Out of Stock Products Should Stay Visible on Your Website

In the ever-evolving world of e-commerce, maintaining a user-friendly and efficient online shopping experience is crucial. One common practice that often leaves customers frustrated and retailers scratching their heads is the removal of temporarily out-of-stock (OOS) products from websites or excluding them from site search results. This article will explore why this practice should be reconsidered and provide a compelling real-life example to illustrate the point.

The Supermarket Analogy:

Imagine strolling through your local supermarket, diligently ticking items off your weekly shopping list. As you approach the aisle with the specific product you're seeking, you suddenly notice a space on the shelf with a price tag. You instinctively understand that the product is temporarily out of stock. While it's disappointing, you have options:

  1. You can choose an alternative product.
  2. You can visit another store to find it.
  3. You can always try again on your next shopping trip.

Now, imagine a different scenario, one that's far more frustrating. You approach the same aisle, but there is no trace of the product you're looking for this time. There is no space, no price tag, nothing. The product has been entirely removed from the shelf.

You continue to search for something that's been erased from existence in the store. You know you've purchased it there before, but now it's as if it never existed. This experience wastes your time, needs clarification, and is irritating. So, why do many online retailers adopt a similar approach?

Bringing this to the Online Retail World:

Just as in the supermarket analogy, online retailers often opt to make temporarily out-of-stock products invisible. This practice is counterintuitive for various reasons:

1. Customer Frustration:

  • It forces customers to doubt themselves, wondering if they need to remember the product's availability.

2. Wasted time:

  • Customers futilely dig for items that they won't be able to find, leading to wasted time and frustration.

3. Confusion:

  • It creates confusion as customers need help distinguishing between genuinely discontinued products and those that will be restocked.

4. Missed Sales:

  • This approach can lead to missed sales opportunities, as customers may opt to purchase elsewhere.

5. Conversion Rate Impact:

  • Removing products can erode your website's conversion rate, as customers may leave searching for a more user-friendly shopping experience.

A Better Way:

Instead of hiding OOS products, consider these alternative strategies to enhance the user experience:

  • Demotion, Not removal: Move out-of-stock products to the bottom of category pages, keeping them visible but marked.
  • Filtering Options: Provide visitors with the option to filter out OOS items so they can quickly find what's available.
  • Email Alerts: Allow customers to enter their email on the product detail page (PDP) to receive alerts when the item is back in stock, keeping them engaged and informed.

The bottom line is that removing temporarily out-of-stock products does more harm than good. It frustrates and confuses customers, disrupts your sales, and negatively impacts your conversion rate. Instead, keep these items active and visible on your website, ensuring a seamless shopping experience for your customers.

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