Could Sold Out Products Increase Email Click Through?

Chad White from the Retail Email Blog recently spotted this email from TigerDirect that dynamically updates image files when a product sells out. This practice prevents the frustration and disappointment when one clicks to a product that’s no longer available, creates urgency for other products and may prompt the recipient to open TigerDirect emails right away in the future.

The dynamic replacement is certainly cool But what if you deliberately mixed in some sold out products in your emails?

My first retail job was selling shoes in the mall. When the mall was “dead” and the store empty, we would begin to make a mess. We’d pull shoe samples off the shelf and throw them all over the floor. The idea was people browsing the mall are more likely to enter a store with activity than one where the sales girls are leaning over the counter tapping pencils and blowing bubble-gum.

In a way, using Sold Out labels in an email creates the impression the store is busy and successful. Not unlike when real estate agents list sold homes in the newspaper.

This would make a very interesting test, and I wouldn’t be surprised if click through is high on sold out items — we humans always tend to desire what we can’t have.

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19 Responses to “Could Sold Out Products Increase Email Click Through?”

  1. Travis says:

    Gmail and Yahoo both seem to cache the email content, meaning you would only see the updated images if you did a forced refresh which I assume most users don’t do.

    I’d like know more about this, if the images do update properly it could have some interesting uses.

  2. Couldn’t you just upload the revised image(s) locally on the server? I guess that would depend on whether this is done manually.

    Seems just as unlikely that customers would come back to the same email again & again, though I could be wrong.

    Very interesting

  3. Josef says:

    I completely agree with you Travis; If ceritain major transactors caught this cache large amounts of $ could “go down”.

  4. A lot of recommendation engines offer this functionality. Dynamic image selection based on product or customer attributes.

  5. Michael says:

    i agree. i like this feature it would be very handy in my business. although a reminder wishlist works well for us on sold out products.

  6. Øyvind says:

    My first reaction as a customer would be “why send out offers on sold out products??” – unless the mail easily describes the dynamics behind this, this could border on annoying. Wouldn’t it be better to use a replacement product as landing page instead and on that page say something like “Looking for product x? Due to popular demand it’s sold out, but try this instead” Any thoughts?

  7. idris says:

    This should definitely be an interesting feature. But how many online retailers are using it? I totally agree with Oyvind, it would make sense to use a similar product or related product during such scenarios.

  8. Anna says:

    I like the idea of this feature, but as Travis points out there could be some underlying floors that render the work gone in, all a bit pointless. Id to would like to know a little more.

  9. Thanks for your comments everyone,

    I’m a bit surprised that all the comments are regarding the dynamic feature rather than the “show sold out products on purpose to suggest high demand / active/popular store” idea…

  10. To clarify, showing sold out product among the mix on purpose does not require the dynamic functionality.

  11. Øyvind says:

    My opinion is that may work in some cases, but generally I would regard it as too risky. A milder form could be to ‘fake’ the stock. Lets say you have 500 items, but the ‘in stock’ online only says 12. Coupled with a time-limited offer I believe you would get the same effect you’re looking for but without the possible negative side.

  12. Andy says:

    “”….I’m a bit surprised that all the comments are regarding the dynamic feature rather than the “show sold out products on purpose to suggest high demand / active/popular store” idea…””

    Ha! I was thinking the same thing!

    I do think the Oyvind’s suggestion has more merit. Creating a sense of urgency should have a better conversion than showing something out of stock.

  13. Anna says:

    Ah, yes there is the sales angle which of course is going to get people panic buying.. This sort of marketing always works on me and i know better!

  14. Daniel says:

    When I see tiger’s “sold out” ads, I assume they added them staticly as some sort of gimmick. If this holds true for others, it takes away from some of the customer reaction dynamically loaded images might cause

  15. I suppose the problem with the dynamic loaded images is that it will make the email metrics more difficult. If you want to compare the overall performance of the campaign you would have to try to figure out how to display the before and after (sold out) results.

    The way I would implement this is – create static images with a few fake sold out products and in between I would put the key product as “limited stock”. Obviously, as in any other new email campaign A/B testing is the key!

  16. panix says:

    I’ve been using Øyvind’s suggestion for a while and i’ve seen good results from my email flyers. Creating the need for urgency is good approach, make them feel if they wait it will be to late.

    However I’m not sure about sticking a sold out product on the email. If i seen a “sold out” on the email I would think oh well, look for an alternative on the flyer and if i couldnt find one i’d leave before clicking.

  17. As panix says I think if you were to do this you would need to position a substitute product you wanted to push close by. This way people would see one product out of stock but then click through on the similar one next to it – a good way of flushing out unwanted stock.

  18. Michael says:

    Hey. I am not an adventurer by choice but by fate.
    I am from Iceland and learning to write in English, give please true I wrote the following sentence: “Shekinah fellowship some people search for the lord.”

    Thank you very much :o. Michael.

  19. [...] shared my shoe store war stories here before, but that was another trick up my sleeve when selling shoes. I made sure I [...]

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