Stock Management in WooCommerce: Complete Guide to managing your inventory (2021)

November 5, 2021

Stock Management on your WooCommerce website. Complete Guide to managing your inventory

Want to keep your customers happy? Make sure your WooCommerce stock status is always updated and provide clear messaging about non-stock products!

Stock management can be challenging, especially if you sell built-to-order or customized items, or have stock issues due to COVID-19, Brexit, or anything else. However, it’s important that you’ve set the right expectations with customers regarding their orders and stock availability.

With this in mind, in this tutorial, we’ll show you how to manage stock and add stock status in WooCommerce. We’ll explain how to show stock quantity and additional information in your online store. You’ll also learn how to display stock statuses more prominently, for example on the main shop page.

What is stock management?

In a nutshell, stock management covers every aspect of a business’s inventory including ordering, storing, tracking, controlling, and stocking. It applies to every item a business uses to produce its products or services – from raw materials to finished goods.

Stock management is all about managing the products your business plans on selling. It also involves keeping a record of changes in your stock (or inventory) over time.

Why is stock management important?

As a store owner, you already know that inventory is a major asset that represents tied-up capital. Managing stock effectively enables businesses to free up that capital.

Efficient stock control requires store managers to have a solid understanding of the mix of different kinds of stock and acknowledge the demands on that stock. This helps keep a reasonable stock level thereby balancing the need for surplus supplies with the need to reduce tied-up capital.

Managing stock efficiently also helps you provide the best customer services you can by ensuring you have the products your customers want. In other words, it allows you to achieve supply and demand balancing. It also helps minimize loss due to excess inventory (high stock level) of items that don’t sell well.

Proper stock management also aids in forecasting product needs and ordering accurate quantities of products. On the flip side, poor stock management can affect your business in different ways. For starters, you can easily lose sales if customers can’t buy the items they need because of low stock level issues.

As well as managing stock, you need an effective way to communicate stock information to customers. Keep reading to learn the best way to do this in your WooCommerce store.

How to manage stock in WooCommerce

There are plenty of common scenarios where store managers need to show the WooCommerce stock status on the front-end:

  • When products go out of stock.
  • To show the lead time between order and delivery.
  • For limited batches of products or products that are time-bound.

The WooCommerce plugin offers some stock management features out of the box. To use these features, you have to enable the Manage stock option. You can do this by heading over to WooCommerce SettingsProductsInventory from the admin panel.

WooCommerce enable stock

From the same screen, you can also enable notifications and set thresholds for low stock and out-of-stock products. It also gives you the option to select a Stock display format.

Once you've enabled stock management, you can do the following for each product/variation:

  • Choose a WooCommerce stock status of either In Stock, Out of Stock, or On Backorder (with or without an option to notify the customer of the backorder status).
  • Set the exact number of products in stock. When customers buy the product, WooCommerce will reduce the number in stock automatically. It will then alert you of low stock levels via email, and change the product to Out of Stock when it runs out.

This covers the basics of managing stock using the default stock statuses. However, WooCommerce’s stock management features are pretty limited, especially when it comes to communicating stock information to customers. You might also want to create custom WooCommerce stock statuses, such as a status for Discontinued products. Keep reading to learn how to do all this.

How to display stock status and other information

WooCommerce will display the stock status on the single product page for each item. This isn't ideal because:

  • The customer only finds out that a product is out of stock AFTER they click on it. They're likely to get rid up and look elsewhere, instead of returning to the shop page to click on a different product.
  • They have no idea how long the product will take to arrive. Some products have longer lead times, for example if they are made-to-order or bespoke. WooCommerce doesn't provide any information about this.

The solution is to display WooCommerce stock status and other stock-related information on the front-end, and not just on the single product page. You can easily do this with the WooCommerce Lead Time plugin.

WooCommerce Lead Time
The only plugin to show waiting and processing times in your WooCommerce store.

WooCommerce Lead Time lets you:

  • Display the WooCommerce stock status and lead time directly on the WooCommerce shop and category pages. Customers can see this vital information before they click on each product.
  • Show a clear message about when the customer can expect to receive each item.

It’s the perfect solution for selling custom, made-to-order or non-stock products and to give customers the correct information before they make a purchase.

WooCommerce Lead Time is incredibly lightweight and works with whatever theme you’re already using on your online store. It gives you complete control over the WooCommerce stock status. As a result, you can increase transparency with your customers.

You also get access to highly-rated customer support who can help you every step of the way.

Here’s what you need to do to display the WooCommerce stock status and other information in your store:

Step #1: Get the WooCommerce Lead Time plugin

Get the WooCommerce Lead Time plugin if you haven’t done so already. You’ll receive the plugin files and license key in a confirmation email.

Log into your WordPress website and install and activate the plugin. Go to WooCommerce SettingsProductsLead time from the admin panel. Enter your license key and click the Save changes button to continue.

Step #2: Show WooCommerce stock status and lead times in your store

You can use the WooCommerce Lead Time plugin to show stock status information and lead times in prominent places in your e-commerce store. This includes the shop page, category pages, single product pages, the cart page, and the checkout page. You can also set it up to show WooCommerce lead times in order detail emails.

By default, it’ll look something like this:

Display product lead time WooCommerce shop page

As you can see, WooCommerce Lead Time can display both the product stock status and lead time on the shop page and category pages. This way, customers can see which products are in stock before they click on them to go to the single product page.

Doing this helps you enhance the shopping experience on your online store. Customers no longer have to click through to the single product page to find out if the product is available for purchase. With the WooCommerce Lead Time plugin, they can quickly see the product stock status at a glance when they’re browsing the shop page or category pages.

Alternative method 1: Display WooCommerce stock status in a product table

Another way to show WooCommerce lead times on the shop page or on category pages is by using the WooCommerce Product Table plugin. It lets you list products anywhere on your website. All you have to do is add a stock and lead-time column to the table:

WooCommerce Lead Time Product Table Integration

Other columns you can display include SKUs, images, price, and add to cart buttons.

Alternative method 2: Display WooCommerce stock status in a quick view lightbox

A third way to display the WooCommerce stock status and lead time is by using the WooCommmerce Quick View Pro plugin. It works by adding quick view buttons on your shop and category pages. Customers can view product information – including the lead time – in a quick view lightbox:

WooCommerce Lead Time screenshot with quick view plugin

WooCommerce Lead Time lets you display the lead time on the cart and checkout pages. However, you can also use WooCommerce Fast Cart if you want to shorten the purchase flow. By doing this, you can display the lead time in a pop-up cart.

Step #3: Set the processing time

Using WooCommerce Lead Time, you can set the processing time globally or per category, simple product, or variation (variable products).

WooCommerce Lead Time plugin settings

You can set the processing time globally by going to WooCommerce SettingsProductsLead time and entering the lead time in the Global lead time field.

WooCommerce category lead time plugin

To set the processing time on a product category basis, go to ProductsCategories and choose either Static (enter static lead time text) or Dynamic (calculate the processing time dynamically) using the dropdown from the Lead time field.

Set individual product lead times

WooCommerce Lead Time also lets you set the processing time for individual products (and variations). Open the product you want to set a processing time for in the Edit Product screen. Scroll down to the Product data section and click on the Inventory tab. From here, you can set the lead time for the product. You can also do this for variable products.

Step #4: Customize the lead time wording and text color

One of the best features of the WooCommerce Lead Time plugin is that it lets you customize the lead time wording and text color. This means that you can tweak it to get the exact look and feel you want.

For example, you might consider changing the custom status wording to something like:

  • Available on
  • Ready to despatch in
  • Handling time
  • Waiting time
  • Made to order

To change the text color, go to the plugin’s settings page (WooCommerce SettingsProductsLead time) and use the Lead time text color option to select a new color.

Managing discontinued products

Before we close, there’s another important area of WooCommerce stock management that store owners should be aware of.

When a product reaches the end of its natural lifecycle and will not be available for purchase again, it’s a discontinued product.

WooCommerce itself doesn’t offer a way to mark discontinued products. However, you can easily do this with Barn2’s WooCommerce Discontinued Products plugin. It adds a Discontinued custom stock status to WooCommerce. This makes it easy to mark products and variations and discontinued, without ruining SEO or marking them incorrectly as in-stock, on backorder, out-of-stock.

WooCommerce discontinued products plugin preview

In addition, you can display a custom stock message for discontinued products. This is a good way to communicate why you’ve decided to discontinue the product.

As a Barn2 plugin, WooCommerce Discontinued Products is compatible with the other plugins featured in this article. For example, you can display the discontinued product message in the product table and quick view lightbox.

The easy way to provide stock information to customers

Having a WordPress plugin that helps you improve communication around WooCommerce stock status is essential for many reasons:

  • Saves time spent on repetitive tasks such as entering the same lead time for all products in a specific category.
  • Gives you data to help you better forecast stock.
  • Improves efficiency and reduces the chance of human error.
  • Prevents lost sales by helping you communicate more effectively with customers about the stock.

By using the WooCommerce Lead Time plugin, you can do all this and so much more. You can show stock statuses and lead times prominently in your store, set processing times, and customize the wording to best fit the types of products you sell.

WooCommerce Lead Time
The only plugin to show waiting and processing times in your WooCommerce store.

Get the WooCommerce Lead Time plugin today!

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