Should You Ditch or Keep an Ad Featuring a Sold-Out Item?

What to Do with Successful Ads Featuring Out of Stock Items

Sold out

Key Takeaways:

Out of stock styles and products can present a marketing challenge.

Understand the pros and cons of promoting a successful ad with a sold-out product or retiring it and using it to inspire future ad campaigns.

Ever had a high-performing ad featuring a product that is no longer in stock? Not sure whether to keep or ditch the ad in light of your current inventory? Join us as we share some guidelines for navigating these types of scenarios.

A Recent Run-In with an Ad Featuring a Sold-Out Product or Style

Here at Technology Therapy® Group, we recently ran into something with a client that might be familiar to you. We had a beautiful video of their product in use that had performed well in ads in the past in terms of driving traffic to the site. But while the product was in-stock in many prints and sizes, the particular print featured in the video was not.

Ironically, this print was not popular when it was in stock it didn’t sell well. In fact, though the video drove a lot of traffic to the site and even drove sales, those sales were for other prints.

We faced a dilemma. Should we continue the ad for the sake of increasing traffic and engagement (and risk customers’ negative responses when they realized that one style they saw in the ad was sold out)? Or should we pause the ad and miss out on a potentially great opportunity to converse with customers (and direct their gaze to similar products)?

Our Decision and How Consumers Responded

In the end, our team decided to use the video in a new ad campaign to market the company in general rather than a specific product. This creative had performed well in the past and still showed off the fact that this company makes great products.

And customers reacted in an unexpected way. Not only did we get far more comments than usual, but 10%-15% of those comments were about the product being out of stock.

And customers reacted in an unexpected way. Not only did we get far more comments than usual, but 10%-15% of those comments were about the product being out of stock.

Considering Potential Reactions 

Before deciding on whether to pause this client’s ad or not, we explored how our marketing team would react to an ad with a sold-out product. We also considered how the average customer (with a non-marketing background) might view it. 

From a Marketing Perspective

We asked the TTG team if they’ve ever experienced clicking on an ad only to find out that the product in the ad was sold out. Almost everyone had, but their reactions to that experience varied widely.

  • Our designer Tom noted that he’s used to this experience because he tends to be interested in limited-release products. So, he’ll often see ads for products that dropped that day but sold out an hour or two before he clicked the ad, so in those cases he understands.
  • Our senior strategist Courtney said that in cases where the ad is more general and the product isn’t specifically linked or tagged, it doesn’t usually bother her. However, she’ll often get carousel ads from favorite clothing companies that focus on one product per carousel card and link right to those products. She’ll click on those only to find that “X” product is sold out or it’s only available in one or two sizes (which is much more frustrating!).
  • The rest of the team agreed that when the ads are more general, this isn’t an issue for them. But clicking on an ad for a specific product and finding out that it’s sold out typically leads to frustration and disappointment. However, in this case, they usually didn’t feel frustrated or disappointed enough to leave a comment about it.

These responses were just from our team, though. And because we all work in the industry, our reactions to these ads are likely more forgiving than the responses of the average person who doesn’t work in retail or marketing.

From a Non-Marketing Perspective

Many consumers hold businesses to often unattainable standards — including the ads and product spotlight videos a company shares on their website and social channels. Be aware of this reality when deciding what ads to continue using and which ones to retire once a product or style an ad features is sold out.

Many consumers hold businesses to often unattainable standards. Be aware of this reality when deciding what ads to continue using and which ones to retire once a product or style an ad features is sold out.

2 Tips for Navigating Similar (Sold-Out) Scenarios

  1. Sold-Out Products or Styles That Won’t Be Restocked
    In the case mentioned above, the product in question was not going to come back in stock and we’d received numerous comments about it. So, we decided to pause the ad. However, since that asset sparked conversation, we used it as a reference point to develop similar videos featuring in-stock products for future ads.
  2. Sold-Out Products That Will Be Restocked
    In other circumstances, when the product is sold out, but you plan to bring it back in stock, consider keeping the ad. Then either direct the user to a waitlist page or provide an option to sign up for the waitlist on the product page. Just be sure to give an estimated timeline for when the customers can expect to be contacted for the product that they’re waiting for you to restock.

Use these situations to have an open dialogue with your customers in the comments. Respond to their concerns, provide direct links to similar products, and thank them for their feedback. Often customers just want to feel heard, and they appreciate the time you take to address their concerns.

Even if you decide to pause an ad that features a sold-out product or style, you can use it as a reference point to develop similar videos featuring in-stock products for future ads.

Assistance with Ad Campaigns, Customer Engagement, and More

Time to rope in the marketing experts for some guidance with your brand’s ad campaigns? Need some coaching to strengthen your relationship with customers and incorporate their suggestions into your future marketing strategy? Contact us about marketing training for you and/or your team. Then check out the following on-demand courses to grow your small business smarts.

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