7 Tips for Online Retailers to Handle Backorders


When you’re fortunate enough to have lots of ecommerce orders coming in, there’s a chance you may have backorders. Here’s what you should know about managing the expectations of your customers when you can’t immediately fulfill their requests.

  • Don’t process payment until the order can be filled. In the event your wholesaler or distributor is unable to fulfill the order at all or the delay is longer than expected, it’s easier on everyone to not have to refund payment. Consider too the terms of your credit card company agreement, which may prohibit charges for out-of-stock items altogether.
  • Offer to partial ship a larger order. Some customers may appreciate having your in-stock items get to them sooner, while others may be content to wait until all items are in. Decide whether to eat the additional shipping cost or pass it on to your customer.
  • Update your website promptly. In the case of very popular products, a simple “In stock July 1” will help your customers know when to expect their items. Sometimes giving a specific date versus just stamping “Backordered” can be encouraging for future orders and customer confidence. Customers appreciate knowing why the product isn’t available and how you will resolve the issue. For very popular items or during major shopping periods, share this information via your social media channels as well.
  • Consider a consolation offer. If you are anxious about keeping your customers from finding the product elsewhere, make the wait worth their time. Offering a discount off of the item or a for a future order, free shipping or free gift-wrapping may be enough to hold them over until the product is back in stock.
  • Encourage open conversation. Whether you deal with customers via chat, email, phone or social media, the personal touch of an honest answer sets buying minds at ease. Be sure your contact information is prominently displayed on your website and reinforce the importance of customer satisfaction to your shop. If you have a dedicated customer service team, apprise them immediately of the potential for customer contact about the backordered product.
  • Evaluate your inventory system. If backorders occur frequently, it could be time to take a closer look at your procedures for ordering and stocking inventory. Your historical data will help you understand when to reorder before stock gets too low; you may also have the option to auto-schedule reorders.
  • Evaluate the timeframe of the backorder. It’s possible that your distributor or wholesaler may be able to send you new stock within a few days. In that case, you may not need to inform your customers at all if you still anticipate shipping within their desired timeframe.