FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): A pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent. FOMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.

Marketers have long embraced creating a sense of urgency in advertising. That rug store down the street has been “Going Out of Business” for about three years now. The amount of fear in FOMO has gone way down for the local customer base in need of rugs. Now they simply regard that sign as advertising a normal sale.

And fear is not a good emotion to wrap a long-term sales strategy around. While we might purchase the occasional fire extinguisher out of fear, the average customer doesn’t want to live their life in a panic while making other purchases.

So how do marketers create a sense of urgency on their websites and in advertising without crossing the line into fear baiting?

Limited Availability

There’s nothing wrong with presenting limits to your website customers on what’s available or for how long it will remain available, “Once these Harry Potter books sell, it will be two weeks before we can get more.”

That’s a service to your customers because more information—if it’s legitimate—will only improve their decision-making process.

It only becomes a problem when how you convey this sense of urgency or limitation causes stressful decision-making. “This is it; you’ll never find out what happens to Harry Potter if you don’t buy today!”

Basically, when you induce stress, it makes the decision-making process more difficult and can lead to regretful purchases or no purchases at all.

At the same time, when customers know that they can come back to your store or website any time in the future and receive the same products at the same prices, they do not have any incentive to make a purchase right away.

·      We want to inform without inducing fear

·      We want a sale today

·      We want these customers for the long run

It’s a balancing act.

Offer Limited-Edition Products

A good way to use FOMO to help your website visitors convert quickly is to offer exclusive, limited-edition products. If there is an item that they can only receive for a limited time before it will never be sold again, consumers will have an incentive to make a purchase right away.

It truly needs to be never sold again though. If they see it next week, you’ll have lost their trust and potentially their future business.

Set a Time Limit

Just like limited-edition or exclusive items encourage customers to act, setting a time limit for different deals helps your consumers act with a sense of urgency. Consumers will know that they can only receive a certain discount if they act fast, so they will be more likely to convert right away.

If something that you’ve been watching for a month suddenly goes on sale, you are incentivized to act quickly and are happy to do so.

Offer Rewards

When selling something online, don’t forget to enable account registration. It’s a nice touch for users who want the convenience of saving account details so they don’t have to input them with each new purchase.

Once your customers have accumulated points, you can remind them while they are shopping that they have some rewards that will apply to their purchase.

Unlike sales banners that promote generic offers, this approach works really well because you’re appealing to loyal customers, the ones who’ve already signed up for an account and have a history of buying from you.

Encourage Sharing with Friends

Let your customers generate FOMO for you.

Here’s how Airbnb does it:

Airbnb has an “Invite friends” feature that rewards its users for inviting friends. The feature encourages users to let their friends, family, and colleagues know about how awesome the Airbnb experience is.

“Hey, I just booked this awesome condo in Timbuktu for Groundhog Day. You’ve got to check this out! Oh yeah, you also get $50 off your first booking!”

Imagine their friend is in dire need of a vacation. They receive this offer from you—a person they know and trust. Their reaction just might be, “I need to do that, too!” And with a discount code in hand, that’s a pretty strong source of motivation to get in the app and make a purchase.

Market Product Bundles

Product bundles are used across many industries for up-selling. When a person buys a product from you, they are offered other complementary products as well. Purchasing them as a bundle gives them a discount.

You can combine this with FOMO marketing by adding a countdown clock. By putting a deadline on these deals, you can encourage customers to purchase them.

Use Social Proof

Social proof can be used to create FOMO. Ideally, it should be used at the end of the purchase funnel when consumers are about to make a purchase decision. Sometimes, social proof is all that people need to make a purchase.

A great way of doing this is by posting and sharing testimonials from your existing customers on your social media accounts. When people read positive reviews from other consumers, they’ll be more likely to purchase from you.


Your websites and apps shouldn’t just attract and convert customers. They also need to help you retain that business and loyalty over the long term.

Deceptive FOMO tactics will eventually fail when customers start to realize they were misled by inflated numbers, exaggerated scenarios, or seemingly time-sensitive or exclusive offers.

But there are lots of friendly and helpful ways to motivate your customers while keeping in their good will.

A global team of digerati with offices in Washington, D.C. and Southern California, we provide digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, and creative for brands you know and nonprofits you love.

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