|By Paul Ryazanov||
|August 27, 2013 02:25 PM EDT||
Let's begin with main aspects of this topic. On one hand, out of stock product pages make users' navigation more difficult and distract their attention from the goods they need and search for. On the other hand, such product pages have valuable content - pictures, videos, product descriptions, customer reviews and other content you spent your efforts and money on. These pages are already indexed by search engines and just deleting them means throwing money away.
Most importantly - the quantity of such pages constantly increases. Average life circle for most of product categories doesn't exceed 12 months, and usually is about 6-8 months. This means that any product goes out of stock in half a year and is never back in the store anymore. In other words, the quantity of out of stock products pages will exceed the number of available product pages even in a new online shop.
However, in order to promote a site in the search engines, especially when it comes to promoting online stores, you are supposed to do some serious work with low search volume keywords and product search. That means that product pages tend to get a significant part of the search engine organic traffic for the online shop. And vice versa - traffic which comes to non-available goods pages converts very poorly.
To make matters worse, very often inattentive managers that are responsible for a website promotion pay for traffic for such pages. It is simple waste of money, as it is silly to expect somebody to buy something you do not have in stock.
So let's define the list of issues we have to solve:
- On-site navigation issues;
- Preservation of valuable content;
- Monetization of organic traffic for the pages with goods that are out of stock;
- Disabling advertising campaigns for out-of-stock goods.
What to do with such products?
#1 Situation evaluation
First of all, it is necessary to understand the depth of the problem. In other words, it is necessary to understand how often visitors encounter non-available product pages. For this purpose we will use Google Analytics, specifically - event tracking function. All we need to do is send the command _trackEvent on the product page that is out of stock. In case you are not a webmaster or a programmer you need to write to your programmer the following: "In the source code of all out of stock pages it is necessary to invoke method _gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'NotInStock', document.location.pathname, document.referrer]);"
As soon as the code is implemented, you will be able to see visited out of stock pages in Google Analytics. Check it under Content - Event - Pages. You can set up the report in the Content section of the reports and perform Event Tracking.
You will also need to add additional Event Category parameter for event tracking, as well as set up an advanced filter, which will include only events containing NotInStock.
This report will allow:
- To evaluate the share of traffic to non-available product pages;
- To see on what non-available product pages exactly people arrive most of all;
- To make a list of the most popular products that are out of stock and pass it along to purchasing department.
#2 How does a user arrive on a page with product that is out of stock?
A user may get to such page in two different ways. First of all, they can be sent there from your own site (from a home page, from a catalogue page, from website search page, etc.). Some online shops delete all links leading to out of stock product pages from their own sites, others move them to the end of listings and show them only after all the goods that are in stock are checked. Both options are acceptable, as they have their advantages and disadvantages. You just need to remember one important thing: a user should be aware that link leads him to out of stock product page. If you do not mark non-available products and user gets onto these product pages that means that he takes unnecessary steps, gets tired, gets angry, loses his temper and trust, and in the end he leaves the site.
Secondly, people may get onto the out of stock product pages externally (from search engine, from a bookmark, etc.). You can also determine the traffic source with the help of event tracking method, described above. Just look through the traffic sources related to the NotInStock event, for which the event label doesn't contain your website URL. In such a way you are able to receive information that is really valuable to the marketing department. It will help them to detect and remove ineffective advertising.
#3 What else?
The methods described above will make your advertising campaign more effective, will encourage your purchasing department, and also will make the life of your website users a little bit easier. However, the traffic to the not in stock product pages from search engines, bookmarks, emails, etc. is not lost and the total volume of such traffic can be very impressive!
What should such visitors do on your site? Well, certainly you must offer the alternative goods you have in stock!
And that's when product recommendations come into play. You can make a special widget for the out of stock product pages. In this widget user is recommended similar goods that are available at the moment. It takes only 10-15 minutes to set up this widget on the website.
Case study: Implementation of recommendations for out of stock product pages
The research for the online store of electronics and home appliances demonstrated that more than 65% (!) of all search organic traffic was delivered to the pages with the products that were out of stock. The analysis results showed that the conversion rate of the search traffic that was driven to those pages was only 0,25%, almost 5 times less than the average conversion rate on the site. After implementing recommendations on those product pages, the conversion rate increased by 0,45%. And that was still three times less than the average conversion rate on the site, but at the same time these numbers guaranteed double increase in sales for the substantial segment of the traffic! Considering that it takes only 15 minutes to implement these recommendations the result is absolutely terrific.
1. You can still earn on product pages even when they are out of stock! Offer your users the alternatives.
2. Pay attention to the paid traffic that is delivered to out of stock product pages.
3. Regularly check the most "popular" out of stock goods - you may want to get them back in stock to increase traffic to your website and the revenue.