Let’s say that you’re browsing an ecommerce website and you find a product that is the perfect fit for you and falls within your budget. You navigate to the product page and decide to buy the product and BOOM! It is out of stock. This has most likely happened to you at least once in your life. The product was out of stock but you didn’t get to know that until you decided to buy the product. If you haven’t experienced this, there are other very common thing that most ecommerce stores deploy including being redirected to the product category page without explanation or having a 404 re-direct.

Having 404 redirects is bad for your SEO. It tells Google that your site has a lot of errors and should not be ranked higher up on the search engine ranking pages. Having a product that goes out of stock is not great but there are certain strategies that you can implement to mitigate the damage done by the out of stock product pages:

1. Grab the visitor's email

If the product is temporarily out of stock and your ecommerce store will restock it in the near future it is a great technique to ask the customers to submit their email and get information about the availability as soon as the product is back in stock.

Not only do you increase your chances of getting the customer return to your store but also you get the email of the visitor to market to. Karmaloop implements this technique on the pages where the product is out of stock.

Easyship x Karmaloop - Out of Stock example1

2. Push out of stock products to the bottom

It is a great technique to give lesser visibility to the products that are not in stock by pushing them down the search and category pages. As an ecommerce store owner you have the ability to adjust your search results and manage how your category pages are shown. By doing so, you get fewer disappointed shoppers.

3. Clarify your size stock

One of the most common mistakes that most ecommerce websites do is that they do not clarify the size stock clearly. Usually when the customer has gone through the product pictures and selected the product and is ready to make a purchase, they come to find out that the product is out of stock in their size.

Take a look at the example. By this time, the customer would’ve gone through the sizing charts and ready to complete the purchase and as soon as they hit the drop down menu, they find out that the size they are looking for is not available.

Easyship x ASOS Out of stock example2

However, a good practice to manage the same situation is implemented by Sophie and Trey on their product pages. As soon as the customer visits the product pages, they come to understand the sizes which are available and the sizes which aren’t.

Easyship x Sophie and Trey - Out of stock example3

In the above scenario, only the Small size is available for the particular product but the medium and large size aren’t. They show that by making their S box outlined in black, while the other two boxes are non-clickable and non-outlined.

The best way to go about it is to clarify your size stocks like shown above.

4. Show out of stock message on category search pages

Display the out of stock message on the category search pages so that the customer knows that the item is out of stock and doesn’t waste his time in going through the product pages that are out of stock but focus on the products that are in stock.

Joules USA, for example,  display a sold out right below their items that helps the customer not to get further interested into the product.

Easyship x Joules USA - Out of stock example4

5. Display the stock status clearly

If your product is not available, be very precise and clear about it. You don’t want to baffle your customer by putting out confusing messages and notices. Shown below is an example of what not to do when you’re displaying the stock status.

Easyship x Out of stock example5

A trick that you can deploy is to grey out your add to cart button which lets the customer know that the product is unavailable. As discussed above, please also make sure that the customers know if the product is unavailable for just certain variants or the entirety of it. Black Milk Clothing implements this perfectly.

Easyship x Black Milk Clothing - Out of stock example6

This clearly tells the customers whether or not the product is available.

6. Suggest alternative products

If the product is unavailable but you have to keep the page for SEO purposes, the best you can do is to keep the product page as a landing page and suggest alternate (available) products to the customer visiting your website.

Some ecommerce stores redirect the traffic to their home page if the product is not available. This is a bad practice, as the user will have to start their search all over again. Displaying the top rated products on the landing pages of the products that are no longer available can prove to be a useful strategy.

By doing the above, you can manage to salvage the traffic they have and reduce the bounce rates.

7. Don't display the out of stock items

This one is simple and as clear as daylight. You have the option not to display the out of stock items and the ones that are sold out. Most ecommerce stores have a real time inventory management system and the store managers can keep a track on the products that are out of stock. This prevents customers from browsing around your website and then adding items to the cart only to find out that they are out of stock.

8. Increase shipping time

There’s another technique that some ecommerce stores deploy for products that are temporarily out of stock. They increase the shipping time of the product if they are sure to restock the product soon but as an ecommerce store owner, you have to be very clear to the customer about the shipping and availability. Do not take too long to deliver the product as it causes cancellations.

9. Preorders

You can always set up pre orders for the products that are currently out of stock but would be restocked soon. This is a great way of capturing your customer and not leaving them disappointed. Just make sure that you are communicating effectively and clearly to the customer.

10. Use visual indicators / out of stock messages

Use visual indicators on your website to show the products that are in stock or out of stock, the way Good as Gold have done in the below image. Good as Gold does that on their category pages to great effect. The products that are in stock are followed with a green indicator. The ones that do not have the indicator next to them are out of stock.

Easyship x Good as Gold - Out of stock example 7

Wrapping it up

Having a customer land on your out of stock product page is not a bad thing. You have the opportunity to create a shopping experience for them from a position of disadvantage. You can provide them clarity about what to do next instead of being sorry and apologizing repeatedly. Be creative and innovative as this is always the best way forward.


About the author: Jenny Harrison is a passionate marketing and business blogger. She loves to engage with readers who are seeking B2B and B2C marketing related information on the internet. She is a featured blogger at various high authority blogs and magazines in which she shared her research and experience with the vast online community. Currently, she is associated with PNC Digital, an Orlando based E-Commerce Development Company specializes in OpenCart, Magento, Shopify Web Development.