Secure products availability during checkout process

What is the need / problem ?

I’ve received a lot of complains that it is annoying to get stock availability issues when trying to checkout.

These complains are mainly coming from people trying to checkout as guest.

Indeed, while you are typing your credentials (address etc) the last stock item of a product you had in cart can be checkout by someone else. What happens:

  • You hit checkout and an error then appears to explain you cannot buy this product anymore. Yet you maybe spent 6 minutes to fill everything… you were pretty sure the item was already yours. Grumpy mode level 1
  • So you go back to your cart, make changes, then come back to checkout and :boom: you discover you have to fill everything in again. Grumpy mode level 2 engaged
  • And of course you can again have the problem while filling the page a second time… :see_no_evil:

This is annoying when you are used in other ecommerce website to have a secure cart while typing your credentials.

To avoid locking carts for people that might never return to the website, this is often done with a timer: you get something like 20 min to finish filling in your credentials. After these 20 minutes, the stock of your items will again be available to anyone else.

Some screenshot found on the web to illustrate what I’m taking about :smiley:


What I like about this idea is that it could also help people who are not used to ecommerce website to understand that landing on /checkout does not mean your order is complete (my hubs are currently calling all their users with uncompleted orders, I don’t have specific numbers, but all the hubs I’m following have the problem: people don’t get they need to scroll down and hit checkout).

Having a clear banner saying the order will be completed only when all the steps below are done would be awesome.

Maybe we can split the two as the timer might be something complicated, but most people who don’t understand how to complete an order are also people who will be very slow to fill this page. So they are a bit the same target as guest checkout. It could be nice to secure their cart while they do that and explain to them that we cannot hold on forever.

What do other think about this ? To much for OFN? Our current stock issues won’t last after Covid-19?
ping @lin_d_hop @Kirsten @tschumilas @danielle

I just had a hub with customers experiencing this yesterday am. When @luisramos0 looked into it, there were minutes where 4 - 6 orders were being placed at once. And, with limited stock - lots of people experienced double - or someone told us 4 grumpy cats. It seems if you were checking out with a remembered login, or checking out with items that didn’t have limited stock - all was good. So I like the idea of a timer. But 20 minutes seem long. And - this could happen: customer 1 starts checkout and product xx is secured in her cart. Customer 2 starts checkout and gets the ‘no stock’ message, but checks out anyway. Customer 1 changes their mind, or releases product xx, and it goes back to stock. Customer 2 looses out. I’m not objecting - I’m just saying - with busy shops and limited stock, its going to be tough to do anything.

I know in the flower collective - which has a busy 20 minutes at opening - there would be buyers who (greedily perhaps) lock down a bunch of stuff in their cart for the first 20 minutes, while they decide what they want.

I wonder if we would be just as well off if we came up with a set of ‘best practices for busy shops’ that we could put into the user guide and communicate. Like: encourage your customers to register on ofn ahead of shopping, and save their credit card to their account, so check out is faster. If you know you’ll have a busy shop - is there a way you can do a private ‘pre-release’ to some customers first? (I know that the hub who had problems here yesterday is moving in these directions.)

Will it last after covid? Good question!

I think we should improve this but it doesn’t need a timer. The timer is not easy (stock management). I think this is too much for OFN right now.

There are two things that are easy here:

  • very easy - banner on checkout page with something that informs the user “Checkout is not complete!”
  • easy - in this banner we can include something about how much stock is available if stock is low like “only 2 more available”

Much easier than the timer is also to improve the out of stock flow, I mean, if I take a lot of time to checkout and items become unavailable I can go through a painless process to see what is unavailable and checkout what is available. Basically, fixing this issue:

@tschumilas Just to be more precise: I’m proposing here a lock-down after confirming the cart, when you land on the checkout page, not the cart page. This is why I think ithe example you are describing of customer 1 changing their mind while checking out has a lower frequency to happen than people changing their mind once on their cart.

easy - in this banner we can include something about how much stock is available if stock is low like “only 2 more available”

@luisramos0 yes I also thought about it. But currently we don’t have the list of items at checkout. We could analyze how to add them in the left menu, but I wonder about mobile etc :see_no_evil: So we would need some design changes of the checkout page (imagine the list when you have a large number of products).
That being said, if it is easy it might be interesting to implement it as well on the cart page then :thinking: Maybe linked with #5239 though

Much easier than the timer is also to improve the out of stock flow, I mean, if I take a lot of time to checkout and items become unavailable I can go through a painless process to see what is unavailable and checkout what is available. Basically, fixing this issue:

That would be good for sure. But won’t solve the feedback I’ve received that it is super weird to loose products while you’re on the checkout page. But maybe it is just the current period that ends up with those cases :slight_smile:

Thanks for these clarifications @Rachel - you are right, I misunderstood when the ‘lock down’ woudl happen. I agree that a lock down after confirming the cart is a good idea, and that yes, it is super weird to lose items you had in your cart and have to put in your name… again after you reach this stage. (Not to mention having to face multiple grumpy cats!!!) I’m agreeing - this would be a great thing to do.

I know we are still thinking of the best way to handle this - but I’m looking for suggestions. There is a large hub - 1500 products about to open on OFNCAN on Thurs - May 7. This problem with product availability and getting the grumpy cat multiple times at checkout is going to happen with this hub for sure. Last week - using their current platform (they are switching to OFN) - they sold $50,000 in their first 5 minutes. (Currently their platform takes items out of stock when they are put in to the cart). Suggestions for what I can help them do as the migrate to OFN to offset the negtive customer experience of this cart issue? For example:
Get as many customers as possible to create logins before the shop opens
They aren’t taking credit cards, so that’s maybe helpful - faster checkout

any other ideas? I know it’ll be a problem and want to head it off at the pass.

@tschumilas can they open different OC : like not sell all their products categories at the same time? I have a hub doing this, even if delivery is on the same day.
Otherwise, can they group their customers? Like their most trusted customers get to be tagged and see the OC open before the masses?

Its a good idea - They are selling spring seedings in this first shop as well as ther usual products - so its extra big. I suggested they do the seedlings separately - they said no, but I’m going to push the idea again. Also suggested tagging… Its frutrating when I can guess that a problem will be coming and am trying to coach them so they don’t run into it… but they aren’t really listening. Ah - the challenges of user support. Thanks so much for these suggestions.

I have just had a very upset user contact me about this - and they are one of our favourite most lovely and awesome users (see below)

is it really an absolute NO to reserving stock with a timer? It seems like something that is coming up a lot and really upsetting people (losing customers etc). If might ‘go away’ post-covid (?) but that’s not actually what we want - we want our users to have lots of customers and easily be selling everything they have, so perhaps it makes sense to consider addressing it properly. These guys are not drama queens - they wouldn’t be emailing us like this if it wasn’t a real problem, and I’d really really hate to lose them over it.

Would other people endorse a closer look and t-shirt size of actually just solving the problem using a timer? @Rachel @tschumilas @lin_d_hop @luisramos0 ?

In the last few weeks we have still been getting comments from our customers regarding how annoying it is for them. We have had one customer tell us she was fed up with our system and not order for a few weeks (thankfully she came back), and another couple of people mention to one of our farms how annoying and frustrating it is, and that the only reason they are sticking it out is because there are no other options. We are starting to find this a bit distressing because we don’t want our customers feeling annoyed and frustrated with us and our system, we want it to be an nice experience, not stressful! We are thankful that there are no other organic produce options in our valley, but at the same time we want to be providing the best experience possible for our customers and we’ve had about 10 people in total mention this issue and how annoying it is.

We have implemented the secret order cycle for our best customers, highlighted in our weekly email what items are limited and might be ‘taken’ from carts, plus will delay weekly email, but as for the rest we feel they just make everything more complicated. We want the experience to be simple as we live in a pretty simple part of the world where online shopping is already pretty far out for most people up here.

Are any other farms experiencing these same issues I wonder? Is anyone doing this volume of sales and finding problems? We now feel it is really critical for us to resolve this. Many online shops have a time limit where things can be in your cart before checking out. We really think this is the way forward - items are reserved in peoples carts for a 5-10 minute window and if they haven’t completed checkout or change their mind, the items are returned to the shop. This way people can happily and comfortably complete their shopping.

As our volume of sales is huge now, and we hope it to keep this way, we feel strongly this must be sorted out. Considering we are now paying a huge amount of money for this service (invoiced $480 this month), we believe we should have the best online shop and a pleasant shopping experience. We really do want to continue supporting you guys as you have been so wonderful, but if this issue can’t be resolved, we are considering changing platforms if this keeps affecting our customers experience.


I’d like to add context so everyone is on the same page, we are already doing 2 things that will improve the situation (one is in dev and the other in code review):

I think we will be in a much better position after these two things.

Making the cart reserve stock for a period of time is an L at least. Some inception is needed (maybe we want to start this inception right now anyway? a new specific wishlist item?). We can make carts reserve stock but what happens after 10 minutes? Do the items get removed from the cart? Does the reserve expires but stock remains in cart? Is user warned about the timeout with a message somewhere?

Thanks @luisramos0 for clear explanation - I will let them know that there is a fix to the worst bit on the way. But yes I think we should incept this - let’s discuss at product on Tuesday

Maybe the first bit is to get data here. I’m curious how many people drop out at /checkout page.

With a matomo event, we could track this for a while. If once at checkout most people finish their order quickly we could lock stock at this stage. Not timer required.

Just updating for info - was agreed in product curation on 19 May to get events set up in Matomo asap so that we can see exactly what’s happening. Product lead @danielle, tech lead @mbudm and @Mario and @chez interested to participate and learn

Just wondering if there is an update on Matomo data for this problem? I know our largest hub just lost 5 users also - who said they were just too frustrated by the checkout process. And the thing is - it will get worse. Right now this hub is selling mostly stable goods from inventory - once our main selling season is here, there will be many more quantity limited products.

@mbudm @danielle any update? We likely to have some data soon?

Add configuration to enable Matomo Tag Manager

Update added in the #analytics channel @Kirsten

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