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E-commerce Trends: Back In Stock

E-commerce trends: EDITD investigates the rise of Back In Stock sections, whether they help sell the products in them and why they appeal to Gen X consumers.
E-commerce Trends: Back In Stock | EDITED
  • EDITD Net-a-porter newsletter 25th May 2013
  • EDITD Nasty Gal newsletter 19th May 2013

Take it from us: every retail website should have a back in stock section. Here’s why.

1. Approval
The Gen Y consumer, with their prolific spending power and capacity to shape online shopping habits, are like no other group of consumer before. Although they’re obsessive about newness, instead of wanting to be different, they want to assimilate, which for the apparel industry translate as: they want the trends. And they seek peer validation before buying into these trends. They follow their brands online, engage their brands in conversation and share their purchase decisions. Curating a ‘Back in Stock’ section on a e-commerce site taps into their mindset, offering a selection of garments their early-adopting peers have pre-approved, and in turn, communicates to the consumer that the brand or retailer is responsive to demand. Providing evidence of the popularity of items in an overt fashion is an excellent way to get the next wave of consumers to purchase.

2. Fit
Online shopping can still be a bit of a minefield when it comes to fit, with no one yet masterminding a sleek and lasting solution. If fellow consumers are buying a product swiftly enough for it to sell out and then be restocked, it could be a trustworthy indicator that the product’s fit is good and works for many people.

3. Ease
Navigating through the e-commerce offerings of retailers with huge selections can be tricky. Much like front of store selections, consumers love edited or curated sections on sites. We see the products featured in ‘capsule wardrobe’ style newsletters sell well, and ‘Back in Stock’ works in a similar way – cutting out the online noise for those consumers who prefer a quick selection.

When tackling a back in stock section, there’s plenty of inspiration to be sought from leading apparel retailers, from the mass market through to luxury. Topshop, Forever 21, ASOS, Boohoo and Net-a-Porter all have Back In Stock sections, whilst Urban Outfitters and Marks & Spencer opt for “Best Sellers”. Nasty Gal not only have ‘Back In Stock’, but cleverly they’ve also included “Going Fast” and “Most Loved” sections, luring their Gen Y consumers into peer-approved purchases. With their “Almost Sold Out” section and “Few units left” tags on specific items, Forever 21 manage to create an element of the fear factor which is hugely persuasive in committing to a purchase.

To analyse whether Back in Stock sections actually help to shift the products they feature, we used our commercial database, which stores data on what’s selling online, globally.

It took Forever 21 just two weeks to sell out of two colours, both in eight sizes, of their £16.75 studded denim shorts after they were restocked into a Back In Stock section on the 12th March. Net-a-Porter gave their Back In Stock selection an extra push with an email newsletter on the 25th May. Several of the products featured in the email went on to sell out swiftly: the £950 Victoria Beckham wool blend skirt, the £274 Markus Lupfer Hollywood jumper and the £330 Roksanda Ilincic striped swimsuit have all sold out of all sizes. (Perhaps the newsletter’s featured £928 black dress would have sold out too if it hadn’t been labelled wrongly as Alexander Wang, when it is in fact Haider Ackermann!) Meanwhile, restocks of the £395 Joseph leather skirts and £370 Isabel Marant wedge sneakers both remain in one size only.

Drawing attention to restocked items is commercially advantageous; not only does it attract validation-seeking consumers and reaffirms that a retailer is giving their consumers what they want, but it takes the risk out of buying into them again. Furthermore, scarcity promotes popularity, and it seems Nasty Gal can even justify raising the price on some products, such as the Push It dungaree that originally sold out in February at £78 and have been restocked (and featured in their ‘2nd Chances’ email of 19th May) with a handsome increase to £98.

Of course, monitoring the items that competing retailers repeatedly restock would be an interesting insight into consumer’s tastes – but a word of warning; EDITD’s software digs deep into the data and we are able to see that some sneaky retailers (not detailed in this article) had featured items in their Back In Stock sections which had never been out of stock! You’d better check with us first!

Back In Stock products selling out: