Behind the scenes of every Shopify store over the holidays is a team tackling inventory, fulfillment, customer support and more. This usual holiday pressure is compounded when you add on supply chain issues causing inventory shortages, and customers eager to snap up what inventory you have over Black Friday weekend. That’s why it’s important to get ahead of these potential problems, and have a plan to tackle out-of-stocks.
We’re going to look at why you need an out-of-stock strategy, and how SEO Manager could be one of the most valuable tools in your holiday toolbox.
Why you need to have an out-of-stock plan
Chances are your team is already busy in the run up to the holiday shopping season. Not only that, they’re also likely aware of the high potential for out-of-stocks, especially over Black Friday weekend when you’re running promotions. Therefore rather than treating these as inevitable emergencies to be dealt with as they appear, it’s better to have a plan in place for what your store will do in the event of an out-of-stock. This preemptive approach will result in a number of benefits to your team and customers that will help your store navigate the holiday season in a more strategic way even in the face of issues outside your control.
Mitigate supply chain impact on sales and customer acquisition
When one link in the supply chain fails, it can have a major impact. When several links fail all at once, the impact is even worse. Ongoing issues are making for a stressful lead up to the holiday season for every size of business. Amazon is expanding its air and sea freight capabilities, Walmart is chartering extra cargo flights, and there’s even talk of the US government deploying the National Guard to ports to help ease congestion. This demonstrates how serious these issues are, and how important it is to have a plan in place.
Another issue for merchants in this situation isn’t just difficulty in managing inventory and fulfillment, but also in managing customer expectations. While many consumers are aware of current supply chain issues, it’s still your store they’re shopping with at the end of the day. If items are out of stock with no back-up plan, they’re more likely to have a negative perception of the store through no fault of the merchant. Having a plan for what your store will do in the face of out-of-stocks will help to mitigate the impact that supply chain issues will have on your store and customers. Creating a plan now will also prepare your store for future supply chain problems.
Helps with inventory management when stock position is rapidly changing
Over Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend and any other major sale, your inventory levels fluctuate much more dramatically than usual. If you only have a few products in your catalog, this may be easier to manage. However if you’re managing a warehouse with hundreds of products and several product variants, close management becomes an impossible task in the face of rapidly changing inventory levels. Especially if you’ve been conservative with replenishing your store inventory in order to maintain warehouse stock in the face of supply chain issues.
Having out-of-stock tools that can be implemented automatically is essential, as it buys your team time to analyze and manage inventory without impacting customers and losing potential sales. It means that if a product goes out of stock in all variants, your team can handle this in the back-end knowing that the product page isn’t sitting there without stock and disappointing customers.
Improves the customer experience
Black Friday and the holidays can be a stressful time for customers. Over BFCM they’re looking to snap up deals as quickly as possible, and from then up until the holidays it’s a race to the finish line in ordering gifts. Out-of-stock products are then a huge disappointment. Ordinarily, the strategy in this case would be to enable back-in-stock notifications. However with heightened awareness of supply chain set-backs on top of the usual holiday countdown, customers won’t be as patient with inventory.
In order to combat this acquisition dead-end, you want to redirect the attention of your customers to alternatives. If an item goes out of stock over Black Friday, you want to redirect them to what other deals you have on and other products which are in stock. This makes for a better customer experience, as their journey won’t just end when a product is out of stock.
How to use SEO Manager's "out-of-stock" redirect feature
One tool to keep at the ready is SEO Manager’s out-of-stock redirect feature. When enabled, this will automatically redirect a customer to a specified link when it runs out of inventory in all variants. You can choose different links for different products, and it can be enabled on all or just some of your catalog.
Once inventory is replenished, the redirect will automatically pause and the original page will display as normal.
It’s a straightforward, easy to use tool that once set up will deploy and halt automatically saving manual effort on behalf of your team. Your customers can be temporarily redirected to a page of your choice, saving disappointment and opening up the opportunity to sell them a different product.
In order to make the most of this feature over Black Friday and the holidays, you should create a series of micro collections and host these on a purpose-made landing page to use as your redirect link. This landing page should feature:
Messaging to let the customer know the product they were trying to view is temporarily out-of-stock, therefore you’ve curated some of your best deals and products that they may be interested in instead.
Collections of products related to your bestsellers. These wouldn’t be included in your main navigation or catalog, but are created to promote alternative product recommendations. These should be based both on similar products as well as your store data - i.e. products that customers typically also buy.
- Details of any ongoing promotions or deals that the customer can take advantage of - you could consider creating a special code that customers can use if they’re directed to this out-of-stock landing page.
This page can then act as a sort of personal shopper, offering recommendations for alternatives that the customer will actually be interested in even though the original product isn’t currently available. This is much better for the overall customer experience; they intended to purchase something from your store, and that intent doesn’t simply vanish when a product is out of stock. Even if they don’t make a purchase, you’re still offering a better experience than a dead-end out-of-stock.
If you’re wondering about the impact of out-of-stocks and using a redirect on your store’s SEO, then using this feature can actually be of benefit to your store’s SEO. Instead of disabling the page and losing potential customers and ranking, the page can remain live and retain ranking. Not only that, but if a customer searches for a keyword and lands on your page only to immediately leave as it’s out-of-stock this isn’t great for that page’s SEO. Especially over Black Friday weekend, if this happens again and again as eager bargain hunters attempt to purchase the product only to be left disappointed, search engines will start taking notice and determine your page isn’t valuable or useful for those search terms. SEO Manager’s redirect will then still leave open the possibility of making a sale and satisfying a search user.
Being prepared for a variety of situations is key to a successful holiday season. Having a few tools ready to handle out-of-stocks will alleviate some of the stress associated with managing inventory over high volume sales periods, both for your team and customers.