Optimize out of stock product pages
1. Clearly explain why a product is out of stock and the approximate time the user will need to wait until it's back in stock.
For example, perhaps you’re out of stock because of seasonality, unexpected demand, or manufacturing issues. If you’re close to running out and this limits the number of items a user can purchase, make this information clear. Here’s an example from Hammock Town, which addresses the limited stock issue.
2. Add an out of stock sticker to product images in search results and category pages, warning users they won't be able to purchase the product.
It would be hard to miss these SOLD OUT circles, even though they’re muted and let the product packaging pop. You could also gray out product images or overlay a red x.
3. If you sell multiple variations on one product page - for example, different sizes and colors of a pair of shoes - develop and test hypotheses for communicating partial out of stock information as soon as possible.
For example, some companies show available sizes as an overlay on the product image, in a category, or search results page, so customers looking for a size that’s sold out can save time.
4. Look at your website analytics to figure out how your customers decide what to buy, then set up tags and alternative product suggestions based on your findings.
For example, some businesses will find that their customers are brand-loyal, and if one product is out of stock, will want to buy a similar product from the same brand. Other businesses might find that their customers don’t care about brand, but will want to find a similar product that has a comparable price point, or is the same color. Presenting too many options can be overwhelming, and presenting too few options can be underwhelming. What do people who view this product, but don’t purchase it, commonly end up buying? Direct based on that. If the products you’re suggesting are more expensive than the originally desired product, consider offering a discount or bonus to keep the sale alive.
5. Capture contact information for customers interested in items that are out of stock by promising an email when you get them back in stock.
For example, here’s how Chubbies does it. The visitor doesn’t even need to click through to the product page, they can submit their email right here. Maybe the customer will come across something else they like better; maybe they’ll wait for you to restock. In either case, you now have some valuable information that you can use to your advantage going forward.
6. If you have a physical store, include in-store availability on your product pages.
Customers who wanted to buy online might be willing to travel to a store to obtain the product. People who notice that the product isn’t available at all stores might have a heightened sense of urgency about buying it online before you run out.
7. If your products are permanently out of stock, either create a custom 404 page or 301 redirects to a specific page.
Customize your 404 pages by branding the page and offering other product suggestions to users. Redirect users to a similar product or the product category using a 301 redirect. Include a dynamically generated message along the lines of, Sorry, we’re all out of X! Here’s a similar product you might like… to keep the customer informed and engaged. 301 redirects help you to retain link equity and shows search engines that your site is well-maintained.