Making the Most of the Customer Experience Part 1: Using Influencer Marketing to Target Gen Z Customers

Posted on June 9, 2020 by Carm McCormick

Making the Most of the Customer Experience Part 1: Using Influencer Marketing to Target Gen Z Customers

Posted on June 9, 2020 by Carm McCormick

Younger generations like Gen Z are prioritizing authenticity and personalization over traditional ads and messaging. Is influencer marketing the answer?

The numbers paint a compelling picture: more than 44% of Gen Z-ers have made a purchase based on social media influencer marketing. For a fair comparison, just over 26% of the general population has done the same. 

Seven out of ten Gen Z consumers also follow a social media influencer on YouTube or Instagram, and these users dominate social media, with 39% of them having at least four social media accounts compared to just 15% of the general population.

And those stats matter for retailers. By the close of 2020 alone, Gen Z will account for roughly 40% of all customers. They have a massive $44 billion in buying power, and that number increases to more than $600 billion when you think about the influence they have on their ageing parents’ spending.

There’s no doubt that Gen Z consumers prefer authenticity and connections with real people, especially when buying, and retail brands can’t afford to ignore this segment of customers.

Gen Z and social media

By definition, Gen Z is the group that followed millennials, with birthdays ranging from 1995 up to 2015. Some have graduated from college and are part of the working world, while others are just entering kindergarten. Their numbers total about 74 million in the U.S. alone and 9 million in Canada. 

And this is the generation that grew up on social media. They likely don’t remember or have never known a time when they didn’t have the internet. They’ve observed their parents and older millennial siblings pioneering social media — and the resulting consequences of oversharing and over engaging. And they’re more likely to spot inauthentic messages from scammers or brands that don’t live up to their values. 

This sets the perfect foundation for influencer marketing. Influencers are a dominating force on social media and can add personalization and authenticity at scale — both of which are essential to earning business from Gen Z consumers. These messages and content come from real people, not carefully curated corporate brands, and these messages carry more weight than traditional advertising or marketing. 

And, when done correctly, small retailers can make influencers part of their marketing strategy that will eventually transition from paid marketing to organic reach. 

How to use influencer marketing to drive retail sales

Influencer marketing can come with a hefty price tag, depending on the size of their audience. Many influencers pocket anywhere from $30,000 up to $100,000 or more per year, but the top paid ones are charging $100,000 up to $250,000 per sponsored post

Still, small retailers with a few stores can still tap into the opportunities that influencers can provide, even if you don’t have a corporate sized budget. Here are a few actionable ways you can start connecting with influencers to drive retail store sales:

Leverage influencer marketing to launch new products

When you’re bringing new products or brands into your store, one of the most effective options in helping you boost the impact of a new launch is an influencer partnership. They can use their social pull to spread the word about your new lineup and create buzz about what makes those products special. 

Using influencers to launch a product is all about building excitement. It’s not just a matter of getting people to know about your new additions, but rather showing them why they should care that you’re bringing new products on board. 

Retailers can accomplish this in a few ways:

First, consider bringing influencers into your store on launch day to do product demos, model a new collection, and chat with customers in real time. Create a hashtag for use on social media to promote the launch so that influencers and customers alike can use it when snapping photos or doing live streams on platforms like Instagram.

You’ll also want to involve your influencers in the days and weeks leading up to the launch. Let them share teasers of your new products or collections to encourage store visits on the day of your new product (or even new store) launch. 

Turn employees into brand micro-influencers

The term ‘influencer’ sounds like an official title, but truth be told, anyone can be an influencer in their own way. If you don’t have the budget to pay for a high-profile influencer, look no further than your own employees for help.

Aside from yourself, your employees are the closest people to your brand. They know the products you sell inside and out. They also know what makes your customers tick because they see in-person what motivates them to purchase. 

Ask your employees to help spread the message to their own social media circles

Given that the average number of Facebook friends per person is 338, just having five employees share something for your store could mean an extra 1,690 impressions — and that number grows every time their friends share their content. 

Create a community for customers-turned-influencers

Who better to promote your brand and store than a customer who already buys from you? They know what you have to offer and are already a fan of your brand, and if asked, they’ll usually be more than happy to share their experience with their own audience. 

Macy’s does an excellent job of this with their Macy’s Style Crew program. Customers and employees alike can use the platform to upload pictures of them wearing or using products they bought in-store. 

Small retailers can use this same concept on a smaller scale. All you really need is a place for people to share their finds. It could be as simple as using a special hashtag on Instagram or asking your customers to share their purchases on Facebook. 

If you find it difficult to drive engagement on social media with this approach, test incentives to increase engagement and awareness. Many small and large retailers offer special discounts or promotions for customers that share feedback, posts, or reviews online. In some cases, these promotions can be used to encourage social media sharing and return customers. 

Consider social ad campaigns to boost your influencer marketing initiatives

Influencers are no strangers to ad campaigns, and if you’re planning on running paid social media ads to boost brand awareness on platforms like Instagram or Facebook, it could be helpful to partner with an influencer on those paid campaigns. 

To keep customers feeling connected to your brand, consider partnering with a local influencer that you can feature in your paid ads to give your ads more clout. The influencer can create the ad content for you (if that’s how they operate) or you could team up to create content together (like photos for Instagram Feed ads). 

American Eagle is a great example of a brand that used this tactic. They recently launched a campaign that was entirely driven by Gen Z influencers, from creative development to distribution.

You can adapt this strategy to fit your smaller retail footprint by focusing on local micro-influencers. 

The ultimate goal for small retailers when it comes to using influencer marketing or partnerships is to attract Gen Z customers who can help sustain their business but also promote it, naturally. If you’re wanting to turn the heads of Gen Z consumers, it’s important to speak to them where they spend the most time (social media) and use these platforms and the reach they have to your advantage. When they can play an active role in your promotions, they’ll be more responsive to the authenticity and personalization you’re trying to build.


For many small retailers, growing your business from 3 stores to 50 (and more) means having the right team behind you from the very beginning. At CBSF, we’re that team, bringing decades of experience, knowledge and expertise to helping retailers launch locations that make a mark. Contact us today to explore how we can help you do just that.