How to Optimize Out of Stock Product Pages

By Shanelle Mullin

Vague Sold Out (1)

What happens when ecommerce sites run out of stock? Cue crowds of angry (would-be) customers and the burning of a big pile of money.

Ok, it might not be that bad, but it’s certainly never good. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to mitigate the negative impact.

But First… How Sites Usually Deal with Out of Stock Product Pages

Let’s say you’re browsing an ecommerce site for a clothing line. You’re looking for a rain jacket because you have an upcoming hike and the weather doesn’t look the best. After a few minutes, you spot one that looks perfect. Light, but effective.

Click. Yep, this is exactly what you’re looking for! Great, now just add it to… wait, it’s out of stock?!

This has likely happened to you at least once. The product is out of stock, but you don’t realize it until you’re ready to buy and check the fine print.

If you haven’t personally experienced this, perhaps some of these other out of stock mistakes are more familiar…

  1. Being redirected to the product category without explanation.
  2. Getting slapped with a 404.
  3. Being redirected to a similar product without explanation.

Hell, some ecommerce sites will even remove the out of stock product from navigation, but leave the page active for anyone who might find it via search, bookmark, etc.

When you aren’t purposeful about out of stock pages, you end up with vague…

Vaguer…

Vague Sold Out (2)

And just plain frustrating…

Vague Sold Out (3)

The Key Factors of Out of Stock Product Pages

Being purposeful about out of stock pages means considering all of the different factors at play. How well you handle these pages impacts: user experience, SEO, and sales.

1. User Experience (UX)

Wherever there is disappointment and frustration, UX comes into play. And there is a lot of (potential) disappointment and frustration on out of stock product pages.

In fact, the disappointment was palpable over a fictional rain jacket for a fictional hike. Imagine if it were a product you actually wanted.

Let’s look at some of the potential scenarios again…

  • Realizing something is out of stock only after you’re ready to buy and reading the fine print. Bad UX, disappointed potential customer.
  • Being redirected to the product category without explanation. Bad UX, disappointed potential customer.
  • Getting slapped with a 404. Bad UX, disappointed potential customer.
  • Being redirected to a similar product without explanation. Bad UX, disappointed potential customer.

Not even Waffles can save you…

Amazon 404

When creating out of stock product pages, you want to limit the frustration and disappointment as much as possible. At the core, that means…

  • Communicating quickly.
  • Communicating clearly.
  • Offering a new, relevant direction.

2. SEO

How you handle out of stock product pages will impact your organic rankings as well.