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I know each industry can vary... but for the sake of my question lets assume we're selling common widgets with lots of competition. Prices are low (around $50 for most items) and items are available to ship by the next business day.
Amazon.com does: "In Stock. Ships from and sold from Amazon.com"
NewEgg.com does: "In Stock"
Overstock.com does: "In Stock if you order today: Leaves our warehouse in 1-4 business days.*"
JR.com does: "Usually ships in 1 - 2 business days"
Anyone have any input? :)
The opposite would be very interesting to hear views on as well, what's the best wording when an item is out of stock?
Assuming you take orders for items out of stock, you may need to balance setting realistic expectations of potential delay, with reassurance that the item will be shipped as soon as possible so as not to lose the potential sale.
From my experience "pre-order" and "back order" tend to confuse customers as they don't understand what they mean, yet "out of stock" can often be a bit offputting especially if the goods are due in the next 24-48 hours!
I don't understand why some sites work so darn hard to tell customers they are out of stock. That must kill sales. And such website info can mislead the customer:
- Is the seller in-stock when he only has 1 piece left of a hot item that is often ordered in bulk?
- Is he out-of-stock when he knows 500 pieces will arrive at his warehouse in hours?
We don't post stock status. Doing so accurately would be a monumental task for us. Very, very few shoppers ask for it before ordering. And no site can be in stock for every huge order that might come in.
Instead we stock large inventories, buy from reliable nearby suppliers and warn customers that a few orders may take extra time to ship. For the rare customer who needs the item quickly, we ask him to phone us toll free for the best inventory status.
I'd like to hear some comments on this subject
Our stocking text is as follows: we list real numbers in stock for single items, and for items with options we list what's in stock by each option ONLY on the item detail pages, for example:
In stock items displayed below:
Green, gold trim: 3 in stock
Red, gold trim: 1 in stock
Blue, gold trim: none in stock <a href="explanationlink.html">How long</a>?
. . . where "how long" links to a short paragraph page on how long it's expected to get it in stock if ordered. Out of stock items are also marked in red on the checkout.
Yes we are concerned that listing stock may turn away sales, but we feel it's more important to give an honest picture of availability. Almost as if to support our decision, many customers place orders for out of stock items - but we do have cart abandonment and still don't know if that's an issue or not!
As for stock tracking difficulties, we built this into our cart because it is important to know exactly what we have in stock on any item at any time, and just decided it was best to display that in the cart. Now that the work is done, it's an on/off button, display stock details or not. It also accounts for pending sale items - a completed sale that has not been shipped is not counted into stock displayed in the cart.
I lay all this out there because I too am interested, we've toyed with the idea of not displaying stock - but what if, WHAT IF the distributor discontinues an item or it takes them an unusual amount of time to get it to us? Then **we're** the ones that look bad.
I'm not sure that I've ever avoided purchasing from a site because of a lack of "in stock" or "out of stock" information. However, if the same item was available from a different store that appeared to have a convincing inventory status - I might buy from them instead.
The worst thing I've seen - and I've seen this with both Lowe's hardware and Circuit City - is online storefronts promising local pickup, but without having a real-time (probably not even daily) update on the physical store's inventory. *Please* don't post false in-stock notices if you can't fulfill in the timeframe promised on your site - it's an incredibly frustrating experience for the customer, and for the employees who have to explain why the customer was subjected to this mishap.
In your example, low price, lots of competition, I would imagine In Stock is a strong selling feature. I'd go one step further and show a running total of what is In Stock. And, I'd offer same day shipping if order received by a certain time. ;)
But, this can also have a negative impact for those items that are hard to keep in stock. If a consumer sees an Out of Stock indicator, I think many are going to go right back to their search results and find the next supplier who does have it In Stock.
Its that double edged sword thing at work. ;)
I agree with what most people have said so far. It's also a valid point on what to say if an item is out of stock. Other variables then jump into the equation such as "Do you still take orders for our of stock items?" I, for example, do take orders for out of stock items. I've found a slight increase in sales by using the following:
"In stock soon - Order now to get inline"
That worked better then
"Back Ordered - In stock soon"
and the above worked better then
"Out of stock"
I think the first works so well because it doesn't turn someone off in thinking "They are OUT of the product." But instead, it makes them think "They'll be in stock soon.. and if I order now I'll be on a list to get it first." At least... that's what I think and hope most people think :)
I think it's important to list if an item is out of stock. But... if it's out of stock, it's still good to try and get their order.
Like pp_rb said, I've never (that I can recall) made a purchase based on stock status... but there might be something in the sub-concious of people where "In Stock" may trigger a few more poeple to jump on an impulse by rather then "Ships within 24 hours."
And thank you for the welcome pageoneresults. I like your idea about ordering by a specific time to get it shipped that same day. I'm going to try and get a developer to figure out some ASP code for me so I can add something like what Amazon uses to my product pages. Something like:
Want this order delivered by tomorrow? Place your order in the next 3 hours and choose next day air as your shipping method.
That would be pretty neat and I'm sure the count down would cause for a small increase in sales.
As our systems are completely integrated, we are able to match product stock levels against pending purchase orders so if an item is out of stock, we can automatically state "Awaiting Stock / Due Monday 22 January".
The result is that people place an order knowing that it's not in stock, but they are prepared to wait.
If you just say out of stock, then it's unlikely they'll order at all. If you just state that everything is always in stock, then you're heading for a customer service nightmare.
rocknbil, I'm curious, how do you manage your site status? I have considered this option for one site, but the variables involved are putting me off.
It could be a deal-maker.
It sure is for me. I appreciate those that put up an out of stock or backorder notice. Those places that have let me go through the entire ordering process only to find that an item is backordered don't get my business again.
And I especially appreciate companies that give stock status (or at least what's normally available) at their brick and mortar locations. As it's a long subway ride for me to the nearest big box home centers, well, one gets my business, the other is out of luck.
rocknbil, I'm curious, how do you manage your site status?
I'm not sure what you mean by this question. Overall site is a custom solution which I programmed, tailored to her specific needs. It provides for product feeds (Google Base, Froogle, etc.,) order management, mailing list management, and of course cart item management.
If you mean the inventory, we have three tables in the database, purchase, stock, and pending. Displays of purchases is only available via administration.
When an order is placed, it increments the value in the pending table. (rec_id,product_id,pending,option_ids)
When we ship the order, we send a notification to the customer and at that point it decrements that item in pending, increments purchases, and decrements stock.
So at any given time, when someone views the cart, it displays stock minus pending. Every public stock display is an accurate representation of what's available.
This is also awesome at tax time. We just print out the inventory list, then go along the list and count the items in the store. So far it's been 100% accurate the last two years, year end inventory has taken about three hours (but it's a small shop. :-) )
Orders purchased directly from the store are updated daily manually. We can access inventory directly in an inventory query or while editing specific items.
It gets a little more complicated in programming because any given item can have up to 4 item options, but that's the gist of it.
We've looked at Quickbooks POS and we'd still have to do manual work, Q.B. doesn't offer a lot on integration with a site (unless it's THEIR site. :-) )
To those concerned that "out of stock" turns customers away - I initially had this concern, but it seems the honesty about stock has supported customer trust. In the past two weeks we have had 8 orders where out of stock items were included. The out of stock text (as mentioned in previous post) is displayed on the item detail pages, the initial cart review, and in the final checkout stage.
While "In Stock" is good.
I'm MUCH more included to buy when I see
"In Stock...ships within 24 hours" or similar
I've seen sites that have it in stock but don't ship for X number of days.
If I know it's in stock and will ship quick...I'm usually all over it.
[edited by: Philosopher at 8:05 pm (utc) on Jan. 19, 2007]
Amazon use it, and reading between the lines it means they don't actually have it. Then you are relying on their supplier, who have an unknown stock level.
The item that "usually ships in 48hours" may never be shipped.
As far as "In Stock soon" or "On order - due 1/1/07" goes, you need to be absolutely certain that your supplier can supply in that timescale. If you have backorders for 100 of one item (which would be nice for any business!), but your supplier can only get 10 to you, you will have 90 unhappy customers on your hands.
I would say that some kind of stock indication is ESSENTIAL.