How to encourage sales of backordered products

No matter how much you plan and how little risk you take, anyone can fall victim to stock delays. When you run out of inventory, especially for a fast-moving item, you’ll have to resort to backordered products.

Fortunately, a backordered product doesn’t mean your sales must stop.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to use backordered products to convert and retain customers before they head to your competitors.

What is a backordered product?

A backordered product is an item currently out of stock on your website but on its way to your warehouse, meaning customers can still buy the product to receive when it’s back in stock. Think of it like a pre-order.

Backorders happen to many eCommerce sellers, with the average out of stock rate being 8%. The most common reasons for backordered products include:

There are many ways to avoid backorders, which you can learn about in our guide on how to handle backorders and ensure efficient fulfillment. But, you’re not here to learn that; you’re here to learn how to make the best of a backorder situation.

How to encourage sales of backordered products

The bad news about backordered products is they’re a huge customer turnoff, especially when unexpected or hidden. Backorders negate the convenience of buying online and receiving products in 2-days or fewer – pushing customers to seek out your competitors.

The good news about backordered products is that you can still encourage sales with the right tactics and marketing campaigns; converting the same, if not more, customers than if the product was in stock all along.


1. Be honest about a product’s stock status

First, be honest. There is nothing to gain from misleading customers to unknowingly purchase a backordered product, other than terrible reviews and a poor reputation.

Update your product page to clearly show the item is on backorder and not available for immediate delivery, and consider adding a warning pop-up that alerts customers of the delayed delivery date when adding the product to their cart.

2. Enable customers to take positive action

The first thing you want customers to see after learning about a backorder are ways to take positive steps towards obtaining the product. This stops them from immediately heading back to Google to research competitors and buy elsewhere.

The three main positive actions to offer customers are:

  • Purchase the product and pay straight away
  • Purchase the product and pay upon shipment
  • Sign up for in-stock notifications or a waiting list

Ideally, you want option number one. However, all three actions move customers further along the purchasing journey, making them more committed to buying your product. For example, back in stock notifications still have a 25% conversion rate.

Tip: Offer customers the option to have products from the same order delivered separately (at no additional cost), so they don’t have to wait longer than necessary to receive in-stock products.

3. Tell customers why they should buy from you

Why should a customer buy a backordered product from you when they can buy the same product that’s already available from your competitor?

Provide customers with a reason to buy a backordered product by offering value that your competitors don’t, such as complimentary products, a customer loyalty scheme, or product guarantees.

Another tactic for encouraging customers to buy a backordered product from you is creating scarcity by offering a limited number of backorders or waiting list subscriptions.

4. Generate hype

Use a backordered product to your advantage by generating hype around its selling out and its pre-order status to excite your customers and encourage copycat behavior. Three effective ways to generate excitement are:

1) Adding a countdown timer

A countdown timer on your product page builds anticipation for the new stock landing and provides customers with a clear expectation on delivery estimates.

2) Using Instagram Shops Product Launch

Product Launch on Instagram Shops (via Commerce Manager) generates awareness of your backordered product beyond your website and enables customers to receive an alert upon restock.

Discover more in our introduction to Instagram Shopping.

3) Showcasing your social proof

Sharing social proof and user-generated content on your social media and product pages subtly tells customers your product is on backorder because it’s popular with other buyers. This encourages repeat behavior driven by fear of missing out.

There’s a lot to be said for being publicly proud of an out-of-stock product.

5. Provide complimentary 2-day and next-day shipping

Give customers the confidence they’ll receive their product as soon as physically possible by offering free 2-day and next-day shipping.

By distributing your incoming stock across a network of warehouses, you can deliver products within 2-days or 1-day depending on customer location, while reducing your fast shipping costs.

Tip: Use Deliverr to achieve nationwide 2-day delivery.

6. Use multiple channels

Whether you’re marketing to customers after cart abandonment, or you’re updating someone on a backordered product status, use multiple communication channels to reach your customers, including:

  • Email
  • SMS
  • Push notifications

This enables customers to purchase backorders on their terms and chosen device, while increasing the chances of your message about a backorder being received, read, and acted on.

7. Reduce customer risk

Ordering a backordered product is a risk for customers – it might take longer than expected to arrive, and it might fall in price in the meantime.

Reduce customer concerns about ordering a product on backorder by clearly telling them they can cancel their backorder, providing regular updates on stock status, and giving them a guarantee that if the price reduces, you will refund the difference.

You can also incentivize customers by offering a discount code or free gift as a thank you for waiting and an apology for any inconvenience.

But don’t forget…

Backordered products are always risky territory since there will always be customers who simply don’t want to wait. Always, practice backorder best practices by:

  • Avoiding them where possible with efficient inventory management
  • Updating customers immediately about any delay to estimated shipping dates
  • Shipping products as quickly as possible using a reliable fulfillment partner
  • Thanking customers for their patience, trust, and understanding

When you execute backorders well, you encourage customers to purchase again – whether or not they’re looking at a backordered product.

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