How to Fix the Out of Stock Product Problem Using Onsite Search

How to Fix the Out of Stock Product Problem Using Onsite Search

There’s nothing quite as annoying for an online shopper as finding exactly what they want to buy on an ecommerce site, only to learn they can’t actually purchase it. Out of stock products (sometimes referred to as “stockouts”) can lead to lost sales, but also losing future loyal customers or sending customers to a competitor.

Ecommerce sites can use their onsite search to resolve their out of stock products issue. Discover how ecommerce websites can leverage search solutions and stock level data to reduce customer frustration and boost sales.

Using stock data to influence onsite search relevance

Every ecommerce site should have great data behind each product they sell - this should include the basics like product name, price and description but can also include more detailed data like stock levels, discount percentages and recently sold counts. This additional data can be used to optimize ecommerce conversion and enhance customer experience. Here we’ll focus on how to adapt results with stock level data.

Using a search solution like enables ecommerce sites to influence search results with stock data in three key ways:

1. Filtering out of stock products from search results

A shopper sees the product they want in your search results ... it’s on sale ... they want to buy it! Oh… they get to the product page and discover it’s out of stock. This experience causes customer frustration – frustration that can get in the way of customers remaining loyal, engaged and coming back for future visits. Filtering out unavailable products from onsite search results eliminates that poor experience. It also offers an opportunity to present available products more prominently, increasing the chance to convert that customer to a successful sale.

Many ecommerce sites default to showing all product pages, with a tiny out of stock notification, or perhaps a greyed out price tag – often it can make more sense to simply hide out of stock pages from search results to maintain a good user experience.

2. Boosting low inventory products to increase purchasing impetus

Boosting low stock items and including up-to-date stock counts in onsite ecommerce search results is another great way to encourage users to buy. When users can see that a product is about to sell out or that is selling fast, it can provide the social proof to tip them into acting today rather than waiting until tomorrow to purchase. Ecommerce search solutions like allow you to create blended relevance algorithms that can give products with low stock a ranking boost.

When users can easily see product stock counts, it enables the online retailer to capitalize on customer intent and encourage a purchase before the product sells out. If a customer sees the latest Nike Air Maxes are selling like hotcakes, they may try to purchase quickly before the shoes become unavailable.

3. Boosting high inventory products to increase product conversion

Inventory level data can also be used to shift products high in stock.

For example, you might notice that you have some products in your warehouse that you’re desperate to start selling more of. To shift some of these goods, you can adjust your search algorithm to boost products in surplus so they are seen  – and then purchased by – more customers.

You probably already discount the high-inventory products that you want to sell more of. With a search solution like you can use a combination of stock levels and discount percentages to influence how your product search results are ranked.

Ecommerce search user interface showing product stock level

No one likes missing out! When customers can see a product is almost out of stock, it can act as a motivator to encourage them to purchase as soon as possible.

The challenges to indexing stock data for onsite search

If you want to start using inventory-level product data to mitigate the frustration from stockouts,  there are some steps to follow.

First, it’s important to record ecommerce product inventory levels accurately and make sure that the onsite search solution is reliably indexing the inventory data.

An onsite search experience is only as good as the contents of its search index, so it’s important that your search index reflects your business data in real-time and has a robust API to handle the rate of product updates generated by your business data.

Real-time updates to an ecommerce inventory index are a huge benefit for large ecommerce sites, which can see stock levels change every second or at least every hour.

After indexing stock data, the second step is to be confident that you can actually leverage the data effectively, ideally with a search solution that lets you adjust an onsite search result algorithm on-the-fly.

Thirdly, it helps to A/B test different search algorithms for out of stock products in real-time, over a single search index. For example, you can test one algorithm that boosts products that you have a surplus of, and one algorithm that boosts products with a higher customer rating. You can test these over a single search index for a few weeks to see which algorithm created more sales.

You don't want to be stuck in a position where you need to double your data storage space whenever you want to test a new onsite search algorithm. This can lead to an increase in data storage costs and time required to set up and configure a new index.

Experiment with search to sell more products

We’ve presented a few approaches to using stock level data to influence search results, from removing out of stock products, to boosting low stock or high stock products. The key is to experiment with your onsite search ranking approach to see what converts best for your business.

Ecommerce sites or apps looking for guidance on using product stock information in onsite search can get in touch with our search experts to learn more about how to optimize your onsite search experience to increase conversions and grow the metrics that matter to your business.

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