Conversion Optimization

Making “out of stock” products a conversion driver

We walk you through the key things that seem to work to make out-of-stock products a conversion driver.

Making “out of stock” products a conversion driver

Having products that go out of stock can obviously drop sales. You have to throttle ads, delay promotions, and get all hands on deck to get more stock. The challenges of CoVid-19 have demanded planning harder, but the conversion problem has always been there.

It’s possible though to turn out-of-stock products into a significant conversion driver. This keeps a steady flow of revenue coming in, and enables you to continue to market and drive new customer acquisition while reloading inventory. It just requires a slight re-frame in how you present out of stock products.

At Helpflow, we run 24/7 live chat and customer service teams for over 100 e-commerce stores. We noticed a lot of disappointment in visitors around out of stock products and some ways to turn that disappointment into excitement within the conversations. Using these insights, we help clients create a solid approach to maximizing conversions of out-of-stock products throughout the site. Much more than just in a live chat conversation.

In this post, I will walk you through the key things that seem to work to make out of stock products a conversion driver. If you want to see more about how live chat can drive conversions through cart recovery and more, check out

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1. Re-frame the Messaging of Out-of-Stocks

Many stores message out-of-stock products as simply that; out-of-stock. They don’t give the customer the option to buy, and at best they use an out of stock notification app to have customers often to receive an email with the items back in stock.

This is better than nothing, but the moment that out-of-stock notice goes live, the revenue driven from that product and even opt ins will plummet. In short, this is no replacement for an in stock product a customer can buy.

A better approach is to message the product as on back order or have a focus on reloading your inventory. Yes it means the same thing, but here’s where the perception changes.

Don’t say out-of-stock. Explain that due to high demand for the product, it is temporarily out-of-stock but you expect additional inventory by (date). Explain that you were doing your best to keep up with demand and are grateful for so much excitement around the product.

This subtle edition changes the neutral feeling a customer has or slight disappointment with an out of stock into a fear of missing out and respectful perception. In short, they realize the product is awesome and they really want to get one.

This messaging change leads into a call to action change that drives conversions...

2. Change the Call to Action to Pre-Order

Once you’ve instilled excitement into the visitor, you need to give them the ability to act on it.

Rather than disabling the option to buy and simply having an opt-in for stock notice, change the call to action to be a pre-order. Be transparent about the timing of shipments, even if you’re not sure of the precise date or it feels too distant into the future. That’s absolutely critical, but don’t assume that will cause people to not buy.

If you’ve done a good job reframing the messaging of the out-of-stock situation, then a pre-order call to action can drive a ton of sales.

Still offer out of stock notifications as a secondary call to action, but make it subtle. Also, craft your messaging on the page in a way that clarifies that pre-ordering locks in their ability to get the product. Only after pre-orders are filled will you be sending out notifications of additional stock available and you can’t guarantee there will be any ready.

You don’t need to get very happy on this part. Just focus on the pre-order and give the option for notifications and people will often default to pre-order.

3. Fuel Their Excitement

Once you have your messaging in the call to action mailed, look for ways you can fuel their excitement both on the website and off.

For example, we run live chat teams for many clients and see the below work really well.

  • If someone chats a question on one of these product pages that are currently out of stock, we suddenly frame answers to build excitement. For example, if somebody asked when the item will be in stock we will answer that question but also say something about how popular the product has been or what people seem to love the most about it. This is subtle, but it continues to build their excitement.
  • You can also do this with chats that come from people who have opted in to in stock notifications. If you are sending updates regularly or other types of promotions to these people, you can frame answers to build excitement and possibly have people pre-order rather than stay on the stock notification email list.

The key thing I want to clarify here is that you should not overhype or go into sleazy marketing mode. You have to be careful with this as the line is subtle.

What To Do Now?

If you have products that are expected to go out of stock or are out of stock now, give this a try. It will take a little bit of development work from your team to change the buy box on out of stock products, but it’s worth the investment.

And if you’re not using LiveChat on these pages, definitely give that a shot. What customers say about out of stock products will help you identify really powerful ways to drive more conversions on these products and more.

At HelpFlow, we run 24/7 live chat teams for over 100 e-commerce stores. To see how live chat can drive more conversions through cart recovery and more, check out

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