Mitch Spolan and guest speakers

What should beauty brands do to attract a Gen Z audience? Focus on social media, reviews and free samples, according to Chegg.

Mitch Spolan, Chegg’s executive vice president of marketing services, invited four college students to join him in a panel discussion on their beauty spending habits. The women — named Kim, Jen, Jada and Elisa — were selected from Chegg’s research pool of 18,000 college students. Prior to WWD’s Forum, they provided Chegg a cumulative 10 hours of video footage of them shopping online.

Top-line findings, said Spolan, were that college women are using Google to find beauty products, and that they are then buying the items from Ulta, Sephora, Target, Walmart and specialty web sites such as StyleKorean. Reviews proved an essential part of the buying process, as did free samples.

Asked how often she reads product reviews, Elisa shared that reviews play a major role in her spending behavior.

“When you look at the reviews, you get a positive and then you get a negative,” she said. “The positive ones, it’s subjective in that it might work for some people but not for others, whereas the ones that are negative, people felt so negative about it that they actually went and took the time to write something bad about it. Because I’ve had negative experiences with some of the products, I want to see what was the negative effect [for others].”

For Jada, YouTube is the go-to source for beauty products and is more reliable than reviews on brand web sites.

“I don’t really trust reviews on web sites,” said Jada. “I use YouTube first because I want to see how the product looks. You can see a product image and you can see someone live-testing it in a picture, but I don’t feel like it’s an accurate representation.”

Jen and Kim shared that they, too, use social media — mainly Instagram or Twitter. Surprisingly, TV proved an impactful source.

“I’m an avid watcher of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and they’re always promoting Anastasia Beverly Hills because she’s one of their sponsors,” said Jen. “Trixie Mattel is one of the queens. Seeing her review versus an actually person going and buying it, it’s on TV.”

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