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The Comprehensive Guide to Backorders

By Bjorgvin Gudmundsson, May 5, 2023


Introduction to backorders

In today's fast-paced retail world, meeting customer demand is essential for any business's success. With the rise of e-commerce and global supply chains, it's not uncommon for customers to frequently encounter backorders when trying to purchase items. A backorder occurs when a product is temporarily unavailable for immediate shipment, but customers can still place orders for the item with the expectation that it will ship once it's back in stock.

Backorders can be a double-edged sword for businesses. On one hand, they can help maintain sales revenue by allowing customers to continue placing orders for out-of-stock items. On the other hand, they can lead to customer dissatisfaction and lost sales if not managed properly. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the ins and outs of backorder, including the difference between backorder vs out of stock, the role of inventory management in preventing backorder, key inventory management strategies, the use of a proper inventory management software, and effective communication strategies for customer service teams dealing with a backorder.

Understanding the difference between backorders and out of stock

Before diving into the world of backordered items

, it's important to grasp the distinctions between backorders and out of stock items. While both terms refer to products that are not currently available for immediate shipment, there are some key differences between the two.

Backorders occur when a product is temporarily unavailable, but customers can still place orders for the item with the expectation that it will ship once it's back in stock. This means that the business has a plan in place to replenish the item in question, and customers can continue to make a backorder purchase knowing that their order will be fulfilled eventually.

On the other hand, when an item is out of stock, it means that the product is not available for purchase at all. This can occur when normal inventory sells out faster than anticipated, or when a business decides to discontinue a product altogether. In these cases, customers cannot place orders for the item, and the business may lose potential sales as a result.

The role of inventory management in preventing backorders

Effective inventory management plays a crucial role in preventing backorder from happening in the first place. By accurately tracking stock levels, forecasting customer requirements, and adjusting purchasing and production plans accordingly, businesses can minimize the likelihood of backorder occurring and maintain customer satisfaction.

A robust inventory management system can help businesses monitor stock levels, track supply and demand, and identify potential supply chain disruptions before they become major problems. By regularly reviewing this data, businesses can make informed decisions about when to reorder stock items, adjust production schedules, or even discontinue products that are no longer selling well.

In addition to helping prevent backorder, effective inventory management can also help businesses handle excess stock more efficiently. By analyzing historical data and forecasting future demand, they can adjust their purchasing and production plans to better align with customer needs, reducing the risk of overstocking and minimizing the costs associated with holding excess inventory.

Key inventory management strategies to minimize backorders

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a. Safety stock and its importance

One key inventory management strategy to minimize backorders is maintaining appropriate levels of safety stock. Safety stock is the extra inventory kept on hand to protect against stockouts and backorders caused by unexpected fluctuations in customer requirements or delays in the supply chain.

By having an adequate safety stock in place, businesses can ensure that they have enough product available to meet customer demand, even if their normal inventory sells out faster than anticipated or if there are disruptions in the supply chain. To determine the optimal amount of safety stock to keep on hand, businesses should consider factors such as historical sales data, lead times for reordering, and the potential impact of stockouts on customer satisfaction and sales revenue.

b. Analyzing sales and inventory trends

Another crucial strategy in minimizing backordered items is regularly analyzing supply and demand trends. By reviewing historical data and tracking patterns in customer requirements, businesses can better predict future sales and adjust their purchasing and production plans accordingly.

Understanding seasonal fluctuations in demand, for example, can help businesses anticipate periods of increased sales and ensure they have enough inventory on hand to meet customer needs. Additionally, monitoring product performance and identifying trends in customer preferences can help businesses make informed decisions about which products to prioritize and which ones may be at risk of becoming obsolete.

c. Monitoring supply chain disruptions

In today's global economy, supply chain disruptions are an unfortunate reality that can lead to backordered items if not properly managed. By closely monitoring their supply chain and staying informed about potential issues, businesses can take proactive measures to minimize the impact of these disruptions on their inventory levels and customer satisfaction.

Some strategies for monitoring supply chain disruptions include maintaining open lines of communication with suppliers, tracking lead times and delivery performance, and regularly assessing the overall health of the supply chain. By staying informed and proactive, businesses can better prepare for potential disruptions and reduce the likelihood of a backorder occurring.

Utilizing inventory management software to tackle backorders

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Investing in inventory management system can be a game-changer for businesses looking to tackle a backorder and improve their overall backorder fulfillment processes. These software solutions offer a range of features designed to help businesses optimize their inventory levels, track sales and inventory trends, monitor supply chain disruptions, and automate key tasks related to inventory management.

By implementing an stock level system, businesses can gain valuable insights into their stock levels and customer requirements, helping them make more informed decisions about when to reorder stock items, adjust production schedules, and discontinue underperforming products. Additionally, many inventory software solutions offer integration with other business tools such as e-commerce platforms, accounting systems, and customer relationship management (CRM) software, further streamlining the inventory management process and improving overall operational efficiency.

Effective communication strategies for customer service teams dealing with a backorder

When a backorder does occur, it's essential for customer service teams to effectively communicate the situation to customers and work to resolve any issues that may arise. Some key communication strategies for handling backorders include:

  • Being proactive: Notify customers as soon as possible if an item they've ordered is on backorder, and provide an estimated shipping date if possible.
  • Offering alternatives: Suggest similar products that are in stock to help customers find a suitable replacement for the backordered item.
  • Providing regular updates: Keep customers informed about the status of their order and any changes to the estimated shipping date.

By maintaining open channels of communication and working to address customer concerns, customer service teams can help to minimize the impact of backorders on customer satisfaction and brand reputation.

Resolving customer service issues related to backorders

In addition to effective communication, there are several strategies customer service teams can employ to resolve customer service issues related to a backorder:

  1. Offer flexible cancellation and refund policies: Allow customers to cancel their backorder or receive a refund if they no longer wish to wait for the item to become available.
  2. Provide discounts or promotions: Offer a discount or special promotion on the backordered item or a future purchase to help alleviate customer frustration and encourage repeat business.
  3. Expedite shipping: Once the backordered item is back in stock, consider offering expedited shipping at no additional cost to the customer as a gesture of goodwill.

By going above and beyond to address customer concerns and resolve issues related to backorders, customer service teams can help to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty.

How to handle overstock and prevent future backorders

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Effective stock level management is not just about preventing a backorder, but also about handling excess stock and avoiding overstocking. Some strategies for managing excess stock and preventing future backorder include:

  1. Implementing a demand forecasting system: Use historical sales data and market trends to forecast future demand and adjust purchasing and production plans accordingly.
  2. Regularly reviewing inventory levels: Conduct regular inventory audits to ensure stock levels are accurate and make adjustments as needed.
  3. Utilizing sales promotions and discounts: Offer sales promotions or discounts on excess inventory to help move products more quickly and free up storage space.
  4. Collaborating with suppliers: Work closely with suppliers to adjust order quantities and delivery schedules based on changing demand patterns.

By taking a proactive approach to inventory management and implementing strategies to handle overstock, businesses can minimize the likelihood of future backorders and ensure they have the right amount of inventory on hand to meet customer requirements.


In conclusion, a backorder can be a challenging issue for businesses to manage, but with the right inventory management strategies and effective communication, they can be minimized and even turned into a positive for the business. By understanding the difference between a backorder and out of stock items, utilizing inventory management system, and implementing key inventory management strategies such as safety stock and analyzing sales trends, businesses can maintain customer satisfaction and avoid lost sales due to a backorder.

Effective communication with customers and proactive customer service strategies can also help to minimize the impact of backorders, while strategies for handling supply chain issues with stock and avoiding overstocking can prevent future backorders to occur. By prioritizing inventory management and taking a proactive approach to customer service, businesses can ensure they are well-equipped to handle backorders and maintain a competitive edge in today's fast-paced retail landscape.

Are you struggling with backorders in your business? Contact us today to learn how our inventory management solutions can help you minimize backorders and optimize your inventory levels for increased customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

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