The Cupboard Is Bare: Brands Send Billions Of Out-Of-Stock Notifications

U..S. retailers sent a staggering 2 billion out-of-stock messages in October as businesses and consumers alike suffered from supply-chain issues, according to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index.  

This out-of-stock message volume was 250% higher than that of the pre-pandemic month of January 2020, and 350% over October 2019. This put pressure on triggered email, text and web systems, and left brands without automated processes on shaky ground.    

Electronics saw the highest out-of-stock levels of the 18 categories tracked by Adobe, followed by jewelry, apparel, home & garden, and pet products. 

“With over 2 billion out-of-stock messages last month, consumers are beginning to understand the real impact of the supply chain challenges,” says Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights. “Some have begun to adjust their holiday strategy accordingly, with parents shopping for toys earlier and some settling for gift cards this season.” 



None of this has stopped consumers from buying online. They started early: in October alone, shoppers spent $72.4 billion online, an 8% increase YoY. In the year-to-date, $680 billion has been spent online -- a 9% hike YoY and 57% over the 2019 level.  

Spending shot up for toys (50% versus September 2021) groceries (up 34%), video games (up 20%), and gift cards (up 20%).

Much of this was driven by earlier deals that were offered. However, discounts are weaker in several categories than they were in 2020. These include electronics, now running at 8.7%, compared to 13.2% last year, and sporting goods (2.8%, versus 11.2% in 2020). 

Appliance sellers offered 4.6% discounts, compared to 10.2% in the prior year. But television discounts fell only slightly — to 7.4% from 7.7%. 

The Tools/Home improvement category is offering no discounts at all — indeed, prices rose by 1.2%, compared to a 6.8% discount in 2020. 

One exception is toys, where discounts now stand at 15.9%, up from 7.5% in 2021.  And computer discounts have risen to 12.4 from 11.9%. 

Buy Now Pay Later shopping dipped in October, with revenue falling by 14% YoY and orders by 15%. But Adobe predicts BNPL will bounce back later in the season as consumers make larger purchases.  

Om addition is that curbside pickup was flat, used for 18.4% of all online orders with retailers who offer it, roughly the same as last year. But usage was 6% higher than it was in October 2019.

There is hope on the out-of-stock email front: These messages are perfect for cross-selling and upselling. And the same is true of back-in-stock emails. 

For instance, Nobull automated its system so that back-in-stock emails are automatically sent, resulting in a 15.5% increase in conversions, according to a report in Retail News. 




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