What’s FOMO? Explaining Social Proof and the Fear of Missing Out

What's FOMO?

‘Hurry, only 1 left in stock. Order Soon!’ Think quick before it’s gone. In an instant, your brain goes into high gear, deciding do I or don’t I make this purchase? As mentioned in our article on Cognitive Fluency, we often rely on decision shortcuts, or ‘decision heuristics’, to help improve the speed at which we make decisions.

Another factor in human decision-making is social proof. According to Wikipedia, social proof is described as the psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect the correct behavior for a given situation…driven by the assumption that the surrounding people possess more information about the situation.

Think of a brand new social situation you experienced recently. Let’s say you’re the new person at work. The first couple of weeks, you observe, look to others to gather social cues on how to act, what to wear, and how to present yourself. Social Proof is not a new concept in human behavior, but a huge driver and powerful influence in consumer behavior and the science of decision-making. 81% of people say posts from their friends directly influenced their purchasing decision. Since we like our friends or peers and often consider them to be similar to us, we find it easy to use their recommendation to inform our purchasing decisions- a decision heuristic.

The psychological phenomenon known as “FOMO” (“Fear of Missing Out”) is a form of social proof. Naturally, we want things that are exclusive offerings, available for a limited time, or are in short supply. Something that is rare or becoming increasingly less available is always more appealing, and adds urgency to our decision to purchase. Many online retailers have been able to successfully capture the value of this perceived scarcity. Just a few sale items available, and the buyer goes from browsing to decision-making mode in an instant. As a result, making a purchasing decision in very short order. FOMO is a great forcing function on decision-making, as evidenced by the incredible growth of e-commerce flash sales.

Harnessing social proof is a powerful tool for any marketer. When understood it can be used to help shape decision-making moments for existing and prospective customers. Don’t miss out on other facts about how you influence others in their decision making, subscribe to our blog today!

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