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What do you do when you run out of stock?

Posted By Jacob Ingram

On some days, running an ecommerce store is a dream - that facebook ad you ran was a hit, the discount code you sent out in that email was perfectly timed, or that new product you released went down a treat.

On other days, it’s a nightmare and your warehouse burned down.

We’ve seen both happen, and either way you’ve run out of stock.

Out of Stock products in Shopify

Shopify is built with best practice in mind when it comes to out of stock products. Unlike some ecommerce platforms, Shopify doesn’t hide these products when they are sold out - Instead, the products stay listed with a note to say that it is out of stock.

From an SEO point of view, this is ideal, because you won’t lose rankings or traffic on that page if people are still visiting it.

It also means that these people aren’t going to hit a 404 error page or get aimlessly directed to a vaguely relevant collection page or a product that is a bit like the original. At the very least, the potential customer is landing somewhere relevant, and you can use that to your advantage.

What can you do with out of stock product pages?

Don’t be too creative.

People expect to see product pages in a certain format. They’re comfortable with it. Amazon, eBay, ASOS and every other big ecommerce brand you can think of have established an expectation. Product pages need to be comfortable and safe for your customers, this is why they add your products to basket and keep coming back. They trust you.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t use some tools on your product pages to encourage conversions, even if the product is unavailable.

Related products

Just because the product isn’t currently available doesn’t mean you shouldn’t upsell. In fact, your customer was already expecting to buy something, so they’re primed and ready to pay - drop something else in their vision.

Have an ‘other shoppers also bought’ section on your product page. Upselling and cross-selling is very effetive.

Showing your customers that you have ‘similar’ or ‘related products’, something that will keep them on your website, will increase their chance of converting. This also increases the sense of great customer service and insight that your site is offering and inspires brand loyalty.

This functionality doesn’t exist in Shopify, but we created an app that does just that - place related items on the product page FOR FREE


Which costs more? A small discount or a lost sale? Money-off promotions might be an unpopular option, but discounts have several benefits when you are running an ecommerce store. It might narrow your profit margin by 10 or 20 percent, but is that an issue if you’ve made a sale that you otherwise would have lost?

Not only do discounts increase brand loyalty through creating a great customer experience, customers are more inclined to spend if they feel like they are getting money off.

Have an ‘out of stock’ discount.

A customer just came to your site to buy a product. They wanted to spend some money and they have just seen something that they can’t have. You don’t have it in stock.

Have a message on the page that says ‘Oops - We don’t seem to have any of these hats in stock at the moment, here’s a 10% discount code on all our other hats, sorry for the inconvenience.’ You’ve just given your customer something that they didn’t have before, and they are going to like you for it. Now they have an incentive to buy something else.

This isn’t a tactic that you will see on many sites, but it works.

Pair this with a related products feed on the same page and you’re also showing them what they COULD buy. It’s just great user experience.


Now this is your strategy for when the customer has left your site. Maybe they bought something - maybe they didn’t.

On your out of stock product pages, implement some level of data capture. Just a first name, email address and phone number form. Be clear that you’re not doing this so that you can market other products to this customer (although you can do that further down the line), and it’s just for the purposes of letting them know when their chosen items become available again.

You’re doing this so that you can make a very specific, targeted campaign that will greatly increase the chance of a conversion.

This way, you know that this customer wanted that product so badly, that they requested to be notified when it comes back in stock. If that’s not a sales cue, then what is? They want this product and they want it from you.

Having their email address or mobile number allows you to let them know when it is back in stock. You can recapture a sale that you had previously lost. This increases the lifetime value of that particular visitor and offers them brilliant customer service.

Shopify also doesn’t come with this functionality, so we created it with Now Back in Stock - The only back in stock app that allows you to send email and text alerts

Why not throw in a discount too - just to be sure?

Multi-layered Approach

All of the above tactics work. Used in isolation, they’re all great methods of increasing conversions when you’re stuck waiting for new products to come into stock - but why use just one of them?

All three of these tactics can be used in combination, or you can pick-n-mix which ones you want to use in specific situations. You know your customers best.

You know what they are going to respond to.

The aim of the game is to identify the products that your customers want - this is data that ecommerce owners dream of.

If they can’t have that product, show them something they can have and give them an incentive to buy it.

Finally - capture an email address, a mobile number and you’ve got a customer who wants your products and is waiting for your message. They’re the easiest customers to sell to.

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Shopify Conversion Optimisation 2018 Checklist

Shopify Conversion Checklist

Download the latest version of our checklist today and get practical CRO tips and tactics to turn more of your visitors into customers.