A grad asked me the other day, “In the days before smartphones, what happened if you agreed to meet someone and got caught up – how would you tell them you were running late?” As I attempted to explain that being late wasn’t really a good option whatever century it is – it occurred to me Generation Z only know a world of ubiquitous virtual connectivity that has been prevalent all of their lives.

With the oldest members of Generation Z now in the workforce, the cohort’s buying power is growing constantly. According to research from OC&C Strategy Consultants, Gen Z is already spending $3.4 trillion and accounting for over 7% of total household spend. Given the digitally savvy nature of this cohort, if marketers’ efforts are going to have success in engaging Gen Z, they need to deliver authentic-feeling, ultra-relevant content on the channels they trust.

For example, Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M just launched the online fashion advice forum Itsapark, which it describes as a space where people can get honest answers to all their fashion questions. The forum creates a space and opportunities for consumers to engage, interact, share knowledge, review products and ultimately grow in their brand advocacy.

Our research shows that Gen Z respond well to social proof marketing tactics, which reference the actions of others to help guide the shopper’s decisions. Let’s take a look at the tactics Gen Z expects when making a purchase, and how retailers are using them to build trust in their email and web marketing.

Influencer marketing

According to Fresh Relevance research, sixty per cent of Gen Z consumers are more interested in a brand using influencers (four times more likely than Baby Boomers). This is particularly good news for cosmetics and apparel brands as, in the same study, 30% of Gen Z consumers say they actively follow a beauty influencer and another 30% actively follow a fashion influencer.

With that in mind, it makes sense that 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 a group of influencers from different parts of the world which provide shoppers with useful tips on how to style and shop the latest looks.

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%) of these savvy shoppers says they truly trust product information provided by influencers.

Econsultancy’s Influencer Marketing 2020 report

User-generated content

That’s where user-generated content (UGC) from loyal customers comes in. It doesn’t just build trust: customers view photos of fellow shoppers using the product in authentic situations 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.

To make your customers your best marketers, why not incorporate live social media feeds in web and email content to show what’s resonating with peers. For example, adding product selfies to your product pages can help reduce purchase anxiety.

Ratings and reviews

Unbiased reviews from other customers are the most scalable and effective way to demonstrate the authenticity that consumers crave. You might imagine that younger shoppers find traditional product ratings old-fashioned in comparison to flashy photos and videos. But of all the generations, 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.

Once collected, you can display ratings and reviews at each stage of the customer journey. Positive service ratings on your homepage build instant trust with first-time shoppers, while product reviews on product pages provide guidance which size or product model to purchase. Lapsed customers can be encouraged to return to the website by displaying positive feedback about the item they carted in basket abandonment emails.

Lush features selected customer reviews in a format similar to tweets on product pages. This is particularly engaging as it presents useful information in a familiar social media format. Although the reviews have been curated and are not in real time, the ‘tweet’ format creates a sense of immediacy.

Again, authenticity is key. Potential trust issues like the ones Which? raised recently with regards the slew of fake reviews appearing on Amazon, can be avoided by integrating with a dedicated ratings provider that ensures that all product reviews are from confirmed customers.

If your brand is considering how to engage a Gen Z audience, social proof is a great approach – because to this audience it’s a valued part of the customer experience. And knowing how to serve this age group now will serve you well in future – especially as they continue to grow in social influence and spending power.