Out of Stock Items Are an Opportunity to Gain a Customer

Aug 19, 2008 12:05 AM  By

If an item is both out of stock on your e-commerce site <I>and</I> not available for in-store pickup, does this mean you’ve lost a chance to win that customer? That depends on how your site is set up.

Speaking earlier this month at eTail in Washington, Morgan Stewart, director of research and strategy at Exact Target, said merchants can still win the customer by thinking proactively.

Stewart showed an example of an out of stock item on Wal-Mart’s Web site. The customer can see if the item is in stock at a local store. But if the item isn’t in stock, he reaches a dead end.

But if the same thing happens at Home Depot’s site, the customer is asked if he or she would like to receive an e-mail when the item is back in stock.

Stewart pointed out three things Home Depot and other merchants get by offering this benefit.

1. The merchant builds up its master e-mail list by offering a permission-based e-mail.
2. It sets up a follow-up campaign with a high conversion rate. It’s not going to be huge, Stewart said, but experience shows it’s 50% to 70% higher than a standard e-mail campaign.
3. The merchant is staving off the competition. Think about the Wal-Mart example. They lose the contact, while Hope Depot draws the consumer in.

“This is a way to turn an out of stock dilemma from a weakness and an issue into something that can actually be a strength,” Stewart said.