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Within our e-commerce solution we have a stock indication for in, out and low on stock. It's B2B and the use case exists that a user might start filling their cart, leave the website and come back later.

The problem here is that some products that the user has in the cart can go out of stock. I am fiddling with how to handle this because removing the product does not seem like a nice thing to do. The discussion now happens whether we should:

  1. Still display the product with an out of stock message and let the user continue.
  2. Grey out the continue button in the shopping cart before the user removes the out of stock product from his cart.

Does anyone had to work with this case before?

  • I had something auto-disappear recently (it was on clearance so I knew it wasn't coming back, but the system might not have done. Simply removing it didn't seem helpful at alll, even though in this case it was the larger of 2 items and quite obvious. So you're on the right track thinking you need to notify the user somehow. Does your system support backorders? In that case the user would need to choose between deleteing and placing on backorder. – Chris H Dec 12 '17 at 14:08
  • Thanks for the validation! Sadly we don't have backorders (yet), so that is not possible. We did implement a notification system that will send out an email & push notification when it's back in stock. – imightmax Dec 12 '17 at 15:53
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If possible, I would extend the system a bit. With those under-categories of "out-of-stock": Ordered and Permanently out-of-stock.

When permanently out-of-stock, the item should be removed of course and a notification appears, when the user opens the cart the next time.

If the product is already ordered again, I would leave the item in the cart, but with a small notice in yellow or similar next to it. Something like "This item is out-of-stock but has already been ordered. Expected arrival date is xx.xx.xxxx. You can buy now and we will send it to you as soon as possible."

In case this isn't possible, just handle it like the above permanently out-of-stock case. But I would recommend implementing ordered. People are then able to and also will buy out-of-stock things from you, what is a big plus.

But of course, I don't know your shop, what you sell, you can handle every "out-of-stock" like Ordered. If you always sell the same products you can of course show an "Ordered"-Message under the product in the cart with the same notice as above.

You have to decide the final step, depending on what products you sell and how extensible your e-commerce-solution is.

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    As of now we don't have the case that something goes permanently out-of-stock. I really do like your suggestion of implementing 'ordered', certain business requirements sadly prevent us from promising an order when it is out of stock. As we can't give a promise of expectations. I think your first paragraph: removing the product and notifying is the best solution within the technical & business-logic constraints. Thank you! – imightmax Dec 13 '17 at 10:41

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