The impact of FOMO

A new survey says "fear of missing out" is having a major influence on purchase decisions.

As we share more and more information about our day-to-day activities on social media, FOMO (“fear of missing out”) is becoming a common sensation felt among users and a larger factor in purchase intent.

To see just how prevalent this sensation is, PR firm Citizen Relations commissioned a survey of 1,200 Canadians in the fall, with focus groups of millennials gathered earlier this year for further insights.

Among those surveyed, 64% said they experienced the phenomenon, 56% of whom were between the ages of 18 and 30. The major factor that brings on this feeling is the fear of losing social notoriety or not being seen as “in the know,” according to 24% of millennials that have experienced FOMO.

That desire to appear in touch with current trends has also driven millennials to be the most likely to purposely try to create FOMO among their peers, with 33% saying they have done so compared to 12% of those in other age groups.

The implications of this for brands is also apparent: 60% of millennial consumers said they make a reactive purchase after experiencing FOMO, most often within 24 hours. Outside of millennial consumers, the survey also found parents used FOMO as a way to crowdsource their decision-making for purchases after seeing the positive impact certain experiences have on other families. Parents were the most likely group to see the link between FOMO and their purchase intent, and had a positive opinion of the sensation as a result.

Those with household incomes above $75,000 a year were not only the most likely to experience FOMO, but also the most likely to share their experiences on social media with the intent of creating the sensation in others.

The report says the constant life updates on social media are the main driver of FOMO, with 45% of those who said they had experienced it saying they also can’t go more than 12 hours without checking social media, and 20% saying they can’t go more than an hour. Facebook is the most common contributor at 72%, followed by Instagram at 14%, Twitter at 11% and Pinterest at 8%. The big things that create FOMO among millennials are travel (59%), parties and events (56%) and food (29%).

Most of the emotions that were experienced seem negative: 39% reported feeling envy, 30% said they felt jealous and 21% said they felt sad or disappointed, with only 29% reporting feeling happiness. However, the report shows that millennials are adopting more positive views of envy and jealousy, using them as motivating factors to get them active in taking positive action, like making a purchase or scheduling a trip.

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