Availability not guaranteed

A couple weeks ago, I was searching for gift ideas for an office holiday party, so I decided to take a look at Restoration Hardware. Right from the home page, I saw a section for stocking stuffers that seemed like it would be the perfect place to find a gift for a coworker.

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As I was scrolling down the page, I saw that lots of these products are “No Longer Available.” In fact, 65 of the 206 products on this category page are out of stock. That’s almost a third of the products!

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Okay, so I can’t purchase these items now. But what if I want them in the future? Even if I click through to a product page, like for this Mini Scratch Map, there’s no information about when the product will become available. This is pretty frustrating.

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I would suggest that rather than wasting space showcasing items that people cannot buy, Restoration Hardware could be using that space in a more efficient and productive way. For instance, they could provide a field where a customer can enter their email address to receive a notification when the product becomes available. This is a win-win, because it allows the shopper to stay informed, and it allows the company to gain knowledge about their customers. Everyone’s happy!


1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Posted January 3, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Good call, I see this mistake all the time, and your solution is the easier one — and also has the value-add of collecting email addresses =)

    Depending on the type of product — whether they’re substitutable and/or flash-sale buys (type 1) or deliberate and/or restockable purchases (type 2) — we should probably take 2 different merchandising approaches.

    Type 1. — kick to bottom and/or make it disappear.
    Type 2. — sign up for updates.

    Platforms usually make it easy to hide or delete products, but you generally don’t know whether you want the product to disappear, so you want to kick to bottom then periodically clean house. Most platforms make this difficult to accomplish, though.

    So in this case they should be kicking OOS products down to the bottom of the default order-by to begin with. To be fair, it could also be that the product-velocity was so high that they didn’t recalculate the default order-by fast enough to do so. Unlikely, though. Even better is when you can kick OOS products to the bottom regardless of sort — so sorting by price still won’t intersperse OOS products — an implicit ORDER BY price, OOS-last. The latter is something I rarely see. It’s all very difficult for a data guy to manage depending on the platform.

    Method 2 is generally easier to implement, and various services like http://www.mybuys.com/products/mybuys_personalized_email/shopper_alerts/ exist that implement it for you. The above (type 1) is technically difficult to get right, and if your platform doesn’t want to do it, it’s not going to happen. Plus you don’t get email addresses.

    So maybe this is always the better way.

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