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As an eCommerce business owner, one of your main objectives is to ensure a satisfactory customer experience. One way to encourage customer satisfaction is by maintaining adequate product supply. Out-of-stock situations–where would-be consumers cannot acquire the products they came looking for–can negatively impact customer satisfaction.

However, with some thoughtful planning, customer experience-oriented thinking, and efficient inventory management, this does not have to be the case. Let’s explore the importance of dealing with out-of-stock items in a timely manner and identify the best practices for handling these situations.

What Happens When an Item Is Out-of-Stock?

Stockouts, or out-of-stock events, occur when an item’s inventory has been depleted. This can happen at any point in a supply chain and it is most common for retail consumer goods. Indeed, the situation is so bad in some verticals–such as consumer electronics–that shoppers find products out-of-stock on every third visit.

It’s estimated that every year, retailers lose over $1 trillion due to stockouts. This is quite a hefty loss for an issue that can be easily managed with the right tools.

Naturally stockouts are upsetting for buyers and hurt their trust in your brand. They may even bounce from your website and head to your competitor’s online storefront. The worst-case scenario? You might end up losing those customers forever…

Best Ways to Handle OOS (Out of Stock)

Now that you know how out-of-stock experiences can affect you, it’s important to understand how to manage these situations. Having a plan in place in the event of OOS will help mitigate the situation’s negative effects on your customer base.

Here are the best practices for managing out-of-stock situations:

Notify Customers Immediately

In life, it is best to own up to your mistakes and the same applies to out-of-stock products. If you realize that a certain product is out-of-stock, you need to send out an email to your customers immediately.

The longer that they have to wait to hear from you, the worse their experience gets. No one should have to wait for days or even weeks only to be told that their order has been canceled due to a stockout. To improve their experience, it’s also necessary to provide alternatives or an option to cancel their order as early as possible.

These notifications will also come in handy later when the products are back in stock. You can send out “back-in-stock” emails to the very same customers. This would show that your brand truly cares about providing a quality customer experience and it might also help you net some conversions.

Move Out-of-Stock Items Out-of-Sight

One of the best ways to deal with out-of-stock items is to move them “below the fold” or even hide them completely. This reduces the chance your customers will discover them and be disappointed.

Zobrist’s Smart Merchandiser is an effective tool for out-of-stock management. This platform helps you maintain your store using a simple drag-and-drop storefront manager. This inventory management software allows you to seamlessly shift out-of-stock products out of a customer’s initial line of sight. Ideally, you can move them to the bottom of the page or keep them away from the first few pages. This can help you boost your revenue by 20%.

out of stock management
Image Source: Zobrist Inc.

Maintain a Close Relationship with the Customer

If your customers have purchased an out-of-stock product, you not only need to notify them but you should also do something to compensate them for the inconvenience. A great way to offset their inconvenience is to provide some sort of credit or discount on their next purchase. You could also offer free shipping for the product if it was paid. The idea is to give them an incentive to return to your store.

Shoppers might be disappointed when they’re told that the products they wanted aren’t in stock, but these incentives can help. While you may incur some costs, they can go a long way in helping you retain customers, thereby boosting your revenue in the long run.

Determine OOS Patterns

One of the best ways to deal with out-of-stock events is to effectively manage your inventory. To do this, it’s essential to look for out-of-stock trends in your product supply. You must audit your inventory regularly and determine if there are particular days or times when your stock gets exhausted. These could be days when your demand is particularly high.

In fact, a study by P&G found that stockouts tend to form patterns and this makes it all the more important to recognize them.

out of stock trends
Image Source: NACDS

When you spot such trends, you can restock your products accordingly so that you don’t end up with stockouts. To visualize and find such trends, leverage a tool like Smart Merchandiser.

This software helps you visualize your sales revenue, conversion rate, number of views, and abandonment for each product on its thumbnail. You can also examine your inventory levels and identify trends down to the day and time of week stockouts are likely to occur.

Use a Modern Inventory Management Solution

The most effective way to prevent out-of-stock situations is through an inventory management solution. Such a system makes tracking your inventory much easier as inventory levels are updated automatically. These tools can also come in handy if you’re selling in multiple locations, since the stock levels can vary with each storefront.

Smart Merchandiser is an excellent choice for a modern inventory solution. It has a powerful inventory management system that gives you a real-time picture of your inventory so that you can stay on top of your inventory levels at all times.

Additionally, it supports cross-country catalogs so that you can define and link the sales catalogs for each country that you serve.


Out-of-stock products can prove frustrating for your shoppers and you must leave no stone unturned to avoid such situations.

Keeping customer satisfaction in mind, having a plan in place, and utilizing an inventory management system that provides crucial inventory insights and easy-to-use tools are the best ways to handle stockouts.

Want to learn more? Take advantage of what Smart Merchandiser can do for your eCommerce business.