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  • Writer's pictureHarshil Adesara

What to do when popular products go out of stock?

You manage your stock well, and you do everything right. But there will be times when some of your popular products go out of stock and that can be frustrating for your customers.

In this article, we talk about how you can prevent out of stock scenarios, manage expectations with your customers and recover lost revenue from back in stock notifications.

What we'll cover:

Prevent the problem: How to order products that sell fast (and don't go out of stock)

In many industries such as apparel, footwear, and accessories, this is the holy grail of managing an ecommerce brand. Efficient inventory management and forecasting helps make sure:

  1. Popular products don't go out of stock

  2. Unsold inventory doesn't keep blocking your shelf space

For existing products that go out of stock, you can use existing sales data to get signals on which products to reorder. The difficulty lies in forecasting inventory for new products.

The smartest way to forecast inventory for new products is to go closer to customers and get early data on customer demand long before new products actually hit the shelves. This is really powerful because you can get a real sense of which products are likely to be fast moving, which ones are likely to be slow-moving. This can help you order potential fast-moving products in larger quantities, and even kill off potential slow-moving products at the design stage itself.

We've written a detailed guide that uses real customer demand with real opt-ins, waitlists, and preorders at the inventory forecasting stage itself to make sure you know in advance which products are likely to sell well, and which products are likely to remain unsold. If you'd like us to email the detailed guide to you, write to us at, and we'll send you a copy.

How do you inform customers about out of stock products

It's frustrating enough for customers to see out of stock items on your Shopify store. It's even more frustrating to not find any more information about out of stock items they're interested in.

That's why, it's super-important to make sure you provide all the information that customers need. The first step is to specify which out of stock products are temporarily or permanently unavailable. Bonus points if you add a note near the sold out button showing when the product is likely to come back in stock. This will save you a lot of time and effort handling support tickets from customers asking when a specific product is coming back in stock.

You can even go one step further and add a "Notify me when available" button to the out of stock products that are likely to come back in stock. This will help customers know when the product is likely to come back in stock.

Here's an example of an iconic brand (and one of our very happy customers) Holland Cooper where they inform customers about availability dates:


Smart ways to figure out which sold out products have the highest demand

This has always been a tough problem for ecommerce brand owners: You have a bunch of sold out products, but you can't reorder everything. You have sales data from the past, but that isn't enough for you to accurately forecast which products to reorder and in what quantities.

The best way to figure out real demand for sold out products is to get some "real commitment" from your customers. You can do this in two ways:

1. Create a sold out product waitlist by adding a "Notify me" button on a sold out page

When customers add their email or phone number to your waitlist, it's a sign of commitment. Short of actually purchasing the product, this is the best indicator of customer demand for a specific product (or variant). Here's guide on how to add a Notify me button and create a sold out product waitlist.

Additional bonus: When the product comes back in stock, send emails or text messages to all the customers who opted in to that product. Back in stock emails convert at ~5% and text messages typically convert at 12%. So, you can be sure that you'll generate at least 5 to 12 orders for every 100 opt-ins. That's real cash, almost guaranteed on day 1 when your sold out product comes back in stock.

We recommend that you use a Shopify App like back in stock WhatsApp alerts by Peppyduck to automate the process of adding a Notify me button and sending automated back in stock notifications when individual products come back in stock.

2. Taking pre-orders for sold out products

Another way to gauge real customer interest is by allowing customers to preorder a sold out product. An added advantage is that you can manage cash-flow better by collecting cash upfront and using that to order stock.

But there are some downsides too: Customers who've paid for a preordered product expect it to come back in stock in a "reasonable" time frame. If you don't set proper expectations on delivery ETAs, you might be flooded with customer support tickets and order cancellations. Worse, customers might be disappointed with you and that can lead to customer churn too.

Here are some best practices to enable preorders while ensuring a smooth customer experience:

  • Communicate delivery ETAs clearly on product pages, cart pages, order confirmation pages, order confirmation emails, and post-order self-serve pages.

  • Proactively communicate changes in potential delivery ETAs. Customers will forgive you for missing delivery ETAs if you're proactive and transparent.

  • If possible, collect partial payments from customers and collect the remaining amount when the product is ready to ship.

  • Only enable preorders for products which are "guaranteed" to come back in stock in a reasonably certain time frame. Do not use preorders to "test the waters" for product that you want to restock - this does more harm than good.

  • Make sure you set upper limits on the number of units that can be preordered. You don't want to be in a situation where you've taken more preorders than you can handle.

Contact your supplier and place orders for the highest demand products

This is an obvious step, but the tough part is figuring out the 'highest demand' products. With customer-first actions such as creating sold-out product waitlists and taking preorders, you will have just the right signals to place orders with your suppliers. While you place orders, make sure you have enough information to communicate estimated ETAs with your customers too.

Maximize sales on the day products come back in stock: Send automatic alerts

You've set up a sold out product waitlist and collected enough opt-ins from customers. What comes next is the best part - because this is where you recover your lost sales and make money.

But before we get there, quick question:

Which "owned marketing" campaign (newsletters, welcome series, abandoned cart, etc.) has the highest conversion rate in ecommerce?

You might think "abandoned cart", and you're almost right. Abandoned cart notifications have very high conversions, but there's one marketing flow that beats this too: Back in stock emails/texts.

Not surprising if you really think about it. Think about how targeted these notifications are: Customers saw a sold out product and they loved the product so much, that they made the effort to share their emails/phone numbers and asked to be notified when that specific product comes back in stock! That's a really high intent opt-in. No wonder back in stock notifications have conversion rates of 5%+ for emails and 12%+ for texts.

But managing an out of stock product waitlist and sending back in stock notifications specific to each product and variant is a lot of operational work. That's why we recommend that you use a back in stock alerts Shopify app to automate all of this. Enable both emails and texts to make sure you can maximize conversion rates (and sales).

The Goal is simple: Build up demand, collect opt-ins, and make sure you sell as many units as you can on the day that products come back in stock!

If sold out products won't come back, let them know.

This is an optional step, but can be a powerful way to make your customers feel heard.

It's possible that you will run into situations where you decide to not purchase stock for a sold out product. If you have customers who have asked to be notified with back in stock alerts for that product, then they might feel disappointed if they never hear from you.

To turn this potential customer disappointment into customer delight, all you need to do is - Communicate! We recommend that you send a one-time email/text message to those customers saying "Sorry, we couldn't bring this product back for you." This one simple act will make your customers love you more!

Beyond the apology, You can add a generous coupon code, or even add alternative products to this email / message as a token of your appreciation for your customers. This can help you turn customer disappointment into direct sales too.


Managing your inventory effectively, ordering the right products, keeping customers informed and enabling an out of stock waitlist with restock notifications will help you improve your customer experience and recover lost revenue from sold out products.


Try Back in Stock WhatsApp Alerts for your Shopify store

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