Telling customers when a product is back in stock

24Mar10

When you’re shopping online, it’s easy to tell if a product is in stock. The site usually indicates whether the item is available for immediate purchase, and even how many are left. But when you want to buy that item in a local store, things get a bit dicier.

Some retailers are really smart about this, and offer up-to-the-minute inventory status online. You just choose your location, and they show you the inventory status at each nearby store. But what if the product is out of stock at your preferred store? Typically, your only option is to buy online, or check back later to see if they received more inventory.

I’m sure the abandonment rate is high among customers who check local store availability and hit a roadblock when the product is out of stock. Retailers should address this situation just like they do with out of stock products online. In particular, let customers select the store where they want to buy the product, even if it’s not in stock. Then, provide a way to opt-in to an email alert when the product is replenished at that store.

If that’s too complicated, here’s a low-tech approach: give customers a rough idea of when new inventory arrives, and provide a call-to-action that encourages them to check back around that time. This would probably have to be somewhat generic, to avoid tipping off would-be thieves about when big shipments are coming in. But even something as broad as “We expect more inventory during the week of July 15” is better than what customers are faced with today.



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