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How do you manage subscribers when a product they're subscribed to goes out of stock?


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For example, a customer subscribes to Fantastic Massage Oil. On the backend (in Bigcommerce) we have 10 in stock. On their next renewal date, the Fantastic Massage Oil is out of stock. Currently the way it’s set up is if a product is out of stock, it will automatically cancel their subscription. I’d obviously like them to remain subscribed. 

 

Do you replace it with a similar item and email them letting them know? Do you leave it up to them? Do you refund them and let them know when the product might be back in stock?

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Best answer by Tojnas 9 June 2022, 20:34

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Let me do some digging but there should be a way that it can register as a “charge error” and not a cancelation.  This way you can keep the customer as a subscriber.

My suggestion would be to reach out (ahead of time if you can knowing that a product is out-of-stock) and offer them either a refund to the missing item or ask them if a replacement is fine (especially if it is a box that is containing multiple items).

 

Here’s a good resource on the topic: https://support.rechargepayments.com/hc/en-us/articles/360038821793-Discontinuing-subscription-products

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Looping in @Christyottesen from the Product team who might know how to navigate this!

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To my knowledge, Recharge only cancels the subscription if it hits max retries (~20 attempts) after getting an Out-of-Stock (OOS) error. You can use Recharge dunning process to notify the customer. 

To @russell ‘s comment, through the merchant portal, you should be able to pro-actively identify whether a customer  is facing an OOS error using the ‘customer cohort’ dashboard in the merchant portal. From there, its all about communication. 

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Would love to know if this workaround puts you in a better place :) 

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Thanks @Tojnas for adding some additional color here! @Grey shared a great link above on discontinuing products, but I wanted to also add in a few more resources that might be helpful! 

Thanks, 
-Cass. 

 

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Hey @claireberk circling back around to this to offer some more ideas for merchants that will inevitably come across out-of-stock scenarios - 

As @russell alluded to in one of his responses, you can edit the options for card declines and order errors to avoid having the subscription cancel altogether, these settings can be found in your merchant portal under: Settings > Payment 


Keep in mind this does affect all customers and not just out-of-stock customers, but the setting I would recommend looking into is the ‘When maximum number of retries are reached’ You’ll have the following options at your disposal: 
 


The ‘Do nothing’ option will be the one that results in the charge error, allowing the merchant & customer to wait till the original subscription item is back in stock. More on that here:
Understanding card declines & order errors 
Managing max retry order errors 

The question then falls to: what options do I have for the customer while the product is out-of-stock? If you happen to know how long the product will remain out-of-stock, you can add an additional subscription product with an expiration or you can add a one-time product. More on both of those options here: 

Adding a product to a new or existing order

Adding or removing an expiration from an existing subscription
 

As @Tojnas pointed out, communication between you and the customer is going to be oh so important in these instances, but I did want to shine a spotlight on the options you could consider when those out-of-stock scenarios arise. 😊

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@Christian M Thank you so much for providing a little more clarity on this! 

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@Christian M thanks for properly articulating what I could only do in layman's terms

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Always so humble @russell! Thanks for sharing your response and pointing us in the right direction 💫

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@russell you sir, are a gentleman & a scholar! Also… what @cassy.lee said 🎖

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@Christian M this is awesome, thanks for the insight! And @russell for always helping!

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Hey everyone, i wanted to jump in to highlight a couple of changes we’re actively planning for this particular area of Recharge.

First of is a change to how we treat inventory errors in general: instead of counting them as part of the payment dunning process (which @Christian M described really well) we will treat them as a different type of error that will continuously be retried until either inventory is available, or the subscription is actively cancelled. This means that a subscription won’t automatically be cancelled after X number of attempts, but also that we’ll automatically make sure to retry these orders.

The second planned change isn’t directly related to the original question, but might be relevant to know about. We’re looking to change how we handle the scenario where some items in an order (e.g. 2 out of 8 line items) are out of stock: currently the whole order will be flagged as out of inventory, but we’re looking to make it possible to take off the line items that are out of stock and retry the rest of the order. The change would only be on the order being processed, and wouldn’t affect the customers subscription, so if all items are available on their next cycle, they’ll get all that they’ve signed up for.
We’re planning on providing a couple of different settings to help a merchant specify when to not send a modified order, but can go into more detail on that if anyone’s interested

 

Both changes are still in the planning phase, so any feedback is more than welcome as it will help shape the how we build it

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Hello everyone,

I have a quick followup question to the second planned change mentioned above:

The main scenario is where one or more line items are out of stock, but what if a customer ordered 5 of the same thing and only 4 is available? e.g. subscription is for 5 bags of a specific coffee roast, but only 4 bags of that roast are left in stock

My assumption is that you would want to ship the items available (the 4 bags available), as opposed to not shipping any items (no bags at all)?

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@Steve have you ever run into their scenario ? 

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@russell we never go out of stock ;) 

Hey everyone, i wanted to jump in to highlight a couple of changes we’re actively planning for this particular area of Recharge.

First of is a change to how we treat inventory errors in general: instead of counting them as part of the payment dunning process (which @Christian M described really well) we will treat them as a different type of error that will continuously be retried until either inventory is available, or the subscription is actively cancelled. This means that a subscription won’t automatically be cancelled after X number of attempts, but also that we’ll automatically make sure to retry these orders.

The second planned change isn’t directly related to the original question, but might be relevant to know about. We’re looking to change how we handle the scenario where some items in an order (e.g. 2 out of 8 line items) are out of stock: currently the whole order will be flagged as out of inventory, but we’re looking to make it possible to take off the line items that are out of stock and retry the rest of the order. The change would only be on the order being processed, and wouldn’t affect the customers subscription, so if all items are available on their next cycle, they’ll get all that they’ve signed up for.
We’re planning on providing a couple of different settings to help a merchant specify when to not send a modified order, but can go into more detail on that if anyone’s interested

 

Both changes are still in the planning phase, so any feedback is more than welcome as it will help shape the how we build it

Great to hear about the 2nd planned change.  In our current scenario we have recurring stock issues on a line which means a customer won’t get their order.  I wanted to keep them subscribed so changed the setting to “do nothing”.  The bit I’m confused about is what happens going forward e.g. will they get the product when it comes back in stock (ie there order sits there in a queue until we have stock) OR worse case scenario, is that months order cancelled and recharge tries again once it becomes due again i.e. 4 weeks later?  thanks for any help.  

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Hi @Windy-blow, it sounds like an example of what we’re trying to solve for. I’m not fully sure which setting you’ve set to “do nothing”, but currently if an order keeps having inventory issues it won’t be sent, and will actually end up being cancelled after a number of failed attempts (depends on your setting).

If an order has so many error that it get cancelled, the subscription actually gets cancelled as well, so no more attempts will be made. Once the stock issues have been resolved you would need to reactivate the subscriptions and the process would restart

What we’re looking to solve with the 2nd planned change, is for the first instance of a stock issue where you’ve run out of stock on one line item out of many. In the future we want to be able to let you ship the order without the missing line items, so the customers will still get the remainder of what they ordered. Depending on configuration options, you might still choose to not send the order (e.g. if the order total is too low to warrant the shipping cost) and it would be put in error like it does now. We would retry again later with the hope that inventory is available at that point

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