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Have you ever considered what happens when your online order takes longer than expected? What are backordered shipments, and why should you care about them?

When you order something online, you expect it to get to you quickly. Sometimes, however, things that are out of anyone’s control can mess up the supply chain and cause shipments to be delayed. When more people want a product in stock, this is called a backorder, and customers have to wait longer to get it.

By explaining this part of the logistics process, we hope to give you a full picture of package backorders and their importance in the business world.

What Does Backorder Mean?

A warehouse with empty racks

A backorder is when a requested product or item is unavailable for immediate shipment. When an item is on backorder, the demand for the product exceeds its current inventory in an e-commerce business.

This shortage can occur due to various factors, such as unexpected increases in customer demand, delays in production or transportation, or inadequate inventory management.

What Does It Mean When Something Is On Backorder?

When an item is on backorder, it implies that the product is out of stock, and customers will have to wait for it to become available again before it can be shipped. This delay in fulfilling customer orders can result in a longer wait time for customers to receive their desired product.

E-commerce businesses strive to balance customer demand and inventory management, ensuring they have enough stock to meet customer needs without carrying excessive inventory.

By having a safe stock, businesses can mitigate the impact of backorders and minimize customer wait time. Optimizing lead time, which refers to the time it takes to receive a product after placing an order, is crucial in reducing the occurrence of backorders.

Understanding backorders is important for both businesses and customers. It allows businesses to refine their inventory management processes and improve their ability to fulfill customer orders promptly. For customers, being aware of backorders helps set realistic expectations regarding delivery times and enables them to make informed purchase decisions.

Backorders vs. Out Of Stock

Suppose a popular toy manufacturer launches a new toy line that quickly sells out due to overwhelming customer demand. In this case, the toy becomes backordered because the company needs time to produce more units to meet the demand. Customers who place orders during the backorder period will have to wait for the toy to be restocked and shipped to them once it becomes available.

On the other hand, if the same toy maker runs into problems making more toys and can only make more for a short time, the toy is thought to be out of stock. In this case, buyers would not be able to order the toy until the problems with production are fixed, and the stock is refilled. Unlike backorders, there is no way to know when the toy will return to stock.

In short, a backorder is when a product is briefly out of stock but will be restocked and shipped later, while “out of stock” means that the product is currently unavailable and there is no date for when it will be back in stock. Knowing these differences can help businesses and customers control their expectations and make smart choices about what to buy.

Causes of Backorders

Inventory management, demand forecasting, and safety stock can reduce backorders. Addressing these core reasons helps firms anticipate and meet customer demand, eliminating supply shortages and enhancing customer happiness.

High Customer Demand

Backorders can occur when a sudden surge in customer demand for certain products exceeds the available stock items. Factors such as seasonal trends, promotional campaigns, or unexpected popularity can increase demand, leading to backorders.

Supply Chain Disruptions

Disruptions in the supply chain, such as delays in production, transportation issues, or supplier shortages, can result in backorders. Unforeseen events like natural disasters, labor strikes, or global crises can impact the smooth flow of inventory, causing delays in replenishing stock.

Inaccurate Inventory Management

Poor inventory management practices, including inaccurate forecasting, inadequate stock monitoring, or improper allocation of resources, can contribute to backorders. Insufficient safety stock levels, which serve as a buffer during high-demand periods, can further exacerbate the issue.

Production Challenges

Manufacturing difficulties, such as equipment breakdowns, raw material shortages, or quality control issues, can cause production delays, resulting in backorders. These challenges can arise due to internal factors within the manufacturing process or external factors beyond the company’s control.

Complex Product Configurations

Backorders may occur when products have numerous customizable options or configurations. Each unique configuration requires specific components or assembly processes, making maintaining sufficient stock levels for all possible variations challenging.

Seasonal or Trend-Based Products

Backorders are common for products that experience seasonal or trend-based demand fluctuations. Businesses may need help to accurately predict the timing and magnitude of these demand shifts, leading to inadequate stock availability during peak periods.

What Are the Effects of Backorders on Customers?

Backorders can impact customers, affecting their overall shopping experience and satisfaction. Understanding these effects is crucial for businesses to address customer concerns and minimize any negative consequences proactively.

Delayed Order Fulfillment

  • Negative: Backorders can delay receiving ordered items, leading to frustration and disappointment for customers expecting prompt delivery.

  • Minimizing the effect: Businesses can improve communication by providing realistic estimated delivery dates upfront, offering alternative products or options, and implementing efficient supply chain management to minimize backorder occurrences.

Pre-Ordering and Limited Availability

  • Positive: Backorders can create a sense of anticipation and exclusivity, as customers can pre-order products before they become available.

  • Minimizing the effect: Companies can provide pre-order options with clear information about expected availability dates, allowing customers to make informed decisions. Additionally, businesses can employ real-time inventory tracking systems to avoid accepting orders for already back-ordered products.

Uncertainty and Inconvenience

  • Negative: Backorders can create uncertainty for customers regarding the exact time frame for receiving their desired products, leading to inconvenience and potential dissatisfaction.

  • Minimizing the effect: Maintaining open communication channels with customers, providing regular updates on backorder status, and offering flexibility in cancellation or order modification options can help mitigate the inconvenience caused by uncertainty.

Extended Wait Times

  • Negative: Backorders can result in longer wait times for customers, impacting their overall shopping experience and potentially leading them to seek alternatives elsewhere.

  • Minimizing the effect: Businesses can focus on improving their supply chain efficiency, optimizing inventory management, and working closely with suppliers to reduce lead times and minimize backorder-related delays. Offering expedited shipping options for backordered items helps reduce customer wait times.

Advantages of Backorders

  1. Ensures Product Availability: Backorders allow customers to secure a product even when it is temporarily out of stock. This ensures that customers can purchase the desired item, even if it is in high demand or experiencing temporary unavailability.

  2. Pre-Ordering Opportunities: Backorders allow customers to pre-order items before they become available. This creates a sense of anticipation and exclusivity, as customers can be among the first to receive the product once it is restocked or released.

  3. Avoids Missed Opportunities: Backorders prevent customers from missing out on products with limited availability or in high demand. By placing a backorder, customers can secure their spot in line and avoid the disappointment of not being able to purchase the item later.

  4. Flexibility in Product Choices: Backorders allow customers to choose from a wider range of products. Suppose their desired item is currently out of stock. In that case, customers can explore alternative options or similar products that may be available for backorder.

  5. Enhances Customer Loyalty: Backorders allow customers to choose from a wider range of products. Suppose their desired item is currently out of stock. In that case, customers can explore alternative options or similar products that may be available for backorder.

Disadvantages of Backorders

  1. Delayed Order Fulfillment: Customers anticipating rapid delivery may experience dissatisfaction and inconvenience if their products are delayed due to backorders. Customers’ experiences and satisfaction may suffer as a result of the delay.

  2. Uncertainty and Inconvenience: Backorders create uncertainty for customers regarding the exact timeframe for receiving their desired products. This uncertainty can be inconvenient and potentially lead to dissatisfaction, as customers may not clearly understand when they will receive their order.

  3. Potential Order Cancellations: Extended backorder wait times can result in customers canceling their orders altogether. Suppose the wait time exceeds the customer’s willingness to wait. In that case, they may seek alternative options or cancel their order, leading to potential revenue loss for the business.

  4. Impact on Customer Trust: Poorly managed backorders can erode customer trust and damage the reputation of a business. Inaccurate information, lack of communication, or failure to meet promised delivery dates can negatively affect customer trust and confidence in the company.

  5. Competitive Disadvantage: Excessive reliance on backorders can put businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Customers facing extended wait times or frequent backorder situations may opt to switch to competitors who can provide faster and more reliable product availability.

How To Manage Backorders?

Managing backorders effectively requires a combination of strategies, communication techniques, and preventative measures. By implementing these practices, businesses can minimize delays, enhance customer satisfaction, and prevent backorder situations.

Strategies For Managing Backorders

  1. Optimize Inventory Management: Maintain sufficient safety stock levels to meet customer demand and avoid backordered situations. Regularly analyze sales trends, lead times, and historical data to ensure accurate inventory forecasting.

  2. Prioritize Supplier Relationships: Establish strong relationships with suppliers to ensure timely deliveries and minimize disruptions in the supply chain. Maintain open lines of communication and work together to mitigate any potential production or delivery issues.

  3. Implement Real-Time Inventory Tracking: Utilize advanced inventory management systems that provide real-time visibility into stock levels. This allows businesses to promptly update product availability and avoid accepting orders for backordered items.

  4. Offer Alternative Solutions: When faced with backorders, provide customers with options, such as selecting a similar product or offering a refund if the wait time exceeds a certain period, such as 14 days. This helps maintain customer satisfaction while managing expectations.

Tips For Communicating With Customers

  • Be Transparent: Communicate the backorder status, expected delivery dates, and potential delays. Keep customers informed throughout the process to manage their expectations effectively.

  • Provide Regular Updates: Keep customers informed of any changes or progress regarding their back ordered items. Proactive communication helps alleviate frustration and maintains customer confidence.

  • Offer Flexibility: Allow customers to modify or cancel their backorders if desired. Provide alternative product suggestions currently in stock, ensuring customers have options while waiting for their original choice.

  • Personalized Communication: Tailor communication to individual customers whenever possible. Use their preferred communication channels, such as email or SMS, and address them by name to create a more personalized experience.

  • Set Realistic Expectations: Provide accurate estimated delivery times and be transparent about any factors affecting the delivery, such as supplier delays or unexpected events. Avoid overpromising to prevent disappointment.

  • Provide Exceptional Customer Service: Train customer service representatives to handle backorder inquiries empathetically and professionally. Promptly address customer concerns, answer questions, and offer proactive solutions.

Best Practices For Preventing Backorders

  1. Accurate Demand Forecasting: Utilize data analytics and sales history to forecast customer demand accurately. This helps businesses anticipate potential stock shortages and adjust inventory levels accordingly.

  2. Efficient Supply Chain Management: Streamline production processes, optimize lead times, and closely monitor supplier performance to reduce the likelihood of backorders.

  3. Safety Stock Management: Maintain an appropriate safety stock level to act as a buffer during high demand or unexpected disruptions. Regularly review and adjust safety stock levels based on sales patterns and market conditions.

  4. Collaborative Partnerships: Foster collaborative relationships with suppliers and vendors to ensure timely deliveries and minimize disruptions in the supply chain. Regularly communicate and share forecasts to facilitate better coordination.

  5. Implement Automated Inventory Systems: Utilize inventory management software or systems that automate inventory tracking, order fulfillment, and reordering processes. This helps reduce human errors, optimize inventory levels, and minimize the risk of backorders.

  6. Monitor Market Trends: Stay informed about market trends, industry news, and product demand shifts. Proactively identifying emerging trends can help businesses adjust their inventory and production strategies accordingly, minimizing the risk of backorders.


What is a partial backorder?

A partial backorder refers to a situation where only a portion of the ordered items are currently unavailable or out of stock while the remaining things can be fulfilled and shipped to the customer.

What does “rolling backorder” mean?

“Rolling backorder” refers to a dynamic situation in which a thing is always on backorder. It means that as soon as a batch of backordered things is shipped, more orders are placed for the same product, creating a cycle of backorders for that product.

What are Common Industries With Backordered Items?

Common industries are electronics, fashion, automotive, and healthcare, which may experience backorders due to high demand or supply chain disruptions.

What Happens If I Don’t Want To Wait For A Backordered Item?

You can cancel your order if you want to immediately get a backordered item. Contact the seller or customer support to initiate the cancellation process.

How Long Does Backorder Take?

The duration of a backorder can vary depending on factors, such as supplier availability, production time, and shipping logistics. It is best to check with the seller or refer to the estimated delivery dates provided for more accurate information.

Can I Cancel My Order If It’s On Backorder?

Yes, you can generally cancel your order if it’s on backorder. Contact the seller or customer support to request the cancellation. However, reviewing the seller’s cancellation policy for any specific terms or conditions is advisable.

How Do You Apologize For A Backorder?

When you apologize for a backorder, you have to admit that it’s inconvenient and say you’re sorry for the wait. Customers might be less upset if they get a sincere, sympathetic email or phone call apologizing for the backorder and giving them updates on when the item will be available or other choices.

What Is The Difference Between Open Order And Backorder?

An open order refers to a customer’s order that has been received but has yet to be fulfilled or shipped. A backorder specifically refers to an order for an item currently out of stock and awaiting restocking or production.

Will I Still Get My Order If It’s Backordered?

Yes, you will typically receive your order once it is back in stock or available for shipment. The seller will fulfill the order as soon as the backordered item becomes available based on the estimated delivery dates provided.

Final Notes

Maintaining client happiness and loyalty requires handling backorders. Businesses can minimize the negative effects of backorders by optimizing inventory management, communicating clearly, and offering alternatives.

Backorders can be avoided through precise demand forecasts, efficient supply chain management, and proper safety stock levels. Businesses may successfully manage backorders by prioritizing customer contact, providing regular updates, and being flexible.