Understanding Shopify Preorder Sales and How They Benefit Your Shopify Store

Have you ever been excited about an upcoming product that hasn’t launched yet? Maybe it was the latest model of a new phone, a new album from your favourite musician, or a new book in a series you’ve been reading.

If you have, you’ll know that being able to preorder will make you excited about the upcoming launch. Preordering also gives you peace of mind knowing you won’t miss out on the initial release, and keeps you connected to the provider who might reward you with exclusive content, limited edition items, or early access.

Earlier this year, I preordered the video game Final Fantasy VII Rebirth about 2 months before it was officially released, which made me even more excited than I already was to play it. My friends know me as a die-hard fan of the series, so I will always preorder a Final Fantasy the first day a preorder is available.

Because I preordered, I received emails about upcoming news, new photos, and gameplay trailers to keep me updated, further building anticipation.

The preorder experience can generally be a positive one for customers when it’s managed well. It also comes with a variety of benefits for the merchant, too.

Preorder sales are one method for managing product availability, however other methods also exist such as drafting products and then publishing them at a later date.

In this article, I’ll define what Shopify preorder sales are, and other features that complement preorder sales, along with some examples, benefits, and drawbacks to each. 

I’ll also outline the stages of a product’s availability to help paint a better picture of the preorder process. And, I’ll go over the other methods of managing product availability: drafting and publishing products.

What are Shopify preorder sales?

In the simplest terms, Shopify preorder sales allow your customers to reserve and pay for products before they are officially available for purchase. 

This means customers can order an item that is not yet in stock or will be launching in the future. When the product becomes available, it is shipped to the customers who preordered it.

Preorders can be a game-changer for your Shopify store, allowing you to capture early sales and gauge product demand before launch.

It basically allows you to take advantage of the period before a product is available, earning revenue now rather than later, and getting your customers excited about an upcoming release.

There are other features that can accompany preorder sales, such as coming soon labels and back-in-stock alerts.

Below, I’ll define what these features are, share some examples, and outline the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Shopify preorder sales allow your customers to reserve and pay for products before they are available for purchase.

Preorder Sales

Preorder sales allow customers to reserve products that are not yet in stock. It’s a fantastic way to gauge demand, generate anticipation for upcoming releases, and improve cash flow.

Examples

  • An online video game is launching a new expansion. By offering the expansion on preorder, enthusiastic customers can order ahead. The customers who preordered are rewarded with an early access date. This helps the store gauge the initial demand and ensures they can meet customer expectations when the game becomes available.
  • A fitness equipment store is introducing a new line of home workout gear. They open preorders for the new line so they can plan their inventory and production schedules with more accuracy.

Benefits

  • Generate excitement with enthusiastic customers who are eager to order ahead. This buzz will help to increase sales volume and also help to promote your store.
  • Earn revenue immediately by receiving payments before the product is officially released. Early revenue can help cover production costs, reduce financial strain, and provide funds for marketing.
  • Forecast demand using preorder data to gain insights into customer interest and demand for new products. This information helps you make informed decisions about how much product you should keep in stock or order ahead of time.

Drawbacks

  • Managing customer expectations can be difficult if there are production or shipping delays. Customers who have preordered may become frustrated or dissatisfied by waiting longer than promised. This can negatively impact customer trust and loyalty.
  • Inventory management can become challenging if demand exceeds supply or if there’s a sudden drop in interest. This may lead you to either oversell or overstock items, both of which can negatively affect the business.

How to set up Shopify preorder sales

Our guide on how to add preorders to your store on Shopify goes over in detail how you can do this natively and with an app.

The simplest way to do this natively is to ‘continue selling when out of stock’. This allows customers to purchase a product even when the inventory falls to zero.

You would need to update the product with a message that clearly lets customers know that this will be a preorder.

Shopify staff have outlined how to do this on Shopify forums. In summary:

For New Products

When creating your product, under inventory, ensure “Track Inventory” is ticked. Underneath that checkbox, you’ll see another option to “Continue selling when out of stock”. Check this off.

Bulk Updates for Existing Products
  1. Go to Products > All Products
  2. Select all products.
  3. Click “Edit products”.
  4. Once the spreadsheet opens, click “Add fields” and select “Continue selling when out of stock”.
  5. Tick the checkboxes for all products you’d like to continue selling when sold out.

Overselling products on your website comes with some drawbacks that will likely lead to significant issues:

  1. Selling items that Shopify believes to be in stock will result in a constant inventory discrepancy. This makes inventory management difficult.
  2. You cannot set a cap on the amount of products that are ordered when inventory falls to zero, so you’ll have to contend with disappointed customers if you cannot meet this demand.
  3. Shopify’s automated confirmation emails typically state that the order has been “processed” or “confirmed,” which could imply that the product is ready to ship. This may result in miscommunication with customers.

Managing preorders natively is a very delicate process and it’s too easy for customer misunderstandings to occur. The best way to add preorders to your store to avoid these drawbacks is to use an app like Preorder Pro + Back in Stock.

Managing preorders natively is a very delicate process and it’s too easy for customer misunderstandings to occur. The best way to add preorders to your store is to use an app.

We’ve also compared the top 4 apps for preorder sales and back-in-stock alerts if you’d like to see them side-by-side.

Coming Soon

Perhaps your products are drafted and you’re ready to generate buzz and excitement, but you’re not ready to accept preorders yet.

You can publish the product, add a “Coming Soon” label, and add an email sign-up form. This stage of the preorder process allows you to collect the email addresses of potential buyers before a product is available. This adds a ton of value to your email marketing campaigns. It also generates excitement and gives customers a reason to stay connected with your store.

Examples

  • A luxury skincare brand is launching a new line of anti-aging products. They add a “Coming Soon” label to the product pages so customers can sign up with their email addresses to receive updates about the launch date and exclusive pre-launch offers. 
  • A high-end electronics store will be releasing new smart home devices, including a new smart thermostat and home security camera. They add “Coming Soon” labels to these product pages with an email field for customers to sign up for notifications. These customers will receive early access to the product launch, special introductory pricing, and exclusive bundle deals.

Benefits

  1. Create rich email marketing campaigns by building a list of potential buyers to target once the products are available. Use an email sign-up form for customers to share their information once they learn the product is coming soon.
  2. Keep customers informed and maintain their interest. Finding out a product is out-of-stock can be a letdown for some customers, but a “Coming Soon” label lets customers know that the product will be back in stock soon and encourages them to sign up for notifications.

Drawbacks

  1. Customers may become frustrated if they see a “Coming Soon” label but are eager to purchase the product immediately. This can lead to customers seeking similar products from competitors who have them readily available. Especially if no launch date is given.
  2. Lost sales can occur because customers cannot purchase the product right away. Some customers may lose interest or forget about the product by the time it becomes available.

How to set up Coming Soon labels on Shopify

The easiest way to add a Coming Soon label is to use an app, however Shopify staff have also outlined how you can change the “Sold Out” language to “Coming Soon” in the language settings.

  1. In your Shopify admin, navigate to Online Store > Themes.
  2. Click on the Actions dropdown menu next to your current theme and select Edit code.
  3. Scroll down to the Locales folder and open it.
  4. Select the en.default.json file (or the relevant language file for your store).
  5. Search for “Sold Out”:
  6. Use CTRL+F (or CMD+F on Mac) to find the “sold_out” text in the file.
  7. Replace “sold_out”: “Sold out” with “sold_out”: “Coming Soon”.
  8. Save Changes.

Save the changes to update the text across your store.

Back in Stock Alerts

Let’s say you’re sold out of a particular product and you’re not ready or interested in accepting preorders.

Back-in-stock alerts are a lower commitment option. This stage of the preorder process enables customers to receive notifications when a product is back in stock, ensuring you never miss a sale due to unavailability. 

This feature helps maintain customer interest and engagement. It provides a convenient way for your customers to stay updated on product availability, increasing the likelihood of them returning to your store to complete their purchase.

Examples

  • A popular fashion retailer has a best-selling jacket that frequently sells out. They enable back-in-stock alerts on the product page, allowing customers to sign up for notifications when the jacket is available again. When the jacket is restocked, interested customers receive an email alert, prompting them to return to the store and make a purchase.
  • A specialty coffee shop offers limited edition coffee blends. Due to the high demand, these blends often sell out quickly. The shop uses back-in-stock alerts to notify customers when these limited-edition blends are available again. Customers who have signed up for the alerts receive a notification as soon as the blends are restocked.

Benefits

  1. Capture more sales that might have otherwise been lost. Back-in-stock alerts ensure that customers who are interested in a product but find it out of stock can be notified as soon as it becomes available again. This encourages customers to return to the store and complete their purchase.
  2. Improve customer engagement and the shopping experience by offering back-in-stock alerts. These alerts will show that you value your customers’ interest and want to keep them informed. This builds customer loyalty and trust, as customers appreciate the convenience of being notified when the products they want are available. This reduces the chance of them going to competitors.

Drawbacks

  1. Inventory management can become too complex if you’re managing back-in-stock alerts. Notifications will need to be sent at the right time. This can become risky for stores that have frequent restocks on products with high demand. Mismanaged alerts can result in disappointed customers.
  2. Customers may be disappointed if a product sells out quickly after being restocked. This can lead to a negative shopping experience and potentially damage customer trust and loyalty.

How to set up Back-in-stock on Shopify

Due to the complexity of implementing back-in-stock alerts, it is generally recommended to use an app for this. 

In this forum, a Shopify partner warns:

“Building this will be not a small amount of work. I’d recommend to use an app in this case. If time is your ally in this endeavour and you need to build it yourself, the front-end side is very simple to implement using HTML inputs. Where it gets tricky is the database of customers who sign up for specific products. If automated, probably will be a bit of work.”

What are the stages of preorder product availability?

As inventory moves through your store, it is sometimes helpful to think of preorder products as moving through four stages of availability.

  1. Drafting products involves adding products and information to your website without displaying them to website visitors.
  2. Before they are officially available, customers can Preview the latest products to learn more. Customers can learn that the product will be available later. You can also add an email sign-up form so customers can be notified of updates.
  3. Active products are available for sale. 
  4. For Closed products, the preorder period has ended, and products are no longer available for purchase. This is where you’ll need to choose how you want your preorder to end.

Below I’ll go over these stages in more detail:

1. Drafting

In this stage, you are creating and refining your product listings. This includes adding descriptions, images, prices, and other details, but the product is not yet visible to customers.

This is a good place to start if you are building a new collection or adding new products over time to prepare for a launch date. When the launch date comes, it’s easier to flip the switch.

2. Preview

Your products are almost ready for launch. In this stage, you can use an email signup to generate buzz and collect email addresses for notifications of when the preorder product will become available.

Customers can view your products, but cannot purchase them yet. This gives them an opportunity to learn more about the upcoming products and your store.

3. Active

Products are fully available for customers to purchase. This is the main stage where most of your inventory will reside.

Here, your product’s status is set to Active and you’ll be juggling Publishing, Managing Inventory, and Preorders activities.

When products are Active, you’ll need to ensure all product details are accurate and up-to-date, and you can monitor inventory levels and reorder stock as needed. 

If you are setting up preorders before a product is in stock, you can set a period for the active stage. You can select when the stage should start and end by choosing a date and time or automatically ending when inventory is updated to back-in-stock.

Publishing

When products transition from draft to active, you are publishing them. This makes the product visible and available for purchase.

After finalizing product details, you would double-check that all information is correct before publishing. Then, you can announce the product launch via channels such as email marketing and social media.

Preorders

Products are available for customers to reserve before they are officially in stock. This helps gauge demand and secure early sales. You will need to communicate expected availability dates to customers and closely monitor preorder levels to ensure you can meet demand.

Managing inventory

Active management of stock levels is critical to avoid overselling or stockouts.

This involves regular updates to inventory counts and reordering supplies, setting up alerts for low stock levels, and regularly updating stock quantities based on preorder sales. 

Accurate inventory management also helps merchants make informed purchasing decisions so they can optimize their stock levels and meet customer demand without overstocking.

Shopify offers built-in inventory tracking to help you manage this seamlessly.

4. Closed

At this stage, the preorder period has ended, and products are no longer available for purchase.

Products are currently sold out but may be restocked in the future.

Stages of Preorder Product Availability. #1 Drafting. #2 Preview (Coming soon). #3 Active. #4 Closed (Back in stock alerts).

What other types of product availability options exist?

Drafting Products

Drafting products is useful when you want to prepare a product listing but aren’t ready to make it visible to the public. This is handy for future releases or product updates. It allows you to work on descriptions, pricing, and images behind the scenes, saving valuable time when you’re ready to launch.

Examples

  • A footwear store owner is creating a listing for a highly anticipated upcoming sneaker collaboration. They draft the product page weeks before the release date. When the launch date arrives, they simply need to publish the product, instantly making it available for purchase by eager customers.
  • A fashion retailer is still working on photos for their new fall collection. They upload products with prices and descriptions and save to draft. As new photos become available, they upload those photos to the draft products so that everything will be ready come launch day.

Benefits

  • Streamlined workflows are the top benefit of setting products as a draft, allowing merchants to organize product launches ahead of the launch date. Having a place to save your product descriptions, images, and prices, and then the ability to simply hit “Publish” on the launch date takes the stress out of launching new product lines and collections.
  • Time to proofread new product launches before publishing them gives store owners a chance to catch mislabelled prices, product descriptions or other errors. Saving products as a draft gives store owners ample time to verify everything is correct before making it public.

Drawbacks

  • Confusion amongst staff can happen if multiple people manage the website. You should have a clear system for labelling and identifying draft products to avoid accidentally leaving something unpublished or forgetting about an upcoming launch. 
  • Inaccurate inventory can result from setting products as drafts. Since they might include stock information, having a large number of unpublished products can make it seem like you have more in stock than you do. This can also cause errors in reporting.

How to set Products as Draft on Shopify

In the product editor, you can set a product’s status as “Active” or “Draft”:

  1. Go to your Shopify admin and click on Products in the left-hand sidebar.
  2. Click on the product you want to set as a draft. If you are creating a new product, click on the Add Product button.
  3. On the product details page, find the Product status section.
  4. Select Draft from the status options. This will change the status from Active to Draft.
  5. Click the Save button at the top right corner of the page to save your changes.

Publishing Products

Published products are visible on your online store. Customers can see these products immediately, add them to their carts, and complete the purchase.

Examples

  • A fashion retailer publishes a new collection for the summer season. The new products are immediately available, allowing customers to browse and purchase the latest trends.
  • A kitchen appliance store publishes a new kitchen gadget. The product page includes detailed descriptions, specifications, and high-quality images, attracting chefs and cooking enthusiasts alike.

Benefits

  • A seamless customer experience gives customers the opportunity to buy the product right away upon viewing it for the first time.
  • Immediate revenue is earned from allowing customers to order right away.
  • Faster fulfillment of orders allows you to turn over inventory more quickly and move through sales processes more efficiently.

Drawbacks

  • Overstock can add unnecessary costs if the new products don’t sell as well as expected.
  • Competitors will have access to your new products and can quickly react, potentially copying designs or launching similar products.
  • Customer pressure from patrons expecting immediate shipping can be difficult to manage and will require you to maintain high inventory levels and quick fulfillment times.

How to Publish Products on Shopify

Shopify’s guide explains how to add a single product to your store:

  1. From your Shopify admin, go to Products.
  2. From the Products page, click Add Product.
  3. Enter a title for your product, along with additional details.
  4. Click Save.

If you want to add products in bulk, you can do so by uploading a CSV file as outlined in this Shopify video.

What are the top reasons to enable Shopify preorder sales?

Preorder sales allow you to continue to work with and service customers even when a product is not available. This helps you capitalize on potential sales and retain customers who might otherwise look elsewhere for a similar product.

By enabling preorder sales, you can generate excitement with enthusiastic customers who are eager to order ahead. You’ll earn revenue immediately by receiving payments before the product officially launches. And you’ll be able to forecast demand better using preorder data to estimate how much product you should keep in stock or order ahead.

If you’re ready to reap the benefits of preorder sales you can also learn more in our Guide to Shopify Preorder Sales which covers how to set up preorders and the best apps to help you do this. 

Further reading

Shopify – Adding and updating products

Shopify – Importing products with a CSV file

Shopify – Product Status


Preorder Pro + Back in Stock

Everything you need to add pre-order, coming soon, and back in stock alerts to your shop.