Any e-commerce website will at a time manage out of stock products. Most online stores will resort to removing the out of stock item. A decision that may frustrate customers and generate errors 404 messages, which will not fail to hurt your SEO… And will hurt your sales performance right away.
If you are currently running ad campaigns that link to products not available at the moment, you might as well throw money down the drain! But then how should you manage your out of stock products to optimize your customer experience while maintaining your SEO intact and your sales performance?
Mistakes not to make
Before we look at best practices, let’s cover all the things to avoid at all costs:
- Deleting the page of the item in question;
- Redirecting to the home page or category page without any warning;
- Redirecting without any explanation to another product;
- Not give any information on the coveted product: is it forever unavailable? Are there other colors?;
- Not indicating that the product is unavailable before visitors click on the item they wish to see;
- Omitting to inform visitors that the product will be available again soon (and specify a time frame).
All of these “shortcomings” hurt the perception that prospects/customers may have of you, and how Google ranks you…
This brings us to another major question: how should you optimize the customer experience when a product is out of stock?
If a product is out of stock, make it clear from the beginning
It is vital to prevent visitors from realizing the unavailability of an item at the end of their purchase journey on your website, i.e. when validating their cart.
To do this, you could enforce a number of visual warnings that easily make it clear that there is no point going further. For example, it can be the visual of an item that appears in grey rather than in color on your category page:
© The Kooples
Another method is to let customer save a product for later in their cart when it is available again. This will prompt them to get back on your website often. This technique makes consumers want to come back, as a message will incite them to regularly refresh their page.
Here is an example of how Zalando Private Sales website proceeds:
Step 1: At product listing level
© Zalando Private
Step 2: When a visitor clicks on the question mark
© Zalando Private
If you are not upfront about the unavailability of a product, you increase visitors’ frustration and decrease their conversion rate.
Give visitors clear information based on the nature of the unavailability
Is the product:
- Definitely out of stock?
- Item available via click-and-collect in a different shop?
- Temporarily out of stock? In this is the case, what is the estimated wait time?
- Are there any immediate alternatives (colors, sizes) to be offered to the consumer?
A product may be temporarily unavailable, due to seasonality, end of production…
You should always adapt your message to the different situations and inform your visitors and customers.
It should also be noted that indicating that a product will soon be out of stock is an effective way to boost your sales! 😉
Create an alert system
This is the most “traditional ” way to ensure that a customer will come back to buy your product when it is available again.
All you have to do is to add a field for this purpose and invite visitors to indicate their email address so that you can send them an automatic notification as soon as the product is online again.
Pop-up © UNIQLO
Suggest relevant options
Imagine the following situation: a customer orders the dish of the day at a restaurant. The waiter replies “It is no longer available!” and walks away without suggesting any other dish.
In your opinion, what are the chances that this customer will come ever come back to this restaurant? None! On the Internet, do not make the same mistake.
When one of your items is not available, check what you can suggest to your visitors. Suggestions can be made based on the following:
- Similar brands.
Here is how Curry PC World displays different options to consumers:
© Curry PC World
Anyhow do not let prospects acquired through expensive means hunt for the item they are looking for on their own.
Use retargeting when products are available again
You do not want to set up an email alert system? Then, why not create custom remarketing campaigns once your product is back in stock. This will allow you to bring back part of the traffic that is interested in your items.
Finally, remember that the “out of stock” label can be a powerful commercial tool to speed up your prospects purchase cycle, especially if your e-commerce business model is based on flash or private sales that involve a strong sense of urgency!
All in all, displaying products and optimizing customer experiences is particularly important when some references are out of stock. Take some time to work on these variables to protect your SEO and keep on attracting and satisfying both your loyal and future customers.
The Mazeberry Merchandising Solution allows you to anticipate and manage your stock problems. Click here to request a demo! 🙂