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How to Manage Holiday Season Out-of-Stocks

August 19th, 2016 by Dan Bulauski


It’s estimated that at least 35% of customers who are unable to find exactly what they are looking for switch brands, especially during the holidays. As we all know, online shopping has made it easier than ever for customers to find what they are looking for on a competitor site if you run out of inventory. During the holidays, how a retailer manages out-of-stocks can make or break the season.

In an ideal world you’ve done a fantastic job of purchasing the right inventory during your preseason planning, the supply chain is ready and can easily be replenished and there is no cross-channel conflict over who owns the inventory.

But, sometimes out-of stocks are inevitable and these best practices can help you avoid a poor customer experience, negative feedback and lost sales.

Managing Holiday Season Out-of-Stocks

  1. Avoid surprising the customer — It’s not uncommon for a consumer to want the chance to look at a product in person before buying it and the last thing you want to have happen is for someone to see a product online, think it’s in stock in your store, and then are surprised when they find out it’s out of stock. If you have  a brick-and-mortar presence, provide options for consumers to check in-store availability and offer the option to put items on hold (for a reasonable amount of time), in addition to the option to buy online and pick up in store.
  2. Use inventory from other channels to fill the order — If an item is unavailable in one location, offer to bring it in from a nearby store, or ship it to the customer’s home at no extra cost.
  3. Offer the option to pre-order — For “hot items” on back order, allow customers to place a pre-order with a clear (and realistic) delivery date.
  4. Offer alternatives and match the promotion — Before busy season even starts, identify great alternative products for items that may be at risk of selling out. Merchandise them on your website and make sure your store associates are aware of what they are. Match the promotion and pricing for the original item and/or on other items to keep the customer’s business.
  5. Help them find the product elsewhere — If there is no way that you can fulfill the customer demand, offer them suggestions on where they might find the item in stock, even if it means sending them to a competitor. It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate you are a customer-first organization and generate positive feedback. Chances are good that the customer will remember how you helped them and come back again.


Dan Bulauski

Dan Bulauski

Greetings! My name is Dan. As the Vice President of Sales at Thanx Media, I oversee all customer relationships and ensure they're receiving a superior experience.

You can learn more about me on our Thanx Media management page.
Let's link up to share great content & ideas: @thanxmedia | G+  

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