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Top E-commerce Errors: Trying To Sell Out of Stock Product

OK, so it’s all e-commerce, right? But how are the best businesses putting e-commerce to work, online and offline? We’re going to take a look at that in the coming days and weeks. But for the next few days, we’re going to start out with what not to do, featuring some of the top e-commerce errors I’ve run into while completing my holiday shopping.

Today, we’re going to look at one of the most common errors any retailer can make: Trying to sell out of stock product. My Uncle Lou tells us he loves bright blue flannel shirts, something “that’ll bring out my eyes,” he says—which is something to hear, coming from a guy Uncle Lou’s size.

Here’s what happened when I tried to buy dear, sweet Uncle Lou the shirt of his dreams:

It goes without saying that you can’t sell what you don’t have. But, even worse, when your technology lets you down—as happened in the video—you create a negative customer experience that lingers long after the holidays have passed us by. Getting more stock is a lot simpler than getting more customers. Don’t piss off the one’s you already have.

To avoid this problem, work with your web developers and platform providers to ensure you never give the consumer a negative or zero result. For instance, JC Penney’s could easily have shown the blue shirt here with an “out of stock” or “Backordered” message before I tried to place it in my cart. I then could have looked for an alternative. Better yet, they could have shown me alternative shirts that were in stock (though, as it happens, every color of the shirt I was looking at was out of stock—not that I knew that before trying to put each of them in my cart).

Finding and keeping customers when your competition’s web presence is in the consumer’s hip pocket is going to get tougher all the time. Avoiding the simple mistakes is the first step to keeping those mobile devices in your customer’s pockets—and keeping the customers in your stores.

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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