If you’re a store using Shopify without an optimized ecommerce stock management and out of stock follow up system, you may be driving your customers elsewhere. A few simple but strategical changes can save you from losing out.
This article is a guide to the changes you need to make to optimize your back in stock email sales funnel. It has the power to divert considerable amounts of potential lost revenue back to the bottom line of your business.
Why do ecommerce out of stock products matter?
Some customers enter a store knowing exactly what they want to buy; others are just browsing products or ‘window shopping’.
For customers who are looking for a specific product, it’s important to be able to show them immediately when a product is out of stock and to offer a way to follow up with them when it’s back in stock.
For browsing customers it may seem less important if a product is out of stock because they either won’t know it exists or won’t care, right?
On Shopify, unlike on most ecommerce platforms, out of stock products are shown, not hidden. So, while customers may be initially frustrated to learn that their dream product is not available, out of stock products can provide a huge opportunity to earn a sale further down the line.
In fact, there are two main advantages. Firstly, it shows that you DO stock the product and it WILL become available. Secondly, not taking the product down from the store is generally good for SEO: if it is ranking with the search engines and suddenly becomes invisible, you lose out on that traffic.
There’s no need for retailers using Shopify to add to this statistic. You can use Shopify apps to keep your products ‘live’ and allow visitors to get notified when products are back in stock.
Below you’ll find guidelines to create an optimised out of stock product management system that slots into your overall ecommerce stock management system.
You’ll learn the following:
- How a back in stock email alert fits into a complete back in stock ecommerce sales funnel
- Which Shopify app to use and why
- How to optimize your back in stock ecommerce sales funnel
- Case study: how much you can make from this automated ecommerce hack
What is a back in stock email alert?
The first step in optimizing any part of your business is to understand it in detail. In an ecommerce retail business, it is especially important to understand all the customer touch points.
To understand where a back in stock email alert fits into the overall sales process, it’s easiest if we create a ‘funnel’ and work from there. So let’s start by learning this funnel in detail, starting with a visitor landing on one of your pages in Shopify.
There are two basic scenarios here:
VISITOR LANDS ON CATEGORY PAGE WITH OUT OF STOCK PRODUCT
CLICK TO VIEW PRODUCT
GOES TO BUY ELSEWHERE
VISITOR LANDS ON PRODUCT PAGE WITH OUT OF STOCK PRODUCT
SEES ‘GET NOTIFIED WHEN BACK IN STOCK’ BUTTON
CLICKS BUTTON AND SEES POP UP
FILLS OUT POP-UP AND SUBMITS EMAIL ADDRESS
CLOSES POP UP
RECEIVES BACK IN STOCK EMAIL
CLICKS ON THE CALL TO ACTION IN EMAIL
LANDS ON PRODUCT PAGE
CLICKS ‘ADD TO CART’
It’s easy to see which scenario is preferable. If you’re stuck with scenario one, your bottom line clearly suffers. If you are proactive and do something about it, then you can improve the customer experience and increase sales.
The beauty is that it is simple to set up and it can be done almost immediately.
Pros and cons of a manual back in stock email system
You can set up your out of stock and back in stock message examples and run the system yourself or use a Shopify app to do it all for you. So which option is best for your business?
Pros of manual set up
- No monthly Shopify app fees.
- You can combine data with your email list data to better segment list and use progressive lead profiling: where you gradually gain lead information without turning off customers by the amount of information you are requesting.
- You can learn which categories of products people like, or colours, sizes etc. so that future email list newsletters are more targeted with higher CTR and sales conversion rates.
Cons of manual set up
- It’s a little complex because you have to create an email list with options for every product, with a setup form on each page detailing product variables.
- You have to delete spam emails manually, as there is only a single opt-in
- You manually have to create and send emails when the products are back in stock
Weighing your options up here, most businesses will find that it costs way more in time (and therefore money) to do all this manually than by using a Shopify app.
The app costs as little as $19 per month and it can be installed in seconds, so it should be a no-brainer for most of you.
Getting to know the Shopify Back In Stock App
For the sake of this blog post, we will be using the Shopify Back In Stock app, though others do exist. This is my favourite app for email alerts and all my clients use it, so I know it inside out and can pass that knowledge onto you.
So what can you do with this app – and how’s it going to help your business?
The app essentially brings automation and customization to many of the time-consuming processes that manual management entails:
If your customer selects a product that is out of stock, a small button can be displayed on that page. This can be customised or you can use a predefined button and you can also determine its position. Once a customer clicks, a pop-up window can let the customer know about how to receive email alerts to inform them when the product is back in stock.
You can find out the limitations of this approach, and the best page(s) to include your call to action button, in the section below on optimizing your back in stock email sales funnel.
AUTO SHOW FORM
An automatic pop-up window can be activated on out of stock product pages. This opens a form, where customers fill in their email address and specify any conditions for the product when it is available for order. The design of this form can also be customized using the editor, and almost any language can be specified.
Here is the one used by my client, By Charlotte, an Australian jewellery ecommerce store.
AUTO BUILD LISTS
The more advanced the monthly option you choose, the more you can customise your response when products are out of stock or appear back in stock again. You can set a minimum quantity of items to be in stock before sending out an alert (there is the chance, of course, that the item will again be out of stock by the time the customer logs in again). You can even specify certain products where it is not possible for the customer to subscribe to email alerts.
AUTO SEND EMAILS
Depending on the monthly package you choose, the app arranges to send an automatic email to customers within either two or four hours of the product appearing in stock again.
REPORT ON RESULTS
Even the basic package provides rich statistics with detailed graphics indicating performance. The most advanced package provides instant, daily, weekly or monthly reporting about new subscribers.
Below you can see the Back In Stock dashboard for By Charlotte. Here we have a report on the sales for the past month as a direct result of sending out back in stock emails.
From the dashboard, you can also instantly see the ‘most wanted’ items over the past 90 days and recent email activity:
I discuss this in more detail below, in the ‘case study’ section.
How does this help?
You have already seen some of the benefits of using the back in stock app. Here’s a quick summary of the main ways in which setting up this back in stock email sales funnel with Shopify can help your ecommerce store:
- Increasing sales from existing traffic – without lifting a finger, you increase the chances of a customer buying an out of stock product from you instead of a competitor.
- You are able to get closer to your customers by increasing the number of touch points – this is key to building loyalty and repeat custom.
- The app works at the product variant level, so customers can specify exactly what they want in terms of size, colour, and so on, and receive a notification only when this specific product is restocked.
- The 30-second installation and easy-to-use interface allow you to quickly automate many of the processes that would take up valuable time if doing it manually.
- The reporting system helps you to measure demand, not just sales. This enables more effective ecommerce stock management.
- It works seamlessly with most popular external inventory managements systems, such as Lettuce and Stitch.
- Brand extension – the customization capabilities of the app enable you to integrate a back in stock email system seamlessly with your existing store, functioning as an effective extension of your brand.
How to optimize your back in stock ecommerce sales funnel
Okay, so now you know what it is and what it does, the standard rule of ecommerce sales applies to your back in stock sales funnel: optimize it. It must be optimized to produce the best returns for your store.
You know all the touch points a user has with you during their ‘out of stock’ experience, so you can go ahead and optimize each step in the funnel for higher conversions. That’s what’s described below.
Your category page
As mentioned previously, don’t be tempted to hide an out of stock product, as this could be bad for SEO: your product will no longer rank and you won’t get that hard-won, much-valued organic traffic.
Never pretend that an out of stock product is in stock. Misleading the customer will just turn out to be annoying when they get close to the checkout. But there is a better way than simply saying an item is out of stock.
Product badging on the category page allows you to add important information to a product. In this case, it’s best to put a positive ‘spin’ on what could be a potentially negative shopping experience for your customer. How about showing that you value their business by saying ‘GET NOTIFIED WHEN BACK IN STOCK’?
There are a few optimization pointers here to make the customer experience as smooth as possible when they click through to the product page.
Rather than using an automatic pop up when they click through (which may be perceived as a nuisance) indicate the form through a ‘Call to Action’ (CTA) button.
Usually a button like ‘NOTIFY ME WHEN BACK IN STOCK’ is best, but you can A/B test the exact button copy to see what works best. Make sure that your button does actually provoke an action, though, by using action-based words.
The pop up that results from clicking the button should be a value proposition. The customer needs to know the benefits of being notified. Spell it out and, again, A/B test different wording.
Generally, you will include the following information in the pop-up:
- The pop-up title
- The description text – tell them what will happen and why, and name the product so they know that they will only be informed about that specific item.
- A box to complete their email address (auto-completed if known)
- The call to action button copy – link it to the original button copy that they clicked.
- Reassure customers that they won’t be sent a newsletter, junk mail, or spam.
How to optimize your out of stock email template
Next, you need to optimize the actual email you send to your customer when the item is back in stock. Getting this right will be the difference in convincing your customer to come back and buy, or losing them to a competitor, so make sure you spend a little time on it.
The email subject line is critical, as this will help determine whether the customer will even open your email. It should include:
- The brand
- The product name
- The price
The body of your email should be polite, positive, and informative in tone. Make sure that you:
- Mention the brand and product name again
- Show an image of the product
- Reiterate the price
- Explain why they received the email
- Explain that it is now ‘back in stock’ (use these exact words)
- Call them to action to go to the store and buy
How to optimize your back in stock visitor conversion rates
If your visitor clicks the CTA on your email, you are in luck. There is a great chance they will purchase the product. But your optimization action is not finished. Once they land on the page, the real business begins:
- Make sure that you tell them that the product [name] is back in stock on the page header
- Include a prominent BUY NOW button that links to your standard store checkout process
EXTRA TIP! Make sure that, with the customer’s permission, you add their email address to your customer list in Shopify, or integrate it with your own customer database. This will help to build your mailing list and broaden your reach with future marketing campaigns.
An example of this is seen below:
What can this ecommerce hack do for your business?
Consider ‘back in stock’ visitors as low-hanging fruit that should be picked! Why? Simply because conversion rates are much higher for these visitors than for standard organic visitors.
Let’s consider By Charlotte again. The base conversion rate for the site is around 1.7%. For back in stock visitors, it is 7.77%. That’s over four times higher. The following graphs demonstrate the upswing in sales for back in stock visitors:
In just three months, the store recovered $1327.10 in revenue that would otherwise have gone out the door. That equates to $5k+ a year for a plug-in cost of $228! That’s good business in anyone’s books.
Many businesses focus on some of the tougher aspects of ecommerce to increase sales – like how to increase traffic, tweaking products and services, A&B testing of landing pages etc, etc.
While all that can certainly help, many stores miss a glaring truth: conversions can also be increased by simply focusing on providing your existing traffic with a better customer experience. Better ecommerce stock management should combine with a back in stock email sales funnel to help you do this.
Increasing the customer touch points and showing that you are looking after their best interests (by helping them find what they want) will also, of course, look after your best interests (increased revenue).