Out-of-stock still a big issue for retailers, erodes customer loyalty

Out-of-stock still a big issue for retailers, erodes customer loyalty

As the pandemic caused major disruption in 2020 and early 2021, out of stock messages were frequent and annoying for customers. But while they’ve become less common recently, non-availability of the goods that customers want to buy is still a problem.

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A new study shows that this risks rendering the investment made in marketing useless by alienating consumers and driving them to rivals.

OneStock makes order management tech and its Inventory Availability Index analysed over 359,000 SKUs across the UK’s leading retailers. It showed that out-of-stocks have fallen by 8% since the end of lockdown in April. But unavailable inventory still makes up 18% of retailers’ ranging.

That matters not only because it dents sales at a particular moment, but also because 73% of consumers would be less loyal to a retailer if they experienced out-of-stocks.

The company conducted a survey of more than 2,000 UK consumers and said 82% have experienced such situations over the past year. This was caused by stock being stuck in shuttered stores, general supply chain disruption, and delays to processing online orders due to extra-high demand.

Perhaps worse than being told an item can’t be bought either in-store or online is ordering it from a webstore then receiving an email saying it isn’t available. That happened to 20% of survey respondents during the pandemic. And another 23% experienced delays due to stock shortages after they checked out online.

As mentioned, nearly three-quarters of shoppers would be less loyal or less likely to buy again from a retailer if they experienced product unavailability. And a further 59% said they’d have less confidence to continue shopping with a retailer if they continually experienced out-of-stocks.

OneStock CEO Romulus Grigoras said: “With the accelerated and sustained demand for e-commerce, online competition has intensified. As such, retailers are investing more and more to bring shoppers to their sites, nurture them and serve them the right products in order to convert them, only to fall at the final hurdle if the item then isn’t in stock, costing not only that conversion but eroding long-term customer loyalty.”

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