INSIGHTS Reducing points of friction in the sales process



3 min read

Autor: Stefan Tobel

Smart handling of product availability challenges

As the fall/winter fashion season draws to an end, and stocks are getting lower and lower, the smart handling of availabilities becomes even more important. Everyone probably knows the frustrating shopping experience of discovering that the favourite product is not available in your size. For our business model, this is a major point of friction in the sales process. Our priority is to reduce these frustrating moments for our users for two reasons:

a) it’s a bad experience for the user (and therefore he or she might not come back)
b) we don’t sell the product

Obviously reordering the product size is an option, but this only helps in the long run. In this blog post, I will focus on how we handle product availability challenges in our shop during the visit of a user. We came up with different features to improve the handling size availabilities of which I will present three:

1. Down boosting of products with limited size availability
2. Size handling via the personal filter
3. “Size available again” mailing

1) Down boosting of products with limited size availability

Most people discover the products on our category pages. We have a specific logic how to sort these products according to their performance. One major characteristic of good selling products is, that they reach low availability quickly. So if we would simply sort products by their past performance, we would have a quite high share of products with only few sizes available on top. Over time these products would disappear because with few sizes they can’t perform good, no matter how much our customers love them. But until our sorting algorithm would have learned about the now lower performance, these products would reduce our sales success. Therefore we added an additional rule to our sorting algorithm to down boost top selling products if only few sizes are available.

2) Size handling in the personal filter

At ABOUT YOU, personalizing the shopping experience of our users is one of our main objectives (on personalization at ABOUT YOU see also the posts on the stylequiz and the personalized logo.)

Users can give us information about their preferences and based on this information we improve their shopping experience. An info we get is the sizes a user wears. This info is used in our personal filter, which is available on the category page for logged-in users. When a user switches on the personal filter, he or she only sees products that are available in her size and neighbouring sizes (as size interpretations differ from brand to brand, it is important to also include the neighbouring sizes). This completely eliminates the negative experience of not available sizes and removes this major friction point from the sales process. This is confirmed by the performance of our personal filter: Users who activate their personal filter have a considerably higher conversion rate.

By the way: When a size filter is active, we deactivate the size down boost I told you about above, because if we know a user wants size S, it is good to show our best performing products, even though they are only available in size S.

3) “Size available again” reminder

Not having a size in stock when a user wants it is unfortunate because of the two reasons mentioned above: unhappy users & missed sales. However, we will never be able to have all sizes available at all times. But as returns are commonplace in fashion e-commerce and we reorder products, the size might become available eventually. Therefore we introduced a feature where a user can sign up for a “size available again” e-mail when a size is sold out.

When a size becomes available again, we send the user an e-mail that his or her desired size is available again. This feature has proven to be very valuable to our customers. This mail type has and opening rate of about 80% (that’s really high!) and most customers actually buy the product. And some customers have given us explicit feedback how much they love this feature.

Another bonus of this feature is, that we can gather data for our procurement department, which products are “hot” and should be reordered asap.

In conclusion this is a good example for identifying a point of friction in your sales process and how to reduce its negative impact on your business. (If you are interested in other common points of friction in e-commerce, these articles might interest you: The complete guide to understanding consumer psychology: Understanding points of friction or 39 Tips to Kill Conversion-Blockers and Boost Sales.)