Mastering the Art of Selling Out of Stock Products on Shopify

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Understanding Out-of-Stock Dynamics on Shopify
  3. Advanced Strategies for Managing Out-of-Stock Products
  4. Navigating Customer Communication and Experience
  5. FAQ Section

When it comes to online retail, the ability to manage your inventory effectively is crucial. However, what happens when you run out of stock for a particular item? Does it mean a halt in sales until restocking? Not necessarily! In the dynamic world of e-commerce, having products labeled as "out of stock" doesn't have to mean missed opportunities for sales. For Shopify store owners, navigating the intricacies of selling out-of-stock products can unlock new potentials. This guide will delve deep into strategies and considerations for maintaining sales momentum, even when inventory is low or depleted.


Did you know that the average out-of-stock rate for online retailers can hover around 8%? While this might appear as a small fraction, it represents significant missed sales, especially for best-sellers. In the context of Shopify, a leading e-commerce platform, managing out-of-stock situations innovatively can turn potential sales losses into profitable customer engagements. This post aims to unveil the art of handling out-of-stock products on Shopify, ensuring that every store owner has the tools to navigate inventory shortages strategically. By the end of this guide, readers will grasp how to maintain customer interest, capture sales ahead of restocking, and enhance their inventory management with Shopify features and third-party solutions.

Understanding Out-of-Stock Dynamics on Shopify

Shopify offers various functionalities to manage inventory, including the handling of out-of-stock products. By default, products with zero inventory won’t allow purchases. However, Shopify empowers store owners with the flexibility to sell products even when they are commercially unavailable. This option, known as "Continue selling when out of stock," can be pivotal for businesses employing pre-order strategies or anticipating quick restocks. Leveraging this feature wisely is the first step towards mastering out-of-stock sales.

Setting Products to Sell When Out of Stock

The pathway to allow overselling in Shopify isn't paved with complexity. It's a direct toggle available in the product inventory settings where you can opt to "Continue selling when out of stock." This functionality isn't just limited to future listings but can also be applied through bulk editing for existing products. Implementing this option can be particularly valuable for dropshipping models, made-to-order items, or businesses with solid restocking timelines.

Communicating with Customers

Transparency becomes your best policy when dealing with out-of-stock products. It's essential to clearly communicate the status of these products to your customers. This includes adjusting product descriptions, estimated restocking dates, or explicitly mentioning that the product is available for pre-order. For Shopify store owners, customizing product pages to reflect this information can help manage customer expectations and reduce potential frustration.

Advanced Strategies for Managing Out-of-Stock Products

Beyond the basics, several advanced techniques can enhance your approach to out-of-stock management:

  • Pre-Orders Management: For in-demand items, setting them up as pre-orders when out of stock can keep the sales flowing. This strategy requires clear communication regarding expected shipping dates. Apps and custom developments can help streamline pre-orders, offering customers full transparency.

  • Back-in-Stock Notifications: Utilizing apps that enable customers to sign up for back-in-stock notifications is a proactive way to capture interest and potentially convert these into sales once the item is restocked.

  • Inventory Policy Adjustments via CSV: For businesses with extensive SKUs, managing inventory settings through CSV uploads can save time. Shopify supports nuanced inventory settings through CSV, allowing for bulk adjustments to the "Continue selling when out of stock" status.

  • Creating Urgency and Scarcity: Interestingly, items marked as "almost gone" can create a sense of urgency among shoppers. Managing your inventory in a way that utilizes scarcity can encourage immediate purchases, boosting sales of in-stock products.

Navigating Customer Communication and Experience

Effective communication strategies are essential when managing out-of-stock scenarios. Ensure that your product pages, checkout process, and customer service channels clearly inform customers about the status of their desired products and any associated pre-order or waiting periods. Offering alternative recommendations for out-of-stock items can also guide customers towards making a purchase decision without exiting your store.

FAQ Section

Q: How do I set my Shopify store to allow sales when a product is out of stock? A: In the product's inventory settings, there's an option to “Continue selling when out of stock.” Enable this for individual products or use bulk actions for multiple products.

Q: Can I automatically notify customers when a product is back in stock? A: Yes, Shopify supports third-party apps that allow customers to sign up for back-in-stock notifications. This feature can significantly enhance customer engagement and sales.

Q: Is it possible to manage out-of-stock settings via CSV? A: Absolutely. Shopify permits inventory adjustments through CSV files, enabling the bulk update of products to allow or disallow sales when out of stock.

Q: How can I communicate pre-order or restock dates to customers? A: Customize your product description and the purchase area on your product page to include pre-order information, estimated restock dates, or alternative options for out-of-stock items.

By embracing the strategies and insights detailed in this guide, Shopify store owners can turn the challenge of out-of-stock products into opportunities. Whether through sophisticated pre-order systems, engaging customer notifications, or strategic product page adjustments, the goal remains the same: keep your customers informed, interested, and ready to buy, regardless of your current stock levels.