When you go to a store and they don’t have what you want, what do you do? You find an alternative or leave if they don’t have one. But an e-commerce store doesn’t have the same limitations as a brick-and-mortar outlet. A customer in a supermarket may buy an alternate product if the one he wants isn’t available because he doesn’t want the hassle of walking or driving to another store.
But there are no such limitations with online stores. Your competition is only a click away. It requires literally no effort for a customer to leave right away (and 30% of them do). Also, unlike in-person shoppers who may still buy the other things on their list even if a store lacks a singular item, e-commerce customers are more likely to abandon their entire cart if one of the items on their shopping list is unavailable.
So, if a product is temporarily out of stock, allow a customer to purchase it anyway. Just adjust the shipping time accordingly. You have to be certain that the product is available at the supplier though. Don’t allow customers to order items that are going to be delayed for a month.
Anything that will be delayed longer than a couple of days is unacceptable. If it’s going to take that long, inform the customer first so he knows what he’s walking into.
Recommend alternate products
If a back-ordered product is going to be delayed for either an inordinately long or unknown length of time, it’s better to recommend an alternate product a customer can buy.
Don’t charge the customer’s card until the product ships
If a customer orders a back-ordered product, don’t charge his card right away. Wait until the item is in the mail. That way, if he grows tired of waiting and cancels the order, you don’t take a bath on the card processing fees. Visa and Mastercard don’t refund those. Several plugins can help you with the charge timing.