During the holidays, merchants will inevitably face situations when their eCommerce site visitors can’t buy the items they want immediately. With time-pressed shoppers seeking instant gratification, merchants need on-the-spot solutions to the “out of stock” conundrum.
Despite forecasting a 4.1% uptick in holiday retail sales overall, merchants are being cautious when it comes to inventory. According to BDO USA, 55% of merchants are stocking inventory at close to 2013 levels, and inventory levels overall are expected to rise just 1.1% — making the “out of stock” scenario a real likelihood.
The bad news is that an email notification letting shoppers know items are back in stock, while a common solution, isn’t the most popular one with consumers. Just 28% of shoppers will sign up to receive a notification when an item is restocked — but 41% will visit a competitor’s site or mobile app for immediate gratification and 21% will visit a competitor’s store, according to a study by comScore and UPS.
The action item
The good news is that email alerts aren’t merchants’ only option; they should deploy a range of tactics to keep shoppers who’ve clicked on out-of-stock items in the loop and engaged with their brands. To save sales, merchants should:
- Present alternatives on the spot. Merchants should alert shoppers to other gift possibilities on the site right from the sold-out product’s page, whether via a modal window or in the cross-sell positions.
- Promote new arrivals. Email and social media alerts highlighting new shipments of best-selling items can prompt a visit from the 40% of shoppers who say they’ll check back with a merchant’s site to see if items have been restocked.
- Make in-store inventory access a snap. Merchants who’ve implemented in-store inventory lookup on their eCommerce sites are well-positioned to serve the 30% of shoppers who say they’ll seek items in a brand’s physical outlets if they can’t purchase online. But all merchants can make store connections easier by providing quick access to customer service via live chat and on the phone.
- Preempt the problem with “in-stock” product categories. Especially late in the season, grouping and promoting items that are in stock and ready to ship boosts convenience for time-pressed shoppers.
Late in the 2013 season, MarketLive merchant Helzberg Diamonds showcased a “last-minute gifts” category guaranteed to be in-stock and delivered by Christmas.
Watch for 6 more holiday tips on the blog through Black Friday, and read up on winning strategies in MarketLive’s holiday whitepapers.