Backorder vs Out of Stock: What's the Difference?

What is a Backorder?


One of the most significant concerns for businesses is how to manage their inventory effectively. Goods can either be in stock, on backorder, or out of stock. Each situation necessitates a different approach. It's crucial to understand what a backorder is and how it affects business operations. When a product is not available to fulfill all customer orders, it is said to be on backorder. A backorder occurs when the product is temporarily out of stock but has already been ordered by other customers or has been promised to other clients.

In simpler terms, a backorder is a sale that is made, but there is no stock available to fulfill the order, so the order is "back-ordered." Suppose a customer orders a product that is out of stock but still available from the manufacturer. In that case, the company must place a backorder with the manufacturer and inform the customer that delivery may be delayed. A backorder can vary in length, from a few days to several months, depending on the product and the supplier's capacity to restock.

Backorders can be both good and bad for businesses. On the one hand, backorders imply that a product is in high demand. Customers are eager to buy it despite the current inventory shortage. This means that the product is in high demand and can generate high income.

On the other hand, backorders can result in a loss of sales. If customers are unwilling to wait for a restock, they may choose to seek the product elsewhere. This means that unsatisfied clients may seek out competitors and purchase from them, resulting in a potential loss for the company. Additionally, backorders require extra effort and resources to manage. It's up to the business to track backorders, provide updates to customers, and handle any issues that arise if a backorder takes too long to be fulfilled.

Backorders can happen for many reasons, ranging from production and manufacturing issues to shipping and delivery delays. Unpredictable circumstances, such as natural disasters, can impact the production and delivery of goods. A product can even go on backorder due to high demand or popularity that the company didn't anticipate.

In today's business environment, backorders are widely recognized as a natural part of the inventory control process. They allow businesses to serve their customers while keeping inventory levels optimal, minimizing the risk of overstocking or stockouts.

Overall, understanding what a backorder is and how it affects a business is essential. It's up to the company to decide whether the risks are worth the benefits of offering backorders.

How does backordering work?


Backordering is a process that allows customers to place orders for items that are currently out of stock. When an item becomes out of stock, a retailer will typically remove it from their online marketplace or store shelves. However, with backordering, customers can still place an order for the item, and the retailer will send it to the customer once it becomes available again.

Backordering is an excellent option for customers who want to ensure they get an item as soon as possible, even if it is out of stock at the moment. When an item is backordered, the customer is explicitly told about the estimated time of arrival (ETA) to manage their expectations. They can choose to wait for the item to come back in stock or cancel their order if they no longer want it.

When a customer places a backorder, their payment is typically not processed immediately. Instead, the payment method is authenticated, and the money is reserved to ensure that funds are available when the item becomes available for shipping. Once the item is in stock, the retailer charges the card and ships the product.

Each retailer has specific policies for backorders, including how long the backorder will be held, what happens if the item becomes unavailable, and other rules.

One significant advantage of backordering is that it enables retailers to manage their inventory more efficiently. By allowing customers to place orders for out-of-stock items, retailers can better forecast demand and ensure that they have adequate stock levels to meet future demand. This process can help prevent products from running out of stock and creating unhappy or lost customers.

backordering process

Overall, backordering is a straightforward and efficient process that benefits both customers and retailers. Customers can rest easy knowing they will receive their desired item as soon as it is back in stock, without having to constantly check the inventory status of the product they want to buy. Retailers, on the other hand, can maintain high standards of customer service and keep customers coming back for future purchases.

The Impact of Backorders on Customer Satisfaction

Backorders vs Out of Stock

Backorders are a common occurrence in e-commerce, and they can have a significant impact on customer satisfaction. A backorder happens when a customer places an order for a product that is not currently available in inventory; meanwhile, an out-of-stock message arises when the item is no longer available. In this section, we will explore the factors that influence customer satisfaction with backorders and how to manage them.

1. Communication is Key

customer service onlilne

The biggest factor affecting customer satisfaction with backorders is communication. Customers want to know when they can expect their product, even if it is on backorder. When customers receive clear and timely notification of a backordered item, they are more likely to remain patient and wait for their product to arrive. It is important to provide customers with an estimated shipping date, as well as frequent updates on the status of their order. It is also critical to have a reliable system in place for notifying customers when the backordered item becomes available again.

2. Offer Incentives

Sales Incentives

Another way to mitigate the negative impact of backorders on customer satisfaction is to offer incentives. Providing customers with a discount or a free gift for their patience and understanding can help offset the inconvenience of a backorder. Offering an incentive can also demonstrate to customers that the company values their business and is willing to go the extra mile to keep them happy.

3. Don't Overpromise

Dont overpromise

One mistake that companies make when dealing with backorders is overpromising the delivery time. It is important to be realistic about the expected delivery date and to communicate it clearly to the customer. If a company promises a delivery date that they cannot meet, it will lead to frustration and disappointment for the customer. By being honest about when the item will be available, the company can manage the customer's expectations more effectively. A realistic delivery date can help reduce the likelihood of cancellations or negative reviews.

4. Be Proactive

Cusotmer Service Proactive

Being proactive in addressing backorders can help minimize the negative impact on customer satisfaction. This involves having a plan in place to manage backorders before they occur. This can include anticipating demand for certain products and ensuring that sufficient inventory is available. It can also involve providing customers with alternatives or substitutions while they wait for their backordered item. By being proactive, a company can show customers that they are committed to providing the best possible service and experience.


Happy customer

Backorders can negatively impact customer satisfaction; however, they are a reality in e-commerce. By effectively communicating with customers, offering incentives, being realistic about delivery dates, and being proactive in addressing backorders, a company can mitigate the negative impact of backorders. By doing so, the company can maintain its customers' trust and keep them coming back for more purchases.

Out of stock vs backorder: What's the difference?

Out of stock versus backorder

When shopping online, you may come across the terms "out of stock" and "backorder" on product pages. While both terms indicate that a product is not currently available for immediate purchase, there are important differences between the two.

Out of stock simply means that the product is not currently available. It is sold out and the retailer does not have any inventory on hand. It is important to note that out of stock status is usually temporary. Retailers will typically restock items that are in high demand, so the out of stock status may only be temporary. Customers will need to check back at a later time to see if the item is back in stock.

On the other hand, backorder status means that the retailer is currently out of stock but has ordered more and expects to receive inventory in the near future. Backorder status is often accompanied by an estimated delivery date, which indicates when the retailer expects to receive the item. Customers can choose to place an order for the item and wait for it to become available. The retailer will ship the item as soon as it is back in stock.

Overall, the main difference between out of stock and backorder is that out of stock indicates a temporary unavailability, while backorder allows customers to order products that are currently out of stock but expected to become available soon.

When shopping online, it can be frustrating to come across products that are out of stock or on backorder. Here are some tips for dealing with these situations:

Tips for dealing with out of stock and backorder items

Out of stock versus backorder tips

1. Sign up for email notifications

Many online retailers offer email notifications when an out of stock item becomes available or when a backordered item ships. By signing up for these notifications, you can be alerted as soon as the item is back in stock or on its way to you.

2. Consider alternative products

If the item you want is out of stock or on backorder, consider checking if there are alternative products that can meet your needs. You may be able to find a similar item that is in stock and available for immediate purchase.

3. Wait patiently

If you can't find an alternative product and don't need the item immediately, it may be worth waiting for the product to become available again. Remember that backorder status often includes an estimated delivery date, so you can have an idea of when you can expect to receive the item.

4. Be cautious of third-party sellers

When dealing with out of stock or backorder items, it may be tempting to turn to third-party sellers who claim to have the product in stock. However, be cautious when dealing with these sellers. They may charge higher prices, ship counterfeit products, or take longer to ship than the original retailer.

In conclusion, when shopping online it is important to understand the difference between out of stock and backorder. By knowing these terms and following the tips above, you can better navigate these situations and make informed purchasing decisions.

Managing backorders and out of stock situations effectively

Backorder vs out of stock

Inventory management is an essential aspect of most businesses. The objective is to balance the stock levels with customer demands to achieve maximum profitability. Backorders and out of stock are some of the challenges that most businesses face in the industry. Understanding the difference between backorders vs out of stock is essential in managing these situations effectively.

Definition of backorders and out of stock

Inventory management

Out of stock is a situation where the business does not have the inventory levels to fulfill the customer's orders. In contrast, backorders are orders that the business cannot fulfill at the moment, but the inventory is expected to arrive soon. Backorders imply that the business is expecting a reliable supplier to deliver the inventories in the near future. Inventory management systems have features that automatically switch products to “back-order” when the stock levels reach zero.

Impact on customers

Customer satisfaction

Backorders and out of stock situations have a significant impact on business operations. Customers may become frustrated when they learn that the product they ordered is out of stock. They may have to wait longer until the inventory levels are restored or might cancel the order altogether. On the other hand, backorders may increase customer loyalty when the businesses provide accurate and timely information on delivery schedules. Managing these situations effectively is essential in retaining customers and building brand reputation.

Setting up effective inventory management systems

Inventory management systems

The fundamental element of managing backorders and out of stock situations effectively is establishing an efficient inventory management system. The system should be automated, easily accessible, and offer real-time data on stock levels. The inventory management system should have an efficient tracking system for orders that may be on backorder.

Moreover, businesses can forecast their inventory levels by analyzing previous sales data to avoid backorders and out of stock. With the help of data analytics, businesses can make informed purchasing decisions and vendor management. The system should also have alerts when the inventory levels reach a certain threshold. Additionally, businesses can consider adopting a dropshipping model where the vendor directly ships the product to the customer, thus eliminating the issue of inventory management.

Communicating effectively with customers

Effective customer communication

Effective communication with customers is essential in managing backorders and out of stock situations. The business website should show a live inventory count so that customers can view product availability before purchasing. Customers should be notified of any changes in their orders, especially when moving from stocked items to backorders. The communication should be timely and accurate, detailing the expected delivery dates of backordered items. It would be best to keep customers informed at every step of the process, from ordering to shipping and delivery.

In conclusion, backorders and out of stock situations are a reality in inventory management. However, businesses can manage them effectively by establishing efficient inventory management systems, analyzing sales data, communicating effectively with suppliers and customers, and adopting a dropshipping model. Providing top-notch customer experiences in these situations goes a long way in fostering customer loyalty, retention, and keeping customers happy.

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