When a certain item gets sold out, you have two major options to deal with it: hide it from store visitors or leave it there. Unless you’re not planning on restocking this particular item, you should go with the latter option, and there are multiple reasons why.
1. The so-called sold-out effect
For store visitors that are browsing through products, “phantom options”—those that are displayed but can’t be ordered at the moment—can influence purchasing decisions. These options trigger social proof psychology: people tend to believe that something is of good quality if many other people express interest in it.
The 2021 study shows a significant increase in the probability of purchase when there are several sold-out products in the same category.
For example, 73% of participants wanted to buy a USB cable when all product variants were available. When 2 out of 4 variants were marked as sold out, the share of participants willing to buy a product increased to 95.7%. If more than half of the options were shown as unavailable (4 out of 6), the share of people ready to purchase still increased but not as much: to 83.3%.
There’s a correlation between the proportion of sold-out items and customers’ perception:
There are multiple other studies that support the idea that sold-out items increase purchasing probability and create a sense of urgency in both offline and online settings. With that said, showing unavailable products or product variants might help you get more customers.
However, sold-out options won’t have a positive impact in the following cases:
- If there are too many sold-out products—30% of your inventory or more. In this scenario, choose the most popular items that will be restocked soon and display only them.
- If the whole range of a certain product or product category is unavailable. If a customer is looking for something specific and doesn’t find any alternative on your store, chances are that you’ll lose that customer.
2. Sending back-in-stock reminders
Not just showing that a certain product is out of stock but offering to subscribe to back-in-stock notifications is a more proactive approach to dealing with sold-out inventory.
Back-in-stock reminders can work with a whole range of product options, as well as with specific variants. For example, you can cross out sold-out variants and add the notification button to them (while available variants will behave as usual):
There are a lot of Shopify back-in-stock alert apps that will help you design an attractive subscription button and capture customers’ attention. The same can also be done via email marketing apps such as Klaviyo: it allows you to insert a snippet to your theme’s code and create a back-in-stock button. This might be an easier way because you won’t need to sync a back-in-stock app with an email marketing solution but control everything in one place.
Note that having a button that lets visitors subscribe to notifications about a sold-out product is only half the battle. When you restock that product, you’ll need to design an attractive back-in-stock email reminding a customer why they would benefit from the purchase.
You don’t have to be limited to emails: back-in-stock solutions also allow you to set SMS reminders. Plus, if you have a mobile app version of your store, you can use push notifications.
3. Saving page traffic
You don’t want to lose the traffic a product page accumulated before a product was sold out, especially if this page attracted many people from search results or other traffic sources. What you can do is push out-of-stock items to the end of your collection pages. This way, they will still be on your website, attracting visits and clicks, but they won’t disturb people browsing your catalog as they will have available products shown first.
The Nada app will help you automatically push sold-out inventory to the end of the page. And once you restock, the app will automatically put the product back to its original position. It starts at $4.99 per month after a 7-day free trial.
The only reason you should hide out-of-stock products completely—which means deleting a page—is when you’re not planning to restock the item and the page doesn’t generate any traffic. But don’t forget to set a redirect from the deleted page to another relevant page (for example, with an upgraded version of the same product or with a product of the same type). If it doesn’t seem helpful to you, you can not use any redirect, and a deleted page will lead to a 404 error. Make sure to take advantage of your 404 page: you can feature the most popular products there, for example.
4. Attractive product badges and labels
When you leave sold-out products shown on your site, you have a lot of room for creativity on how exactly to display them. For example, you can create different types of labels based on stock statuses:
On the product page itself, you can include any message you want instead of a default “sold out” phrase. It can be something fun and informative, like in the example below:
Product badges and labels can work well for the sold-out effect we’ve mentioned. Visitors will see that certain products are popular and getting restocked regularly, which might positively impact their shopping experience.
There are plenty of Shopify apps to help you add this functionality: for instance, Product Labels & Badges or Smart Product Labels.
Additionally, you can change “sold out” wording even without an app. Go to your theme in Shopify admin > Actions > Edit languages. Search for “sold out” and input anything you want in the Product sold-out field:
Take the most out of your products even when they are sold out
Out-of-stock inventory can positively impact your business while not bringing direct sales:
- It can incentivize customers to purchase (if there are still enough options to choose from)
- It can attract customers to subscribe to back-in-stock notifications and return to your store
With that in mind, make sold-out products visible to customers if these products are popular and will be restocked. Experiment with product labels and badges, back-in-stock notifications, and out-of-stock wording to create more engagement and conversions.