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Showing Out of Stocks
Would You Show Out of Stocks To Customers.
kbba04527




msg:3721810
 9:14 am on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi,

A few times over the past couple of weeks this point has been raised within my compnay and between myself and suppliers.

I have always stayed away from showing our of stocks and "delist" products whilst awaiting more stock, so generally (unless of a stock error) all products shown are instock, but I keep being told that you can increase sales by actually showing that you stock something, but not actually allowing people to buy it whilst out of stock.

Any thoughts on what you guys think is the best route?

 

thetmz




msg:3721866
 10:34 am on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

From my own experience, we run a manufacturer-direct ecommerce site and never show stock (though, we have a small warehouse of our widgets - 100-300).
I think it depends on speed whether you are able to get a widget or manufacture one.
In our example - it takes 1 day to manufacture a new widget, so we have no problems with that.

The other aspect could be psychological I guess. If you see "out of stock" - you might think that it's a great thing and I've missed it! I will have to stay tunned and watch for the stock at this shop.

just my 2 euro cents.

sun818




msg:3722241
 5:58 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

If you delist a product, you will have search engine visibility issues. For us, the product description is always available but remove the shopping cart functionality for that product. Carts like osCommerce have functionality that also allows a buyer to be informed by e-mail when a product becomes available. I think a wait-list can help prioritize your purchasing order decisions if you have a limited purchasing budget to work with.

kbba04527




msg:3722253
 6:02 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

Very Very Good Advice and I will Definitly Action It.

HugeNerd




msg:3722309
 6:58 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

I tend to leave all products visible on the website; often with the buy now button live. I have notes which request that anyone interested in stock counts call our toll-free number. This way, our customer service reps can talk one on one with any potential customer. I feel it gives a more human feel to the whole process. We can then explain lead times if the item is out of stock, gauge the need for drop-shipments, discuss add-ons, etc. I also feel that, with so many SKUs available through my websites, it would be impossible to keep ALL the products in stock. I suppose I see listed stock levels as eliminating the opportunity to talk to a customer...

I even leave product descriptions up for some popular items after they have been discontinued....with a note about possible replacements or upgrades. I hate to see good SEO/SERP rankings go to waste after I have developed them; why delist a product that brings traffic? Turn it into a positive!

dpd1




msg:3722326
 7:19 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

It's a tough one to figure out, because you never know what goes through people heads. We mostly make our own products, but some can take a week or more. I never take products off the site, but when the more complicated ones run out, I will put a note on there that it has a one or two week delay to ship. This is the honest thing to do, and it's what customers will tell you they expect, but I know it has an adverse effect on sales. I've had people email us three or four times over a month asking when an item that is listed as having a one week wait to ship will be "available". When telling them it's available now, but just a one week delay to ship, they still don't purchase. Makes no sense to wait a month continually asking when something will have a delay taken off, when you could have had it already if you had just purchased it from the beginning. But I don't know, that's how some people are. I guess they assume that if somebody says one week, than it will probably be a lot longer... Which unfortunately with many sellers, they would be right.

Other than that, I just have a general thing on the site that says, unless something says it will be delayed, it should be assumed all items are available now.

rachel123




msg:3722431
 9:12 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

We keep everything up with the Add to Cart button live. If there is a significant delay (1-2 weeks or more) on the product, we will post that but still allow orders. We have 2-day lead times at most of our suppliers...I don't want to lose business for the sake of those 48 hours. In the event that we are surprised with a backorder at the manufacturer, then, like HugeNerd says, we phone or email the customer and establish that human contact. Most people don't mind waiting if they feel like there is someone on our end who cares about them and will make sure they get their order ASAP.

HugeNerd




msg:3722453
 9:35 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

Most people don't mind waiting if they feel like there is someone on our end who cares about them and will make sure they get their order ASAP.

Well said. My customers often admit their surprise that someone "from a web company called me...and SO FAST!" We send an email to this effect as well; even if it's only a 24 hour delay. That way, there are never any surprises for anyone. Most people seem satisfied simply to know. Only time I ever have orders cancelled after this call/email is if they were trying to get the widget shipped 2nd day air or overnight. Who could blame them, though?

Maybe speed of contact and notification is more important than speed of delivery. Unless you sell insulin or some other type of medication, most purchases are not life and death...and people understand that delays do occur despite the best intentions.

arieng




msg:3722481
 10:14 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

Why not show the product? Better yet, why not let customer order it? As long as you show a projected restock date and ensure customers aren't actually charged until the order ships, why not capture that order rather than let the customer go to a competitor?

sun818




msg:3722569
 12:22 am on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

> Why not show the product? Better yet,
> why not let customer order it?

I guess you've never had a customer chew you out for Overnight delivery failures. ;)

Some of the more sophisticated systems I've seen actually display an estimated-time-of-arrival for out of stock items on the product page. Alternatively, our order status system allows us to mark specific line items as backordered until a specific date.

rachel123




msg:3722592
 1:04 am on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I guess you've never had a customer chew you out for Overnight delivery failures. ;)

:) We don't even offer overnight shipping, but then, our widgets are hobby items...not replacement parts or electronics or gift items. The fastest we offer is 2-day and the customer has to call to get that...our fastest online option is Priority Mail or UPS ground. Plus, the handful of orders we have ever had that wanted overnight shipping were ALL fraudulent.

It really depends on your product and what your customers expect. In our niche, our approach works. But it's definitely not right for everyone.

dickbaker




msg:3722644
 3:19 am on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm not linked into my distributor's database, and their inventory changes quickly. Instead of checking every day on every product, I just list the products on my site as being in stock.

If a customer orders an item that's not in stock, I'll let them know that we've run out, and offer to either cancel their order or give them a discounted price if they're willing to wait a reasonable length of time.

I'd rather give up $10 or so on a sale than give up the sale entirely.

vincevincevince




msg:3722648
 3:32 am on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've had people email us three or four times over a month asking when an item that is listed as having a one week wait to ship will be "available". When telling them it's available now, but just a one week delay to ship, they still don't purchase.

What you are doing is something which infuriates when I encounter it. It doesn't take a week to ship, it takes a week to manufacture and a day to ship. It's not available now, it's not even made yet.

I'm sure I'm not the only person with a very low level of trust in online retailers. There is no way I'm going to give you money for something you don't even have. Build it ready, then I'll buy it.

kbba04527




msg:3722662
 4:26 am on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

In my market, our main supplier take upto 10 days to get an order to me and unfortunatly backorders are not economical, so I can't allow items to be ordered to go seperatly.

I think the best route for my business is to show its out of stock (one order may consist of 20 - 30 products, so one isnt a problem) and have an email address box to get an email when back instock, this could generate a second order

dpd1




msg:3722667
 4:48 am on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

<<<What you are doing is something which infuriates when I encounter it. It doesn't take a week to ship, it takes a week to manufacture and a day to ship. It's not available now, it's not even made yet.

I'm sure I'm not the only person with a very low level of trust in online retailers. There is no way I'm going to give you money for something you don't even have. Build it ready, then I'll buy it. >>>

So in other words, you basically assume that anyone who makes a promise in life is a liar... Kind of a sad way to live life, isn't it? Not to mention irrational.

vincevincevince




msg:3722677
 4:58 am on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

dpd1 - asking the full amount of money for something you don't have is a bit much in my opinion - there are far too many cowboys online. In addition, having paid you the customer has no choice but to wait (he can't go and buy from a competitor who can deliver sooner... you have his money). Offer a pre-order facility without taking payment, or taking a small (5%-ish) deposit and you'd get my custom.

steve




msg:3722779
 8:22 am on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

There is no way I'm going to give you money for something you don't even have. Build it ready, then I'll buy it

What about:

Unusually big orders, I have 100 widgets in stock you want 101.

Orders for very specialist or unpopular items. The old 90/10 rule, do you keep everything in stock all the time?

Custom widgets.

My point is while it would be nice to carry deep stocks of everything you sell, in reality that just isn't possible. Sometimes for whatever reason stock does run out!

arieng




msg:3723018
 3:37 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've worked in situations where the lead-times on products are as long as 6 months (coming in from China). We've been able to "pre-sell" entire shipments before they're even landed. As long as you make it very clear that the product is not expected until a certain date, and that the customer will not be charged until it actually ships, you can avoid any confusion or aggrivation and still get the order.

If the customer has other items on the order, ship them right away and follow-up with the backordered items as they become available.

HugeNerd




msg:3723032
 4:10 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

If the customer has other items on the order, ship them right away and follow-up with the backordered items as they become available.

This is our procedure, too. Using phrases like, "shipping the items in stock immediately, at no extra charge," satisfies many people. Customers seem to be willing to wait for items that are out of stock if they feel they are getting something "extra" such as multiple ship-tickets without paying further freight charges.

I do occassionally get customers whom are upset about lead times despite multiple emails and phone calls regarding their order status; the worst tend to be those who call and request items we do not list on our website. One would think these orders constitute "special orders" by any standard...yet these customers are almost always the most picky and impatient. Can't make everyone happy all the time!

hellraiser1




msg:3723090
 5:25 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

the catch 22:

to market oneself (especially in the unique gift industry) by having "ships next day" does wonders, and differenciates ourself successfully. This is only possible with showing/selling only in-stock items in a realtime inventory displsy system. Our widgets are one of a kind variations that consumers select, and ACTULLY get what they selected very quickly. When we reorder, a new batch will come in with different iterations (thus a quick update in product images,) in that the widget has a different style, (coloration of wood), size, material etc....etc...... Most of our competetors just have everything "orderable" and thats in error as when they replenish, they give the consumer a different variation then what they ordered, weeks later. They figure its not worth keeping up stock and de-listing as in specialty gifts everything is somewhat obscure, and hard to market and sell consistantly. This i feel is common in etail.... Thus, We beat the competition in not showing all the out of stocks and promising next day ship-out..... given our reviews on this, and the framework, we look more trusted even though we dont have a name like "amazon" to back us up.

HOWEVER, when we do our year end analysis, we find that too much money is lost in the cataloging of items that sell out and thus lose on the marketing value of the written imagery and content. and the consumers perspective of how much we really have to offer in the long run. Id say that weve cataloged 15,000 products yet only have available 3,000 at a time. And when something is truely hard to find and unique, people will wait, even if it IS A GIFT to give to someone immediately. And it is true, when there is an inventory problem, the consumer 9 out of 10 times acccepts the wait and is thrilled at the human communiacation as to the delay, even though next day shipping was "promised"

Question is, how do you allow "Pre-order" and communicate to the consumer about the delays and logistics of waiting for a "restock", while still pushing the sale of instock items.?

How do you show your bredth of products to the consumer and searh engines without annoying the consumer, as when they make the "perfect" selection to then see "out of stock" or "ship delay" everyone wants the best selection, the best price, RIGHT NOW.... when they make that (out of stock) selection (orderable with a shipping delay,) they wont pay attention to the "shipping delays" messages plastered as they want to believe their selection will arrive next day, like in-stock items do....

HugeNerd




msg:3723114
 6:03 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

the catch 22:
Question is, how do you allow "Pre-order" and communicate to the consumer about the delays and logistics of waiting for a "restock", while still pushing the sale of instock items.?

How do you show your bredth of products to the consumer and searh engines without annoying the consumer, as when they make the "perfect" selection to then see "out of stock" or "ship delay" everyone wants the best selection, the best price, RIGHT NOW.... when they make that (out of stock) selection (orderable with a shipping delay,) they wont pay attention to the "shipping delays" messages plastered as they want to believe their selection will arrive next day, like in-stock items do....

Well, this is quite the Catch-22, though I think Yosarian would find our problems are mundane. According to Joseph Heller, the solution is to simply crash your plane and paddle for the shore and freedom. Don't think this helps us much...

Some might dispute the ethics of such a method, but it works for me:
Allow them to assume what they please about stock levels and availability. If you are truly worried about lost content, keep it up and remove the "Buy" button. Or, don't. Let them purchase and then explain the situation and your stock to the customer an hour later as you "process" the order...someone had purchased the last item only moments before...were doing quality control and noticed it was defective, etc. The reason doesn't change the end result. If they want it and are willing to wait, good news for you. If they cannot wait, endure the momentary abuse you will receive for the deception and then cancel their order (this method isn't advisable if you have/are seeking frequent reorders. My customer base makes one purchase and rarely returns...so each customer is "lost" the minute they purchase, anyway).

Running out of stock is a great opportunity to upsell for me. I get to contact the customer, provide a lead time, and suggest similar items which are in stock. Suggested items often work better for my customer and my accounting ledger as well. Most of my customers are relatively uninformed about the widgets and are able to receive more information and therefore make a better decision after talking to someone (it's not that my product descriptions are poorly written, most people don't take the time to pick the appropriate item for their application). I make more money, they get something closer to what they actually want, and often need, and it gets delivered as promised.

I am sorry if any of my suggestions cannot be applied as your products are unique!

dpd1




msg:3723222
 7:21 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

<<< dpd1 - asking the full amount of money for something you don't have is a bit much in my opinion - there are far too many cowboys online. In addition, having paid you the customer has no choice but to wait (he can't go and buy from a competitor who can deliver sooner... you have his money). Offer a pre-order facility without taking payment, or taking a small (5%-ish) deposit and you'd get my custom. >>>

If that works for you, that's great. I unfortunately sell products where people change their minds about stuff more often than I change my underwear. Any time I've ever taken an order on spec, I've been burned about 70% of the time. 5% wouldn't even cover my materials cost. Most of the stuff we make is custom in some way. I just don't have the time or resources to be making stuff that's going to sit on a shelf for a year. I'm puzzled as to why someone would be infuriated by something that they have absolutely no obligation to be involved in. So I run out of something, and I put a fair warning message on the site that says it's out and that anybody who orders one will have a one week wait before it goes out. You have absolutely no obligation to buy that item whatsoever. You can go on your merry way and never come back if you so choose. If I DIDN'T tell them about the wait, well then that's a totally different story.

HRoth




msg:3723380
 10:52 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I do much what sun818 does, which is to remove the buy button and put an email notification thing they can click on when it comes in, but I only do this for stuff that I know will take a while to get. If it is something I make or that doesn't take long for me to get, I will just leave the buy button.

I have put on my site that it can take me (and I use "me," not "us") 2-3 weeks to process an order. Yes, that is a long time, but many of my items are unique and are things that I make from original formulae. Plus one of the biggest online shops in my niche has on their site that it takes 4-6 weeks to ship (at least) and they charge your card right away (they make all their items and they are originals). So it all depends on your niche. I am not selling manufactured items.

Once in a while I still get a customer who is enraged that they are not in possession of the widget within 5 days of ordering it. I explain to them why, but if they are crappy about it, I just void the authorization. Such expectations are ludicrous if they have looked at my site and what I sell.

I buy all the time from shops that do not have the item in stock or that ALL their merchandise is drop shipped or whatnot. That is okay with me.

[edited by: HRoth at 10:53 pm (utc) on Aug. 14, 2008]

pbradish




msg:3724271
 4:11 am on Aug 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

We show whether or not a product is out of stock for two reasons.

#1 - To keep the product page in the SERPs
#2 - We think that customers have a right to know.

We've also expanded on this by creating implementing a feature where customers can be automatically emailed when the product is back in stock via our inventory control system. This seems to work pretty well.

Lobo




msg:3724310
 7:05 am on Aug 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

Definately show your stock even if it is out of stock, add a click here if you want to be informed when stock arrives, button.. rather than pre-order, that infers paying for something that is not there and people wont do that, but they would be happy to be told when they can purchase.. you can ofcourse call it pre-order but ensure that "no purchase required" is well clear...

That way you have all the search benefits, you have at the very least an opted-in customer who wants to know when your stock is available and wants to buy and you are showing good customer service.. it's win win..

[edited by: Lobo at 7:10 am (utc) on Aug. 16, 2008]

sun818




msg:3726115
 3:37 am on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Here is a case study from Multi-Channel Merchant:

[multichannelmerchant.com...]

Stewart showed an example of an out of stock item on Wal-Mart's Web site. The customer can see if the item is in stock at a local store. But if the item isn't in stock, he reaches a dead end.

But if the same thing happens at Home Depot's site, the customer is asked if he or she would like to receive an e-mail when the item is back in stock.


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