Why is Availability Important?

In a typical brick-and-mortar setting a customer might ask if an item is in "in stock" or not. If an item is in stock, then the customer will be able to purchase the item. Otherwise there's a good chance the sale will be lost (at least for the specific retailer if not the brand). Although e-commerce is quite different than brick-and-mortar settings, this is one area where the two are more similar than different.

In this post, we're going to examine the different availability messages that an Amazon shopper might encounter and what brands should do to address these issues. As we'll see, understanding and tracking the availability information is an important element of a successful e-commerce strategy.

In Stock

If an item is in stock and available to Amazon shoppers, they will see a message indicating the item is in In Stock. This is the best case scenario. The shoppper wants to purchase the item and they can. The goal is to keep as many items in stock as possible.

Out of Stock

Sometimes an item that is normally in stock (i.e., it's not discontinued and is normally offered by Amazon) may be become out of stock. In this case, the shopper will see a message indicating that the item Out of Stock.

Example of Amazon Out-of-Stock

Why does this happen? If you're a manufacturer on Vendor Central (a.k.a., 1P), this most likely means two things:

  1. Amazon is out of inventory
  2. There are no active 3P offers

Hopefully Amazon has initiated further purchase orders to get the item back in stock. In practice, however, Amazon's algorithm may fall short for low-volume items or items that have been recently released.

One point to note - if there are any 3P offers, the buy box will usually switch over to one of those offers. This means that if you see an out of stock message, there aren't any active 3P offers.

Mitigation Strategy

When a shopper sees an out of stock message, there's a good chance they'll try to find an alternative item. Unfortunately for brands this may be a lost opportunity to convert this customer into a brand advocate. So how do we protect against this scenario?

Unfortunately for vendors, there are only a few options here:

  1. For items where this is a continual problem, consider creating a Seller Central account to sell those specific items. That way if/when that item goes out of stock, the Seller Central offer will take over the buy box and thus ensure continued availability.
  2. 1P vendors should also consider setting up drop ship for these out-of-stock items. Once Amazon runs out of inventory, Amazon will submit single orders to the manufacturer for that item. The great part is that from the customer's point of view nothing really changes.

3P Availability

Occasionally an Amazon shopper might see the message This Item is Available from these Sellers. When this happens the customer is unable to purchase the item from the main product page. Instead, the shopper will need to click on the link that takes them to all the 3P offers and make the purchase there.

Example of Amazon 3P Availability

While at first blush this may not seem as bad as being of out-of-stock (since the customer can still purchase the item), it's still not a great situation. It doesn't look great from the shopper's point of view and the additional burden of clicking through the 3P offers may stop them from completing the purchase.

Mitigation Strategy

Why does this happen? The most common reason for this status is because of non-competitive pricing. If an item is priced high relative to competitive products and Amazon is unable (or unwilling) to lower the retail price, the item might be designated CRaP (See here to learn more). This basically means that the item is unprofitable and Amazon is no longer willing to sell the item.

What's interesting is that even items solely available via Seller Central (e.g., a brand that sells exclusively through their own 3P account) can still see this availability designation if the item is priced too high compared to other items in the same category.

For 1P vendors, the key is to avoid having the item on the CRaP list. While it may be tempting to lower prices that may not be the best strategy. So instead, here are some additonal ideas:

  • Use a hybrid 1P/3P approach and offer CRaP items via 3P. If the 3P offer still shows 3P availability then slowly lower your prices (which is easier to do in the 3P world).
  • Consider creating an Amazon-specific multi-pack or bundle to make the item more competitive.

Unavailable

Periodically an Amazon shopper might see the message that the item is Currently Unavailable. This means that the item cannot be purchased on Amazon. This is distinct from an item simply being out-of-stock. Unavailable items may be new items that are still in the process of being released, or the manufacturer may have discontinued the item.

Amazon Unavailable Item

Slow/Merchant

Another availability message that Amazon shopppers may occasionally see is that the item is Available and Ships in 3 - 6 weeks. There are two common scenarios in which happens:

  1. Amazon has placed a purchase order for the item but the manufacturer is taking longer than expected to process the order. This may occur, for example, with unexpectadly popular items.
  2. This is a vendor drop-ship item that may be large, heavy, or otherwise unprofitable for Amazon to keep in stock in their fulfillment center. Once the purchase is made, Amazon submits an order for that item to the manufacturer.

Takeaways

Customers on Amazon can experience a wide array of different availability messages as they shop. Hopefully most items will be on stock but periodically you may find that your items are out or only available via 3P. We believe that by paying attention to the stock information and knowing how to remediate any problems, you'll be able to improve your brand reputatation and maximize sales.

In the next part of this series, we're going to examine location-specific availability and pricing. This will be especially useful for brands on PrimeNow, Pantry, and Fresh. In the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about how to track historical stock information across all of your online channels, including Amazon, shoot us an email at info@getreviewbox.com.

James Horey

Jim is the founder & CEO of Reviewbox, a software company devoted to helping manufacturers & brands win on Amazon with extensive & continuous product monitoring.

Knoxville, TN https://getreviewbox.com

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