Make Out of Stock Products a Conversion Driver

Turn out-of-stock products into conversion drivers. Optimize strategies for enhanced sales. Learn more now.

Jon Tucker
CEO HelpFlow
Make Out of Stock Products a Conversion Driver

Having products that go out of stock can obviously drop sales. You have to throttle ads, delay promotions, and get all hands on deck to get more stock in.  The challenges of Covid have demand and underscore the importance of effective out of stock conversion strategies.

It's possible though to turn out of stock products into a significant conversion driver.  This keeps a steady flow of revenue coming in and enables you to continue to market and drive new customer acquisition while reloading inventory.  It just requires a slight reframe in how you present out of stock products.

We run 24/7 live chat and customer service teams for over 100 e-commerce stores. We noticed a lot of disappointment in visitors around out of stock products and found some ways to turn that disappointment into excitement. Using these insights, we help clients create a solid approach to maximizing conversions of out of stock products throughout the site—much more than just in a live chat conversation.

In this post, I will walk you through the key things that seem to work to make out of stock products a conversion driver.

Out of Stock Conversion: Rethinking Messaging Strategies

Many stores tag out of stock products as simply that--"out of stock." They don't give the customer the option to buy, and at best, they use an out of stock notification app to have customers often to receive an email with the items are back in stock.  This is better than nothing.  But the moment that out of stock notice goes live, the revenue driven from that product and even opt-ins will plummet. In short, this is no replacement for an in-stock product a customer can buy.

A better approach is to message the product as on backorder or have a focus on reloading your inventory. Yes, it means the same thing, but here's where the perception changes.

Don't you say "out of stock." Explain that due to high demand for the product, it is temporarily out of stock but you expect additional inventory by (date). Explain that you are doing your best to keep up with demand and are grateful for so much excitement around the product.  This subtle revision changes the neutral feeling a customer has or slight disappointment with an out of stock into a fear of missing out and respectful perception. In short, they realize the product is awesome, and they really want to get one.

This messaging change leads to a call to action change that drives conversions. 

Change the Call to Action to Pre-order

Once you've instilled excitement into the visitor, you need to give them the ability to act on it.  Rather than disabling the option to buy and simply having an opt-in for stock notice, change the call to action to be a pre-order. Transparency is key in maintaining trust and can actually enhance out of stock conversion rates, as customers appreciate the honesty and may still choose to purchase.

 If you've done an excellent job reframing the messaging of the "out of stock" situation, then a pre-order call to action can drive a ton of sales.  Still offer out of stock notifications as a secondary call to action, but make it subtle. Also, craft your messaging on the page in a way that clarifies that pre-ordering locks in their ability to get the product. Only after pre-orders are filled will you send out notifications of additional stock available, and you can't guarantee there will be any ready.

You don't need to get very "hype-y" on this part. Just focus on the pre-order and give the option for notifications, and people will often default to pre-order.

#3 Fuel Their Excitement

Once you have your message in the call to action nailed, look for ways you can fuel their excitement both on the website and off. This approach is essential for optimizing out of stock conversion.

For example, we run live chat teams for many clients and see the below work really well.

  1. If someone chats a question on one of these product pages that are currently out of stock, we suddenly frame answers to build excitement. For example, if somebody asked when the item will be in stock, we will answer that question and say something about how popular the product has been or what people seem to love the most about it. This is subtle, but it continues to build their excitement.
  2. You can also do this with chats from people who have opted into in-stock notifications. If you are sending updates regularly or other types of promotions to these people, you can frame answers to build excitement and possibly have people pre-order rather than stay on the stock notification email list.

The key thing I want to clarify here is that you should not overhype or go into sleazy marketing mode. You have to be careful with this as the line is subtle.

What To Do Now?

If you have products that are expected to go out of stock or are out of stock now, give this a try. It will take a little bit of development work from your team to change the buy box on out of stock products, but it's worth the investment.

And if you're not using live chat on these pages, definitely give that a shot. What customers say about out of stock products will help you identify really powerful ways to drive more conversions on these products and more.

We run 24/7 live chat teams for over 100 e-commerce stores and I'd be happy to answer any questions about this approach in the Strategy Call. I hope this sparks some ideas for you.

Your Store Needs a 24/7 Live Chat Team

HelpFlow can drive sales by having our team of human agents available on live chat 24/7 to predict and save abandons before they happen, proactively reach out and engage with visitors via SMS and email after they abandon, and by answering visitor questions live on your website to convert visitors.

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