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  • Writer's pictureBrian Cummings

Backorder vs Out of Stock - Everything You Need to Know in 2024

Have you ever found the perfect item online, only to see the words "Out of Stock" or "Backorder"? It's disappointing, right? But what do these terms actually mean for you and your shopping experience? 

Understanding the difference between Backorder vs Out of Stock can save you from frustration and help you plan your next move. In our guide, we'll take you through what each term means and how they affect when you can expect to get your hands on the items you want.

We'll also share tips on how to deal with these situations, whether you're a shopper eager to buy or a seller managing your inventory. So, if you want to become a savvy shopper or a smart seller, keep reading. 

Our easy-to-follow guide will give you the inside scoop on navigating backorders and out-of-stock scenarios like a pro!

Understanding "Backorder"

Backorder vs Out of Stock

When you encounter the term backorder, it signifies that an item you wish to purchase is not immediately available, but can still be ordered. This scenario is a key aspect of the backorder vs out of stock debate. Unlike an out-of-stock situation where the item is unavailable for order, backordered products are expected to be restocked and shipped at a later date.

A backorder occurs when a customer places an order for an item that is not currently in stock, but is anticipated to arrive in the future.

Understanding the distinction between backorder and out-of-stock is crucial for managing customer expectations and inventory. 

Here's a quick comparison to clarify:

  • Backorder: Item not in stock, but can be ordered and will be delivered when available.

  • Out of Stock: Item not in stock and cannot be ordered at this time.

Intentional backordering can be a strategic approach to managing inventory and fulfilling customer needs, while unintentional backordering often indicates a shortfall in inventory management. It's important to recognize the difference and plan accordingly to maintain customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

Intentional vs Unintentional Backordering

When you encounter the term backordering, it's essential to distinguish between its intentional and unintentional forms. Intentional backordering is a strategic choice, where you allow customers to order products that are not currently in stock, with the understanding that these items will be shipped once available. This approach can lead to sales growth and offers insights into customer purchasing trends.

On the other hand, unintentional backordering occurs when products unexpectedly run out of stock, often due to mismanagement or unforeseen spikes in demand. This can lead to customer dissatisfaction and a negative impact on your business's reputation.

To give you a clearer picture, here's a comparison:

  • Intentional Backordering: A strategic move to manage inventory and demand.

  • Unintentional Backordering: A result of inventory mismanagement or unexpected demand.

While intentional backordering can be a powerful tool for managing inventory and customer expectations, unintentional backordering is a sign of operational weaknesses that need to be addressed. It's crucial to analyze your inventory strategy and ensure that backorders are a deliberate choice rather than an accidental occurrence.

The Role of Backorders in Sales Growth

When you embrace backorders as part of your sales strategy, you're not just managing inventory; you're also cultivating potential for sales growth. Backorders can indicate strong demand for your products, signaling opportunities to expand your market share.

However, it's crucial to balance the positive aspects with the risks of customer dissatisfaction due to wait times.

  • Customer Retention: By allowing backorders, you maintain a relationship with customers who are willing to wait for your product, rather than losing them to competitors.

  • Market Insights: Backordered items provide valuable data on customer preferences, helping you to focus on high-value products.

  • Revenue Stream: Even when inventory is low, backorders keep the revenue flowing, securing sales that might otherwise be lost.

While backorders can be a strategic tool for growth, they require careful management to ensure they contribute positively to your business's bottom line and customer experience.

Impact of Backorders and Out-of-Stock on Business Operations

Impact of Backorders and Out-of-Stock

Financial Implications for Businesses

When you're faced with backorders, it's crucial to understand the financial strain they can place on your business. Lost sales and revenue are just the tip of the iceberg. Managing backorders often entails additional costs, such as expedited shipping and increased labor to handle customer service inquiries.

The ripple effect of backorders can extend beyond immediate financial losses. Customer dissatisfaction may lead to a damaged reputation and long-term trust issues, which can be more costly to rectify than the backorders themselves.

Here's a snapshot of potential financial impacts:

  • Lost Sales: Revenue that could have been earned if the item was in stock.

  • Expedited Shipping: Additional costs to speed up delivery of backordered items.

  • Customer Service: Increased labor costs due to higher volume of inquiries and complaints.

  • Reputation Damage: Indirect costs associated with loss of customer loyalty and brand strength.

To mitigate these risks, timely reordering and effective inventory control are essential. Disruptions from suppliers or shipping delays can exacerbate the situation, so having a robust plan in place is key to minimizing financial repercussions.

Partial Backorders: Pros and Cons

When you encounter a situation where only part of a customer's order is on backorder, you're faced with a decision: fulfill the available items immediately or wait until the complete order can be shipped. Each choice has its own set of advantages and drawbacks.

  • Pros:

  • Partial fulfillment can boost customer satisfaction by delivering available items without delay.

  • It keeps the cash flow moving, as partial shipments can be invoiced sooner.

  • This approach can also provide insights into which products are in higher demand, aiding inventory planning.

  • Cons:

  • Additional shipping costs may arise from multiple deliveries.

  • It can complicate inventory tracking and management.

  • Customers might be frustrated by receiving orders in parts, potentially affecting their overall shopping experience.

While partial backorders can be a strategic tool, they require careful consideration to ensure they align with your business goals and customer expectations. Balancing the pros and cons is essential for maintaining a positive customer relationship and efficient operations.

Remember, the goal is to have enough stock to meet demand without overstocking. Utilizing technology for inventory management can provide real-time insights and automate many of the processes involved in maintaining optimal inventory levels. This integration of technology streamlines operations and can significantly enhance your inventory control efforts.

Advantages of Intentional Backordering

Intentional backordering can be a strategic tool in your inventory management arsenal. It allows you to manage cash flow more effectively by not tying up funds in inventory that aren't immediately needed. This approach aligns closely with just-in-time inventory practices, reducing the need for extensive storage space and associated costs.

  • Reduces storage costs: You save on storage since items are shipped directly to customers upon arrival.

  • Enhances data insights: Sales data from backordered items can reveal customer purchasing trends, enabling you to adjust your inventory to meet demand.

  • Improves cash flow: Funds are not tied up in inventory, allowing for better cash flow management.

By leveraging intentional backordering, you can focus on high-value products and optimize your inventory to better serve customer needs. This strategic move not only supports sales growth but also provides valuable insights for future business decisions.

Reducing Storage Costs and Enhancing Data Insights

When you embrace backordering, you're not just navigating a temporary inventory shortage; you're strategically reducing storage costs.

Goods that are backordered bypass the need for warehousing, as they are shipped directly to customers once restocked. This approach not only cuts down on storage expenses but also frees up capital for other investments.

By analyzing the sales data from backordered items, you gain valuable insights into customer demand patterns. This information is pivotal for refining your inventory control process, optimizing stock levels, and making informed decisions about new product introductions or sales strategies.

Here's how you can leverage real-time data to enhance your business operations:

  • Optimize order quantities and replenishment cycles.

  • Maintain an appropriate level of safety stock to prevent stockouts.

  • Utilize up-to-date data to empower sales teams and improve demand planning.

Embracing backorders not only mitigates the immediate impact of stockouts but also provides a strategic advantage in understanding and responding to market demands.

Remember, effective inventory management leads to increased profit margins by eliminating inefficiencies such as lost stock, overstocking, and stockouts. It's about finding the right balance that works for your specific business needs and keeping track of what's effective.

Backorder vs Out of Stock: Key Differences

When shopping or managing an online store, encountering the terms "Backorder" and "Out of Stock" can lead to confusion and frustration. It's important to understand the key differences between the two and how each scenario impacts both customers and businesses.


A backorder occurs when a product is not currently in stock, but a customer can still place an order for it. The company then fulfills the order when the item becomes available again.

  • Customer Impact: Customers who place a backorder are willing to wait for the product to be restocked. They are essentially reserving their purchase and will receive it once it's available, which can lead to delayed gratification but ensures they get the desired item.

  • Business Impact: For businesses, backorders can be a double-edged sword. They indicate strong demand but also imply that supply chain management needs improvement. Properly managed backorders can help maintain sales momentum, but if handled poorly, they can lead to customer dissatisfaction due to long wait times.

Out of Stock

An item that is out of stock is currently unavailable, and customers cannot place an order for it until it is restocked.

  • Customer Impact: An out-of-stock status can be a dead end for customers looking to purchase immediately. They might choose to wait for the item to return, seek an alternative, or abandon the purchase altogether.

  • Business Impact: When products are out of stock, businesses risk losing sales and potentially customers to competitors. Frequent out-of-stock situations can harm a company's reputation for reliability. However, it also presents an opportunity to communicate with customers and encourage them to return when the item is available.

Comparative Analysis 

The major difference between a backorder and an out-of-stock situation lies in the customer's ability to order the unavailable product. Backordered items can be ordered ahead of time, showing a commitment from both the customer and the business. On the other hand, out-of-stock items halt the purchasing process, potentially driving customers away.

For customers, backorders offer a promise of eventual fulfillment, while out-of-stock can be a signal to look elsewhere. For businesses, backorders require a delicate balance of inventory management and customer communication, while out-of-stock situations demand a proactive approach to restocking and retaining customer interest.

In both cases, transparency is key. Businesses should provide clear timelines and regular updates to customers. By managing expectations and maintaining open lines of communication

Best Practices for Avoiding Out-of-Stock Situations

Best Practices for Avoiding Out-of-Stock Situations

  1. Accurate Inventory Tracking: Implement a reliable system to monitor inventory levels in real-time. Use barcode scanners or RFID technology to keep track of stock as it comes in and goes out.

  2. Demand Forecasting: Analyze past sales data, market trends, and seasonal fluctuations to predict future product demand. This will help you stock accordingly and avoid being caught off guard.

  3. Safety Stock: Maintain a buffer inventory, also known as safety stock, to protect against sudden spikes in demand or supply chain disruptions.

  4. Supplier Relationships: Build strong relationships with multiple suppliers to ensure you can quickly restock when inventory runs low. Having backup suppliers can be a lifesaver in case of unexpected shortages.

  5. Automated Reordering: Use inventory management software that can automatically reorder products when they reach a certain threshold. This prevents human error and saves time.

  6. Regular Audits: Conduct physical inventory counts regularly to verify that your inventory records match the actual stock on hand. Discrepancies can lead to out-of-stock situations if not corrected.

  7. Communication with Suppliers: Keep an open line of communication with your suppliers about your inventory needs. Inform them about upcoming promotions or events that might increase demand.

  8. Customer Communication: If an item is running low, update the product's online information to reflect the limited stock and communicate with customers about restocking dates.

  9. Lead Time Management: Understand the lead times for your products and factor them into your inventory planning. This helps ensure you reorder items before they run out.

  10. Leverage Technology: Invest in advanced inventory management systems that can provide insights and analytics, helping you make more informed decisions about stock levels.

By following these best practices, businesses can minimize the risk of out-of-stock situations, maintain customer satisfaction, and ensure smooth operations.

Causes and Prevention of Unplanned Backorders

Causes and Prevention of Unplanned Backorders

Causes of Unplanned Backorders

  • Unexpected Demand: Sometimes more people want to buy an item than expected, making it run out quickly.

  • Supplier Issues: If the company making the product has problems or delays, they can't deliver it on time.

  • Inventory Mistakes: Errors in counting how much stock is available can lead to selling things that aren't really there.

  • Shipping Delays: Items might be on their way but get held up in transit, causing a wait for restocking.

Prevention of Unplanned Backorders

  • Better Forecasting: Use past sales to guess how much you'll sell in the future and prepare.

  • Stronger Supplier Networks: Have more than one source for your products in case one has troubles.

  • Regular Stock Checks: Count your inventory often to make sure your numbers are right.

  • Quick Response Plans: Have a plan for fast ordering or finding alternatives if something is running out.

  • Clear Communication: Tell customers early if there's a delay, so they know what to expect.

Identifying Common Causes of Stockouts

Understanding the root causes of stockouts is crucial in preventing them. Demand forecasting errors often lead to stockouts, as businesses may underestimate the popularity of a product or fail to anticipate a surge in demand.

Here's a list of common causes:

  • Inaccurate demand forecasting

  • Supplier reliability issues

  • Inadequate inventory levels

  • Longer lead times than expected

  • Sudden spikes in demand

Maintaining a buffer stock or safety inventory can be a strategic move to cushion the blow of unexpected demand. However, it's a delicate balance to maintain, as excessive safety stock can lead to increased holding costs.

Another significant factor is the efficiency of your inventory management system. An outdated or poorly implemented system can lead to miscommunication and delays, exacerbating stockout situations. Regular reviews and updates of your inventory processes are essential to keep pace with market demands and technological advancements.

Implementing Inventory Control to Avoid Backorders

To effectively prevent backorders, it's essential to implement robust inventory control measures. Accurate demand forecasting is the cornerstone of this approach, allowing you to anticipate customer needs and adjust your inventory levels accordingly. By analyzing historical sales data and market trends, you can make informed decisions that minimize the risk of stockouts.

Here are some key inventory control strategies:

  • Regularly review and adjust inventory levels based on sales data.

  • Utilize technology for real-time inventory tracking and management.

  • Develop a responsive supply chain that can adapt to changes in demand.

Effective inventory control not only prevents backorders but also optimizes your stock levels, ensuring you're not tied up in excess inventory or facing lost sales.

Remember, the goal is to strike a balance between having enough stock to meet demand without overstocking. Implementing these strategies will help you maintain that balance and keep your business running smoothly.

Improving Supplier Relations and Demand Forecasting

To minimize unplanned backorders, fostering robust supplier relationships and refining your demand forecasting are essential. Strengthening communication with suppliers ensures that they are aligned with your inventory needs and can respond effectively to changes in demand. Sharing accurate demand forecasts with suppliers can lead to better inventory availability and fewer backorders.

  • Analyze historical sales data and market trends.

  • Predict future demand to inform supplier orders.

  • Leverage technology for improved forecasting accuracy.

By proactively managing supplier relations and utilizing advanced forecasting methods, you can significantly reduce the incidence of backorders and maintain a steady flow of inventory.

Accurate forecasting not only prevents stockouts but also optimizes your inventory levels, striking a balance between overstocking and running out. This balance is crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction and avoiding the financial strain of unsold inventory. Remember, the goal is to have the right product, in the right quantity, at the right time, without incurring unnecessary costs.

Prevent Unplanned Backorders with Prep It Pack It Ship It

Unplanned backorders can significantly disrupt your business, leading to customer dissatisfaction and lost sales. Understanding the causes of these backorders is the first step toward prevention. Efficient inventory management, accurate forecasting, and reliable fulfillment partners are key to avoiding such issues. 

To ensure your business stays ahead, visit our website and explore our comprehensive services designed to streamline your fulfillment process. With over 10 years of experience and a strategic location near major ports and Amazon warehouses, we're equipped to handle all your FBA, FBM, and e-commerce needs. 

Take the first step towards seamless inventory management and prevent unplanned backorders visit Prep It Pack It Ship It to learn more about our services and how we can help you grow.


Navigating the complexities of inventory management is crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction and a healthy bottom line. Understanding the difference between backorders and stockouts is essential for businesses to effectively manage their inventory and avoid the pitfalls associated with each. 

While backorders can be leveraged as a strategic tool to gauge customer demand and reduce storage costs, unplanned backorders and stockouts can lead to customer frustration and lost sales. 

By implementing robust inventory control measures, businesses can mitigate these risks and maintain a steady flow of products to meet customer needs. 

Ultimately, the key to success lies in balancing inventory management with customer expectations, ensuring that the right products are available at the right time.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does Backorder Usually Take?

The time a backorder takes can vary. It depends on the product and the company's supply situation. Some backorders might be filled within a few days, while others could take weeks or even months. Companies usually give an estimated time when you can expect your backordered item.

What Does It Mean if My Order is on Backorder?

If your order is on backorder, it means the item you want to buy isn't in stock right now, but the company will send it to you as soon as they get more. You're basically in line for the product, and it will be shipped to you once it's available.

What Happens if Your Order is Out of Stock?

If your order is out of stock, the item you wanted to buy isn't available at the moment, and you usually can't buy it right then. You might have to wait until the item is restocked, or you could look for a different product or shop somewhere else.

What is the Difference Between Backlog and Backorder?

A backlog is a list of orders that a company still needs to fulfill, often because there's a lot of demand or a delay in production. A backorder is specifically for items that are not currently in stock, but customers can still order them. So, all backorders are part of a backlog, but not all backlogs are due to backorders.

What is an Example of a Back Order?

An example of a backorder is when you buy a popular new phone that just came out, but the store has sold all of them. Instead of making you wait until it's visibly in stock again, the store lets you order the phone now, and they'll send it to you when they get more from the manufacturer. Your phone is on backorder – you've bought it, but you have to wait for it to be delivered.

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