How to Prevent Out-of-Stock Situations in eCommerce Exchanges
Rebecca Fox

October 25, 2023

Making sure you have inventory in stock during exchanges is critical for providing a good customer experience. But how can you prevent out-of-stock issues when managing returns and exchanges?

The Importance of Preventing Out-of-Stock Exchanges

Preventing out-of-stock situations during the exchange process is crucial for providing a positive customer experience and protecting your bottom line.

Understanding the Impact

Exchanges are a double-edged sword – on the one hand, they provide an opportunity to delight customers and make sure they get what they need, however, if they don’t go smoothly, your business will suffer.

When a customer requests an exchange, they expect to receive their replacement item quickly and efficiently. 

If the item is out of stock by the time the exchange is processed, it can lead to delays, or in the worst case, an inability to fulfill the exchange at all, leaving a negative impression on the customer. Maintaining availability during exchanges allows you to retain the lifetime value of that customer and makes them more likely to shop with you again in the future

Operationally, managing inventory across initial orders, returns, exchanges, and stock levels can be extremely complex. Stockouts magnify these difficulties. Your team spends more time manually handling one-off cases, communicating with customers, and scrambling to reorder out-of-stock items.

Preventing exchange stockouts streamlines operations, reduces costs, and improves the customer experience. Customers are much more likely to leave positive reviews after a seamless exchange experience and come back to buy again in the future.

Protecting Your Bottom Line

Preventing exchange stockouts also protects your bottom line. When exchanges can’t be fulfilled due to a lack of inventory, you miss out on revenue in several ways:

  • Lost revenue from exchanges abandoned and replaced with refunds.
  • Higher operational costs and overhead from supply chain complexities.
  • Potential need to offer customer appeasements like discounts or free shipping.
  • Negative reviews leading to fewer sales.

Proactively avoiding out-of-stock exchanges reduces revenue losses, keeps your processes efficient, minimizes inventory waste, and optimizes your profitability.

How to Prevent Out-of-Stock Exchanges Using ReturnGO

ReturnGO is the only returns solution that offers a comprehensive stockout prevention feature set, ensuring you’re equipped with the most effective tools to keep your inventory well-managed and customers satisfied.

Here are a few ways you can prevent out-of-stock exchanges and ensure that your customers always have access to the products they need.

Set Minimum Stock Thresholds for Exchanges

Setting a minimum stock threshold for exchanges is a great way to avoid out-of-stock situations and keep customers happy. They prevent you from promising an exchange to a customer only to later disappoint them if the item goes out of stock before you can fulfill the exchange order.

ReturnGO enables you to set a minimum stock threshold which will define at what stock level an item will be removed as an option for exchanges, and define different thresholds for different kinds of exchanges.

For example, setting a threshold of 5 units would mean that once a product variant reaches 5 left in inventory, it can no longer be selected for an exchange.

Customers will only be able to select in-stock variants when initiating their exchange, minimizing confusion and disappointment. This ensures you have enough inventory on hand to fulfill the exchange when the customer’s original item arrives back, while also enabling you to prioritize new purchases over exchanges when the stock is low.

Minimum stock thresholds offer an automated, scalable way to guarantee availability and provide a smoother customer experience.

To ensure optimal performance, continue to monitor and adjust minimum stock thresholds based on real-time sales patterns.

Reserve Items to Ensure Smooth Exchanges

Reserving inventory for upcoming exchanges is another powerful way to prevent stockouts and ensure customer satisfaction. When a customer initiates an exchange, the requested items can be temporarily reserved from your inventory, ensuring they’re available for that specific exchange.

For example, if a customer exchanges a pair of shoes for a different size, the new size can be reserved until they ship the original pair back. Then once the original has been returned, the exchange order can be released and the new pair is guaranteed to be available.

ReturnGO’s reserve items feature enables:

  • Temporary stock removal – When a customer requests an exchange, the new items will be reserved for them, so you don’t run out of stock before fulfilling the exchange.
  • Automatic restocking – If the customer doesn’t return the original item within the specified timeframe, the reserved items will be automatically added back to your inventory.
  • Customization per policy rule – ReturnGO is all about flexibility. You can customize the reserve item timeframes to fit different exchange policy rules according to your business needs.

Item reservation also incentivizes customers to ship the returned items back quickly. By giving the reserved inventory an expiration date, customers are motivated to avoid missing out by getting their return shipped back before your reserve deadline ends. 

Once you receive the original item, reservation holds are removed to make inventory available again.

Proactively reserving inventory provides availability guarantees, avoids stockouts, and keeps customers satisfied throughout the returns process.

Streamline Your Exchange Process with Instant Exchanges

With ReturnGO’s instant exchange feature, customers can receive replacement items immediately instead of waiting for the returned items to be sent back. 

When a customer requests an exchange, ReturnGO enables you to instantly ship the replacement item once the return has been approved. Customers provide payment information upfront with a card authorization, so if the original item isn’t returned, they will be charged in full. 

This powerful capability reduces stockouts because new items ship as soon as the return is approved, instead of after the customer’s return arrives. This greatly reduces the likelihood of stockouts during the exchange.

For example, a customer purchases shoes but needs a half-size larger. You approve the exchange and instantly ship the new pair without waiting for the old pair to be returned. If the originals aren’t sent back within 30 days, you charge the full amount.

ReturnGO’s platform handles the complexities behind the scenes so you can easily provide customers with instant exchanges, reducing stockouts and improving customer satisfaction. 

Instant exchanges create a smooth, low-friction experience for customers while also protecting your business from abuse. By shipping replacements immediately, stockouts are avoided and customers receive orders faster.

Some of the benefits of instant exchanges include:

  • Reduced stockouts – Replacement items are shipped as soon as the return is approved, so customers are more likely to receive their replacement before the original item is out of stock.
  • Fraud protection – Customers provide payment details upfront, deterring fraudulent behavior and ensuring that your business is paid for the replacement items, even if the original items are not returned.
  • Improved customer experience – Instant exchanges are quick and convenient for customers, leading to increased satisfaction and loyalty.

As you can see, offering instant exchanges comes with a number of compelling benefits, making it a strategic move for enhancing the customer experience and protecting your business.

Welcome to the World of Smooth Exchanges

While some edge cases can still cause stockouts during exchanges, using this combination of inventory management tools can help you create a smoother exchange process with fewer out-of-stock situations.

ReturnGO is here to help you ensure that exchanges go smoothly, by enabling you to set stock thresholds, reserve items, and offer instant exchanges. This way, you can keep your customers happy, your inventory secure, and your business thriving.

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