Sold Out

12 February 2017

Ask Freddy: Why Do Some Websites Still Show Sold-Out Products?

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Marketing Communications Professor…

Q: Dear Freddy:

I noticed that this particular company sometimes leaves sold-out items on its website, and I was wondering what its tactic might be.

– S.F. in L.A.

A: Dear S.F.:

That could simply be temporary until they get more in stock. Or they have ads running elsewhere for the product, and want to show something to site visitors.

On a more strategic level, they could be sending a few signals here…

  1. To consumers, if you like something on this site, you better buy it fast. (And don’t wait for a sale!)
  2. To manufacturers and suppliers, we can sell your products better and faster than the other guys.
  3. To everyone, from fashionistas to investors to prospective employees, we’re the popular kids with the hottest merchandise. Don’t you want to hang with us?

Doing this may also drive consumers to buy a less popular option — something that they might have not considered. (Car dealers do this all the time — the vehicles pictured in their ads are almost never available when you show up.) That’s a crafty way to move unpopular merchandise without cutting prices.

All this makes me wonder how many retailers promote products they never even had in stock as “SOLD OUT”?

And on another note, I wonder if I can do the same thing with my consulting services…

— Cheers! Freddy

If you have a marketing question you’d like to ask Freddy,
just drop him a memo.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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