There are plenty of rewards and benefits of running an online business. For example, compared to an exclusively brick-and-mortar operation you can scale easily, reduce overhead costs, and augment your offerings with a wide range of web-based features such as apps, widgets, live chat customer service, customer communities, knowledge portal, and the list goes on.
However, ecommerce also poses some real risk and potential drawbacks, and one of the biggest is dealing with backorders. Indeed, there may be no greater source of frustration – or in some cases, outright fury – among customers then when they’re told to wait days, weeks or even months for their purchase to arrive.
The good news is that there are some practical and proven strategies to avoid backorders – and ultimately, prevent angry customers. Here are 4 to keep in mind:
1. Let Customers Subscribe to an Out-of-Stock Product through a Plugin
Create a plugin that automatically takes customers to a subscription page when they put an out-of-stock inventory in their cart. They can then sign-up and get notified when the product is available. While this obviously isn’t ideal (i.e. having stock available would be the best possible solution), customers are much more forgiving when they find out before they go to pay for an item that it’s not available vs. after. And as an added bonus, some customers who re-engage when the product is back in stock may be open to making additional purchases.
2. Analyze and Anticipate Seasonal Trends
Keep track of your sales data over time in order to glean when demand for some products is typically high, and when demand for other products often wane. The more data you have, the more reliable your forecasting.
3. Analyze and Anticipate Product Velocity
Some products tend to stay on the shelf (or in a box, etc.) longer than others. Identifying the average velocity – i.e. the rate of speed it moves out of your warehouse or distribution center – can help you gauge when to place a new order. For example, if you have a product whose inventory typically exhausts in three weeks, and you know it takes two weeks to replenish the stock, then placing an order in the next few days is probably a smart move to prevent back orders from piling up.
3. Partner with an Ecommerce Fulfilment Company
A reputable and experienced ecommerce fulfillment company will use dynamic inventory management systems and just-in-time item replenishment strategies to help you steer clear of back orders. At the same time, your staff will be freed up to focus on high priority, profitable activities.
The Bottom Line
Is completely avoiding back orders possible? For most online businesses, the answer is no. However, the four best practices noted above will go a long way to ensure that backorders are the rare exception – not the typical norm.