tend to be less effective. It can be tough to capture the attention of this newer, younger, less idealistic generation. Social proof offers a way to speak to Gen Z at their own level and reflect their needs.
Who Are Gen Z?
Generation Z anyone born after 1992. They will form 40% of the biggest markets by 2020, and are already influencing the buying decisions of their parents. According to one research from O&C Consultants, they’re spending around $3.4 trillion and are responsible for 7% of the current household spend.
Their formative years were dictated by overall insecurity following impactful world events such as 9/11. That’s why, in contrast with Millenials, they prefer stability and safety over an overload of options.
Gen Z take the online world for granted, they have no notion of a pre-internet society. They’re interested in Snapchat, Instagram and Youtube more than Facebook and Twitter. Though they’d rather receive their ads from influencers than celebrity sponsors, they’re savvy enough to recognize a paid, ingenuous influencer when they see one.
Gen Z is Overloaded
Because this generation lives online, they consider it an imposition to overload their inbox or push notifications with emails and ads. They don’t want to be bombarded with promotions in an intrusive way, and prefer more authentic connections.
They’re less idealistic than their Millennial counterparts, but they do care about social issues. Tying a product or service to a cause offers a more authentic connection, as does incorporating user-generated content.
They’re More Careful With Money
Having grown up during economic downtime, Gen Z tends to be less about impulse buying and splurging than Millennials. They trust banks more than the previous generation, at least for now. But they’re also less likely to be big spenders. They’d rather buy a home than book a vacation.
They are more susceptible to the fear of missing out, though, and still, overall prefer a cool experience to a cool product. They tend to be more optimistic than the previous generation about the future, but constant access to their phones means they stay more informed than Gen Y.
We’ve discussed social proof in other posts. Social proof is vital to ensuring the integrity and quality of your product. Gen Z is all about the social world. They don’t trust ads or company ‘experts.’ Instead, they value the opinion of influencers, and customer reviews and testimonials.
Like Millennials before them, they don’t have clear brand preferences, though they tend to prefer socially-conscious brands. This may change over time since most Gen Zers are too young to have a clear preference this early.
How Does Social Proof Help You Engage Gen Z?
As we’ve seen, Gen Z is more than just the next stage of Millenium customers. They’re more tech-savvy, and invested in social media. At the same time, they rely more on social proof from real people, over celebrity endorsements and paid ads.
Here are a few our tips for engaging Gen Z customers with social proof that actually works.
– Forget the Experts, and Put Your Best Content Forward
Gen Z are smart, and they’re often bombarded with ad copy. They’re less likely than previous generations to sign up for newsletters and open emails.
To ensure your emails and web copy garners attention, you’ll need experienced copywriters. Not only will having copywriters on your side ensure you’re using the right language for your audience, but it will mean a constant stream of new and informative content. Gen Z is less interested in ‘experts.’ If you want to prove you’re who you say you are, providing useful content is essential.
Unboxing and review videos are popular categories on Youtube for a reason. Gen Z needs to know what it’s getting. They have the ability to access information on any topic and at any time.
A great way to tap into social proof is to post testimonials right on your banners and site. Searching your hashtags on social media, and sharing positive posts from customers is another great choice for capturing the ever-shifting attention of this generation, which trusts their peers over experts and company partnership.
– Customer Reviews
Yesterday’s celebrity endorsements are today’s Instagram influencers. Gen Z lives in the digital world, but prefer to see real people in their ads. They’re also likely to be researching products online, even as they prefer shopping brick-and-mortar. What are they looking for? Customer reviews. Gen Z trust real people and verify the information.
They’re spoiled for choice, and know their own buying power, so they lose patience with a sales pitch. Instead of putting your focus on ads, focus on reviews and customer engagement. And remember: A mobile-friendly website is a must! Gen-Z won’t wait for your website to load while they’re looking for information on your product!
– Limited Offers
Gen Z value experience, and don’t want to miss out. Limited time offers and special events are a great marketing tool. Whether it’s a customized sample product or a limited sale, your customers will love the chance at exclusivity.
Social proof ties into this as you can show who or how many others have bought or signed up, which works an urgency angle as well.
– Share Your Values
Gen Z doesn’t trust brands. They’re media savvy and know when they’re being sold to. Instead of focusing on ads and slogans, spend time finding creative ways to market your brand values. This might mean teaming up with a good cause or adding your values to your about pages. Gen Z are conscientious consumers, who appreciate transparency when they’re looking for products and services.
– Get Verified
Speaking of transparency. We’ve already talked about how Gen Z isn’t big on “listening to our experts.” But they do want to see and hear directly from the company. They like to stay connected and feel heard. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram offer the option to be verified as representatives of your company. That means you’re willing to stand by your posts and product. It also means it’s easier to stay in touch. This type of social proof is invaluable, and it’ll go a long way to cementing brand loyalty.
– User-Generated Content
Coca-Cola’s Share A Coke With marketing campaign was a smashing success not only because of the personalization aspect, but because it allowed for user-generated content (UGC). Companies that promote engagement more than sales tend to attract the attention of Gen Z, who prefers the experience of being part of a community, or event, instead of purchasing an item.
A great example of hitting several points that peak Gen Z’s interest is the UGC campaign by Meundies: it’s body positive, raw and implicit testimonials by peers. Even if it’s controversial, it will spark conversations, which will spark interest.
With the seamlessness of online and off-line life, it only makes sense that finding ways to connect through social interaction will help create a positive impression.
Start testing the waters
The youngest members of Gen Z are only 4 years old, but as the oldest have already come of age. Patterns in the thinking and purchasing habits of Gen Z have shown they’re more than just the next stage of Millennials. They have their own values and preferences that impact the market as we know it.
For some trends it’s too early to measure properly, but thanks both a comfort level with technology, and the desire for authentic and honest information, their impact on the market is already being felt. It’s important to understand the needs of this generation as your company moves into the future.
This is a guest post by Elise Ingram.
Most of all, Elise loves playing with words. She spends her working hours guiding writers to run a successful freelance business, while occasionally blogging over at HireWriters. When no one is looking, she bakes a mean Tarte Tatin and stuffs her face with soup-filled dumplings.