FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is the anxiety that others are experiencing more enjoyable or rewarding lives. This feeling can arise from seeing friends on social media attending events, taking trips, or achieving milestones, leading one to feel left out.

The roots of FOMO stem from the human need for social connection and belonging. People have always sought to be part of a group, and feeling excluded triggers a sense of inadequacy. This fear of missing out is further amplified by exposure to curated highlights of others’ lives on social media.

Key Takeaways

  • FOMO stands for “Fear of Missing Out,” describing the anxiety that others are experiencing more enjoyable or rewarding lives.
  • Fear of missing out arises from seeing friends on social media attending events, taking trips, or achieving milestones, leading to feelings of exclusion. The fear of missing out involves emotions, such as envy and insecurity, rooted in the belief that one is missing out on enjoyable or important events.
  • FOMO in online shopping results from fear of missing out on great deals, discounts, or popular products. FOMO marketing leverages urgency and scarcity to compel consumers to take immediate action.
  • FOMO marketing includes tactics such as limited-time offers, exclusive deals, countdown timers, and stock indicators to create urgency.
  • Tips for managing your FOMO in online shopping include setting a budget, pausing before purchasing, researching and comparing products, unsubscribing from unnecessary newsletters, using wishlist features, following trusted reviews, limiting social media exposure, and using coupon websites.

FOMO in Retail and Shopping


Note: One area where FOMO is a powerful influence is online shopping. FOMO involves emotions, such as envy and insecurity, rooted in the belief that one misses out on enjoyable or important events.

According to the SDT (self-determination theory) psychological theory, people have basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. FOMO arises when these needs are not adequately met. For example, seeing others achieve milestones or engage in social activities can lead to feelings of inadequacy or isolation.

FOMO in online shopping is tied to customers being afraid they’ll miss out on great discounts or not have the opportunity to own the products that seemingly make others happy. 

In the Digital Age

The advent of social media has amplified this fear greatly. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter often present highlight reels of other people’s lives, creating distorted perceptions of reality. This can lead to a constant comparison with others, increasing anxiety and dissatisfaction.


Note: FOMO marketing leverages this by creating campaigns that trigger feelings of urgency and scarcity, compelling consumers to take immediate action. Limited-time offers or exclusive deals are typical tactics to exploit the fear of missing out, driving engagement and sales.

These digital influences mean that FOMO is not just a fleeting feeling but can impact daily life, affecting consumers’ decision-making processes.

FOMO in Online Shopping

The Rise of Online Shopping

Online shopping offers unmatched convenience, various choices, and often competitive pricing. However, it also caused the link between FOMO and discounts – consumers worry about missing out on the best deals, the latest products, or limited-time offers.

How E-Commerce Triggers Fear

Limited-time offers and flash sales make customers feel they must act quickly to avoid missing out. Tactics such as countdown timers and stock indicators (e.g., “Only 3 items left!”) amplify this effect.

Exclusive promotions, such as members-only deals or seasonal discounts, target specific groups, creating a desire to participate. Some platforms also showcase social proof through notifications like “John from New York just bought this,” which conveys popularity and triggers FOMO.

  1. Limited-time offers: marketing sometimes uses phrases like “only 2 hours left!” or “limited stock available!.” They’re designed to push consumers to make quick purchasing decisions.
  2. Exclusive discounts: websites often offer special discounts to first-time buyers or loyal customers. Getting a special deal that others might miss out on can drive consumers to make impulsive purchases.
  3. Social proof: reviews, ratings, and user-generated content showing satisfied customers can create a sense of missing out on a great product. Seeing others benefit from a product usually triggers FOMO in online shopping. 
  4. Flash sales: flash sales create a sense of urgency and exclusivity. Knowing that a sale will last only for a short period can lead to hasty purchasing behaviors, as FOMO and discounts are connected by customers’ fears of losing a great deal. 
  5. Scarcity: displaying low stock alerts, such as “only 3 left in stock,” plays on the human aversion to losing out on something desirable – enhancing the urgency to buy.

Fear of Missing Out and Shopping Behavior


Note: FOMO marketing leads to impulsive purchases. Consumers often buy products not because they need them but because they fear missing out on a good deal. 69% of Millennials experience FOMO, and of those, 60% make a purchase within 24 hours of feeling it.

The anticipation of regret plays a big role in this behavior. If shoppers believe they might regret not making a purchase, they are more likely to proceed with the transaction. E-commerce strategies leveraging FOMO and discounts can improve conversion rates and customer engagement.

Shopping Tips for Smart Buying

While fear can drive impulsive buying, there are ways to manage this feeling and make more informed decisions. Here are some practical tips for navigating FOMO in online shopping:

  • Set a budget: a budget for online shopping helps you avoid overspending. Stick to your budget and prioritize needs over wants.
  • Pause before purchasing: take a moment to evaluate the item’s necessity. Use the “24-hour rule,” where you wait a day before proceeding with the purchase.
  • Research and compare: compare prices across multiple platforms. This ensures you make an informed decision and do not fall for artificially inflated discounts.
  • Unsubscribe from unnecessary newsletters: marketing emails often create FOMO by presenting exclusive deals and limited-time offers. Unsubscribe from retailers that do not offer the type of products truly useful for you.
  • Use wishlist features: instead of purchasing immediately, add items to your wishlist. This allows you to track products over time and decide later if they are worth buying. You also get notified automatically of discounts this way.
  • Follow trusted reviews: rely on reviews from trusted sources and verified buyers. Authentic reviews can provide a balanced perspective and help you avoid impulsive decisions.
  • Limit social media exposure: social media is a significant source of FOMO. Limiting time spent on platforms or curating your feed to follow accounts that align with your interests can help mitigate the fear of missing out.
  • Use coupon websites: coupon code websites help you find additional discounts and deals. These sites often list the best available offers for various online stores, making it easier to save money while avoiding FOMO.

FOMO in Online Shopping FAQs

What is FOMO?

It stands for “Fear of Missing Out.” It is a psychological phenomenon where people feel anxious about missing out on something exciting or interesting that others might be experiencing.

How Does Fear Affect Online Shopping?

It can lead to impulsive buying decisions in online shopping. Consumers may feel a sense of urgency to purchase items due to limited-time offers, exclusive discounts, and low stock alerts, fearing they might miss out on a great deal.

What Are Common Triggers of FOMO in Online Shopping?

Common triggers include limited-time offers, exclusive discounts, social proof such as customer reviews and ratings, flash sales, and scarcity tactics like low stock alerts.

How Do Marketers Use FOMO to Drive Sales?

Marketers use various strategies to leverage fear, including countdown timers, limited-time discounts, exclusive offers, flash sales, social proof, influencer endorsements, and real-time stock levels.

Why Do Discounts Create the Feeling of Fear?

Discounts increase the fear because they create a perception of higher value and savings. Consumers are motivated by the fear of losing out on a good deal, driving them to make quick purchasing decisions.

How Does The Anchoring Effect Relate to FOMO in Shopping?

The anchoring effect occurs when consumers rely heavily on the first piece of information they see, such as the original price of a product. When a discounted price is shown alongside the original price, it makes the deal appear more attractive and can amplify the fear of missing out.

How Can I Manage Fear While Shopping Online?

To manage your fear, you could set a budget, pause before making purchases, research and compare products, unsubscribe from unnecessary marketing emails, use wishlist features, follow trusted reviews, limit social media exposure, and utilize coupon websites to find the best deals.

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