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The Dreaded FOMO and What Online Merchants Can Do About It

The old aphorism about too much of a good thing being, well, a bad thing, provides a caution to anyone who designs things. Restaurant menus, fashion options, and yes website searches may be serving up too much. In the case of site search, there may be another type of fear coming into play.

Retail TouchPoints referred to it as “shopper FOMO,” or a shopper’s fear of missing out on the perfect item. This finding came from a joint study by Compare Metrics and the e-tailing group, “The Shopper Navigation & Discovery Study.”

Among the study’s findings came the revelation about a fear of missing something when doing a search on a site. 73 percent of shoppers in the study are afraid they may be filtering out choices that could include exactly what they want to buy.

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This in turn seems to be prompting shopper behavior where browsing is preferred to searching.

According to the study’s white paper, 70 percent of the surveyed shoppers expressed a surprising sentiment in a time when search seems like an essential online function: some just don’t trust it.

Some of the sound bites from shoppers who were part of the study include:

“If I click that one button, did I just kill 30 options that I wanted to see?” – Tina

“I feel like I might miss something if I go straight to the keyboard search.” – Melissa

“Sometimes filters just filter too much.” – Ashley

Negatives about search include a distaste for poor results, along with feeling restricted in just how they can search. The study suggested these negatives can be combated with unique product content that lends itself to better filtering.

“This might mean letting a shopper filter by “pockets,” “machine washable,” and “anti-wrinkle” versus standard filters like “size,” “price,” and “color,” the study said. They contend this is due to shoppers becoming used to using natural language and “image-based navigation” when looking for what they want.

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David A Utter

David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR’s “All Things Considered” with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.


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