The latest consumer research from Lucidworks revealed that online shoppers are open to buying a substitute item when the product they searched for is out of stock. The respondents, consumers from the U.S. and the U.K., who shop for apparel, told pollsters “there has been a noticeable uptick in ‘out-of-stock’ messages during the pandemic, but they are open to relevant substitutions that match their taste, preferred fit and price range.”
Authors of the report said 76 percent of those polled “say that they’ll sometimes or always buy a substitute, even if they’re shopping with a specific apparel item in mind.” But the research showed the openness to substitutions varied depending upon where the consumer lived.
“U.S. shoppers overall are more than three times as likely to buy an alternative apparel product anytime as compared to U.K. consumers,” Lucidworks said in a statement. “When consumers were asked if there was an apparel item they’d never substitute, they expressed preferences based on brands, styles and fits that are non-negotiable in categories including jeans, footwear and undergarments.”
The research spotlights the impact of out-of-stock apparel on consumer behavior. Due to several macroeconomic factors, apparel brands and merchants have dealt with supply chain disruptions and explosive growth of online shopping — which has made maintaining inventory levels challenging. For some consumers, there’s a willingness to wait for favored items.
The Lucidworks survey showed that about 25 percent of respondents say that “even though they might look for relevant substitutes, they know what they want and are willing to wait for their beloved trainers, jeans and undergarments to come back in stock.”
The authors of the report said offering “proactive notifications” can keep shoppers from “the unpleasant surprise of an ‘out-of-stock’ message.” The firm found that 91 percent of shoppers want to be notified when an item they prefer is back in stock, while 61 percent of shoppers “say they’re more likely to buy an item in their size if they know it’s low-in-stock.” Lucidworks said alerts via email, text message or app notification can be an effective way to ensure shoppers get what they need.
The report also showed that 15 percent of respondents said they typically end up on a “no results” page when the product they’re searching for is out-of-stock. “That means that retailers are failing to offer relevant substitutes in place of a preferred item,” Lucidworks said. “Retailers that invest in semantic vector search technology learn from customer behavior to associate queries with products [with] similar purpose so that shoppers never end up on a dead-end, ‘no results’ page, even if their intended item isn’t available.”
The research showed that 57 percent of respondents said they find a specific apparel item they’re looking for online “is out-of-stock frequently or every time they shop.” And 86 percent of those polled said they prefer to have “apparel purchases delivered to their home (versus picking up in-store).”
Meanwhile, nearly 70 percent of respondents said they will shop “with a different apparel retailer if they can’t find what they need on their preferred app or website.” And of those polled who want to receive back-in-stock notifications, Lucidworks said 75 percent of those “prefer to receive notifications via email, and 38 percent prefer notifications via text.”