Out-of-stock products are a reality of all eCommerce businesses however it is how businesses deal with these products that makes all the difference. Doing your best to deliver the most positive consumer experience possible should be the main goal of your strategy on how to deal with out-of-stock products.
The state of the product that is out-of-stock will determine how you deal with it. Are you ever going to restock this product? Do you have a massive shipment of it coming soon or lots of similar products that are in-stock?
Check out our guide on the ideal response to out-of-stock products for any situation. Not only will it help you to provide the best user experience but also keep in line with SEO best practices.
Temporarily Out of Stock
For products that are temporarily out-of-stock, our recommendation is to keep the page live. From here you can then decide how you would like to help your customers still have a good experience after learning the product they want is unavailable.
It will depend on the platform on which your website is built as to how this is done but here are some things you can consider. While these options won’t curb all customer disappointment it does allow you to continue to engage with your customers.
Estimation of Product Arrival
You can add an estimated date for when this product will be back in stock so that your customers can then determine if they want to wait or if they want to browse other products. Something to consider here so that you can continue to engage with these customers is having your product pages set up so that they display similar products
Having customers sign up to a waiting list is a great option as well. Using this in conjunction with the estimated arrival date will improve your customers’ experience immensely. It is also a great way for you to capture emails for further marketing campaigns such as email marketing and retargeting.
This should also be used for products that still don’t have an exact ETA.
Custom 404 Page
A custom 404 page is one that serves up similar products to the ones that your customer is looking for however they are available right now. This is a great way to improve customer experience, improving your SEO as it is less likely to become a bounced session and also potentially still get a sale.
You can read more about how a custom 404 page we created for one of our clients helped to improve customer experience.
Permanently Out of Stock
Sometimes there might be products that you know you are never going to get back in stock and like most SEO related questions, the answer to what you should with these pages really is ‘it depends…’.
Here are some of the options you may consider for permanently out of stock products:
Redirect the page
A 301 redirect is a good option for a permanently out-of-stock product. You will just have to decide where you want to redirect these pages to and implement redirects however the platform you use requires. If you have a product that is similar enough you might consider redirecting there or if there are no similar enough products you can also redirect to a top level category page or the homepage.
We also recommend removing instances of this link throughout the website so as to not cause any 301 redirect issues with your SEO as well as poor user experience. The only way that someone should come across this link after your efforts is through users having saved the URL or any external links that are outside your control.
Keep in mind that redirects may mean that any link value is lost however it is still possible that some may still pass on to the pages these out-of-stock product pages are linked to.
Delete the page
Another option you have is to simply delete the page altogether. This is an option if there is no relevant product or category you want to redirect to. This page will then return a 404 error message when someone tries to view the page. We don’t recommend deleting pages if it is still receiving a decent amount of traffic.
Leave the page live
You may also want to leave the page live. This is a good option for a number of reasons if not to relieve the burden off your Customer Service team you can also leverage the traffic this page still gets to funnel users to other pages on your website. Use tools such as Ahrefs and Google Analytics to identify how much traffic the page is getting to determine if it is worth leaving live.