If this past holiday season will be remembered for anything in the ecommerce world, it very well could be how the lack of communication between merchants, carriers and shoppers created an unsatisfactory shopping experience, which is exactly why RibbedTee.com decided to be as upfront as possible regarding a lag in inventory.
During the 2013 holiday, Mike Schwarz, founder of RibbedTee.com, said his online undershirt business learned that its inventory was going to be delivered about 10-days late. While it was still early enough to get SKUs shipped out and delivered on time for Christmas, Schwarz said customers still needed to be notified in advance of the delay.
Explaining the protocol for out-of-stock items at RibbedTee, Schwarz said when a product is out of stock, the add to cart button is replaced with a pre-order button for any out-of-stock SKUs. In addition, there is a note on the site that indicates the item is temporarily out of stock, explaining to the customer that it can be pre-ordered. The site also shows the expected availability date and provides a link to a FAQ with more detailed info.
Internally, he said, “When an order comes in that includes a back-ordered item, we designed our system to put that order in ‘Shipment Delayed.’ When that occurs, the system sends out an email notification explaining their shipment will be delayed, what the reason is, and notes which items are back ordered. This way a customer is fully informed, so as long as they read the emails.”
During the 2013 holiday season when the company identified there would be a delay, Schwarz said, all customers who placed orders containing the delayed inventory were sent the following update message:
“Due to increased workload at our factories resulting from the holidays, our 12/09/13 inventory arrival shipment has been unexpectedly delayed. We are in regular discussions with our partners working toward a new delivery date scheduled for the week of 12/16/13 – 12/20/13. Our goal is to ship back orders no later than 12/20 to ensure they reach you before the upcoming holiday (Note: Shipping cut-off for USPS Priority to deliver packages before 12/25, per the USPS, is 12/21). All orders will be shipped out via Priority Mail or Priority 2-Day.”
To accomplish this mass notification update, Schwarz said, “we just grabbed all the ‘shipment delayed’ orders, moved them to ‘shipment delayed update’, included the note, and our system did the rest.”
Although the company was 100% confident all orders were going to be delivered before Dec. 25, Schwarz said it is imperative for merchants to stay in contact with their customers regarding all orders. “I believe it was a good effort on our part to offer some transparency and keep them informed,” Schwarz said.