Any online ecommerce store’s mission is to grow, and eventually, become a well-known brand in its market. But what if you achieve this goal quicker than you thought, where suddenly you find your products are in high demand and an inventory shortage is on the horizon?
Stock shortages can happen to any business for a wide variety of reasons, such as product demand increasing faster than expected, resulting in an inability to manage supply and demand. However, low inventory can also occur because of poor inventory management, capital shortage, or failure to accurately forecast the market.
The reality is, no matter how the situation arose, dealing with an inventory shortage can be incredibly frustrating for a company and be a customer service nightmare.
“Out-of-stock sales not only contribute to missed revenue, but they also decrease customer retention and lower loyalty levels,” writes CEO and Founder of Zobrist Software Group Teresa Zobrist for Smart Merchandiser. However, one of the biggest concerns that many businesses face when dealing with an inventory shortage is how to keep consumers engaged.
The worst thing you can do is panic and do nothing, leaving your customers feeling let down and disappointed, and essentially driving them away after all the hard work you put in to have them arrive at your online store’s doorstep. Imagine if dealing with low inventory could instead be turned into a positive situation, where brand loyalty and product sales in the long run increase: it’s possible.
Unsurprisingly, many brands have found themselves in similar situations, such as better-for-you cocktail mixer company AVEC. Instead of panicking and looking at the situation negatively, AVEC turned the story around and worked to find ways to keep customers excited about their products until stock returned.
All of this was done through careful marketing by AVEC, which your brand can do too if a low inventory situation arises. So, let’s get started and look closely at the different ways you can keep consumers engaged when dealing with a high-demand low stock situation.
Six Ways to Handle Stock Shortage and Keep Customers Engaged
Reassure Customers That Products Will Be Restocked Soon
When high-demand products run out, the first thing you should do is reassure consumers that you are working on the problem and that stock will be back soon. There are many ways you can assure your customers, such as emailing and social media updates.
Consider sending out an email to consumers alerting them of the problem and that you’re also working hard to fix it. Secondly, post multiple times on social media that your company is working hard to have the high-demand products back and available for purchase.
Be sure to also update any relevant pages on your website, including your product pages, providing a timeframe (if you can) and assurances that the product will soon be readily available.
Have Customers Sign-Up for Restocking Notifications
Customers need to know when the product they want is back in stock. This will not only keep them engaged but will also help build loyalty as it shows your brand cares about their needs.
Again, a simple way to let consumers know when products are back is by sending an email and posting across your social media channels. However, on the product page itself, be sure to add an option for a user to sign-up for an email for when the product will be available again, such as a join the waitlist link. If your ecommerce store has a shopping app, have an option for a customer to receive a push notification when the high-demand products are back.
Make It Obvious When a Product is Low in Stock
Don’t make it difficult for consumers to find out a product is low in stock or unavailable. Not only will this irritate the shopper, but it also lowers the trust between your business and consumers due to a lack of transparency that they now expect.
When a product is low in stock, adjust its product page information to indicate this. For example, when a customer hovers over the product, have a pop-up show that stock is running low. This correctly alerts the consumer of the situation and also can help push them further down the road to purchase through the urgency that they could miss out altogether.
If a product is fully out of stock, there are several things to consider. Firstly, let them know through emails and social media that the high-demand products are currently unavailable. Secondly, make it clear on the products page. For example, remove the add to cart option for the specific product while letting them know that the product is out of stock.
There is nothing more frustrating for a consumer than adding a product to your cart, heading to checkout, only then to realize that the product is unavailable. If you have a customer service team, have them do outreach to see if you can get the customer to hold off or switch to another product.
Cross-Selling for Out-of-Stock Products
A great way to keep customers engaged and wanting to shop with you is to push a cross-sell of similar alternatives to the in-demand products, such as any of your inventory’s low-demand products.
This is important to note in all communication efforts when updating consumers about high demand and out-of-stock items. For example, when sending out an email to consumers about your inventory issue, let them know about the other low-demand products you have currently available to fill the void. You can use the same tactic across social media, focusing your content on lower-demand products that are readily available in your inventory.
On your product pages, a good idea is to have a recommendations menu below the listed product of alternative in-stock products. This will not only keep consumers on your site and browsing other low-demand products, but it helps maintain the relationship between them and your brand by providing them with a simple solution.
Build Excitement for When the Product is Back
“The upside of low inventory is that it makes your products seem that much more desirable,” writes Thumbstopper. In all your communications about low inventory, don’t forget to build hype around the situation to demonstrate why the in-demand products are so popular, enticing customer interest in the product even more.
This can be achieved through social media posts throughout the shortage, further enticing a consumer to want to buy your high-demand products while keeping spirits high. Repeat the tactic with your email marketing, perhaps sending out a reminder email about the product’s approaching return that focuses on why they need to purchase it when it’s next available.
Have a Pre-Order With Incentives
Another item to consider when stock is low is offering an incentive or bonus to customers when they pre-order the restock of an out-of-stock item. This could be a small discount for the inconvenience or an extra item that is provided to the customer for their pre-order. This also guarantees that there will be some success with the restocking of the item in your marketplace since you are already aware of how much interest there is.
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Other Business Goals to Focus on When Stock Is Low
Every company wants to be profitable and generate sales. However, when stock is low and sales can’t be made, why not take advantage of the situation to focus on other business goals, such as improving customer satisfaction and brand awareness.
One of the best ways to hone in on such goals is through social media. Not all your content on social media must revolve around the selling and promotion of your products; it can be used to demonstrate other and equally important aspects of your company.
Here are two other areas to focus your social media content on that can benefit your online store other than just increasing sales numbers:
Build Brand Community
More than ever before are consumers wanting to feel as if they are a part of your team. Building a brand community is crucial to customer retention, which during low supply will likely help make your way successfully out of it and ensure new customers are waiting on the other side.
One of the best places to demonstrate that and build your brand community is social media. During times of low supply, consider focusing your content on your fans and existing customers by sharing user-generated content, posting educational information, or asking for feedback.
All of this helps build brand loyalty and maintain a healthy relationship between your brand and consumers, which in the long run will help maintain sales, and avoid consumers running off to purchase from your competitors.
Reveal What’s Behind the Curtain
When inventory is low, instead of posting about high-demand products, peel back your curtains and let consumers know about the behind-the-scenes of your business. For example, share employee-made information videos that offer insider information about your brand or give special shoutouts to employees for hard work or even their birthdays.
Sharing content such as this further builds the rapport between your customers and brand without pushing sales, but just by being genuine and human. However, according to Square in an article on Forbes, “this level of sharing can also translate into increased revenue, as 53% of customers say they are likely to buy from brands that are transparent on social media.”
FAQs – When Stock Is Low
What causes products to become low in stock or go out of stock?
Low inventory or out-of-stock can occur for many reasons and are usually the result of human error, technical problems, or sometimes a mixture of both.
Some specific reasons for what causes low stock include rapid and unforeseen demands, inadequate forecasting, delivery and logistic problems, and poor inventory management.
What are the consequences of low stock?
Unfortunately, low stock or complete stockout can be detrimental for a business. The most obvious consequence of having high-demand products is a loss in revenue, however, it can also create a poor customer experience, damage your brand loyalty and image, and even lose your customers to your competitors.
How to avoid running out of stock?
While some situations cannot be forecasted, such as a rapid unforeseen demand (which is often caused by viral hype on social media). With some planning and using the right tools, there are circumstances where stockout can be avoided. This includes accurately keeping inventory count, forecasting demand more accurately, having safety stock, having backup suppliers, and better managing logistical challenges.
How do I inform consumers when my inventory is low or reached zero?
The best thing to do is reach out to your customers using your existing marketing channels, keeping them in the loop on the situation and when it will be resolved. Consider using techniques such as email marketing and social media to achieve this. However, also make sure your website and product pages are correctly updated.
The Next Step: Planning for Low Stock
Low stock is something that can happen to all businesses. Your best bet to make it safely out of such a situation is to have a marketing strategy in place for when it arises.
Here’s how you prepare for a potential low inventory situation:
Step One: Communicate
The first step is to update consumers on your low supply issues. Prepare several email templates and social media posts and have them ready to release when the situation occurs. Make sure to be transparent and human in your customer service communication, while also generating buzz about the high-demand product for when it returns and keeping them updated on every change.
Step Two: Hit Pause on the Marketing of the Sold-Out Products
If you have any ads, campaigns, or social media posts lined up to promote the high-demand product that is about to or is unavailable, be sure to hit the pause button – just for a while of course.
Step Three: Focus on Other Products or Content
Be prepared to switch up your marketing focus to other business goals or low-demand products in the event of low supply. For example, take the time to update new and current customers about the behind-the-scenes of your online store, or focus on increasing your brand loyalty and awareness by sharing user-generated content.
Bonus Tip: The best thing you can do when dealing with a low inventory is to not panic. If you have already worked hard to build your brand’s community and are communicating transparently and efficiently to your audience about the situation, you can flip the coin and come out of a low stock situation having increased your brand loyalty, customer retention, and be ready to start selling again.
If you need help finding marketing strategies to scale your business, reach out today for a free 20-minute consultation. Let’s look at solutions that will take your ecommerce business to the next level.
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