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How to Leverage Pre-Orders and Waitlists in Ecommerce

Whether your ecommerce brand sells a viral product that’s flying off your digital shelves or made-to-order luxury goods, it can be tricky to keep shoppers engaged when coveted items are sold out. Fortunately, pre-orders and waitlists offer a powerful way to strengthen relationships with your visitors even when they can’t make their desired purchase on your site. 

To get you started with this ecommerce website strategy, we’re covering all of the ins and outs of pre-orders and waitlists. From foundational definitions to benefits and real-world examples, this post will give you everything you need to determine if pre-orders and waitlists are right for your brand.

What are Pre-orders and Waitlists in Ecommerce?

In ecommerce, a pre-order or waitlist enables shoppers to place an order for or express interest in an item that hasn't been released or is not currently in stock. Once the item becomes available it will ship to customers who have pre-ordered. Those who have joined the waitlist will receive a notification (usually via SMS or email) letting them know they can make a purchase. 

Ecommerce Pre-order and Waitlist Benefits

Offering pre-orders and waitlists on your website has numerous benefits, here are the most notable:

Zero-party Data Collection

When shoppers come to your website in search of something specific only to find that it’s sold out, they’re likely to bounce.  By adding a waitlist option to the product detail pages (PDP) of sold-out items, you can encourage visitors to provide their contact information to receive updates about an item’s restock. Through this strategy, you can collect valuable zero-party data from prospective buyers, enabling you to create a more tailored buyer’s journey down the line.

And, by providing waitlisted shoppers with restock updates, you can build a positive customer experience with consumers before they become a paying customer.

Build Hype

Pre-orders enable you to turn excitement and anticipation about your product into revenue even before your new item hits shelves. To boost pre-orders, and word-of-mouth hype about your upcoming product release, consider giving those who pre-order a discount or a perk like free customization. Additionally, consider giving customers who are part of your loyalty program first dibs on pre-orders to reward them for being devoted to your brand.

Inventory Forecasting

Adding pre-orders and waitlists to your website can help you forecast demand for a given item. With the global supply chain crisis still a vivid memory for retailers and consumers alike, pre-orders and waitlists can reduce the risks that can cause manufacturing hold-ups. Additionally, for brands that prioritize sustainability, pre-orders allow them to create made-to-order items, minimizing wasted materials.

Pre-order and Waitlist Examples

Below are ten examples of brands that leverage pre-orders and waitlists on their ecommerce websites:


Sustainable shoe brand, Alohas, rewards those who pre-order shoes with a sizable discount. In the screenshot below, those who pre-order shoes two months early will receive a 30% discount. And as the ship date looms closer, the discount wanes encouraging interested shoppers to purchase sooner rather than later. Aloha’s unique pre-order strategy aligns perfectly with the brand’s commitment to environmentalism.

Alohas pre-order example


When shoppers visit the PDP for Dieux’s moisturizer, Instant Angel, they’re met with a pop-up modal letting them know the item is sold out. Shoppers who hand over their email address to Dieux will be first to know when the viral product will be available for purchase again.

Dieux pre-order example


GameStop enables shoppers to pre-order highly anticipated video games. Through pre-ordering, shoppers can guarantee that they’ll be able to play games they’re excited about as soon as they’re released.

GameStop pre-order example

Jeffrey Campbell

When it comes to online shopping, there are few things more disappointing than finding out that the perfect pair of shoes is sold out in your size. Shoe brand, Jeffrey Campbell, mitigates these kinds of letdowns, by giving shoppers the option to “get notified if [they] restock.” This allows the brand to gauge interest in a sold-out style before committing to a full restock.

Jeffrey Campbell pre-order example


MSCHF’s collaboration with Crocs produced some of the most highly coveted and bizarre shoes of 2023, making them a “grail” for many streetwear enthusiasts. To address the excitement around their boots, MSCHF places a bold “notify me” call-to-action (CTA) at the bottom of the PDP for the shoes—keeping those interested in the rare product in the know.

MSCHF waitlist example


Those who missed out on buying a limited edition Owala Birthday Bash tumbler can click the “notify me” button for a reminder to sign up for a backorder the following day.

Owala waitlist example
Owala waitlist example


Rhode’s Lip Case, a phone case designed to carry one of the brand’s Peptide Lip Treatments or Tints, sold out in just 25 minutes! To capitalize on the virality of the product, Rhode has opened up a waitlist for the phone case for those who weren’t able to snag one the first time around.

Rhode waitlist example


Electric vehicle brand, Rivian, enables visitors to reserve a car two years in advance! To complete their reservation, interested visitors are required to put down a $100 deposit, indicating that they’re serious about buying a Rivian.

Rivian pre-order example


Although drinkware brand, Stanley, has been around for over 100 years, in recent months its viral tumblers have cemented the brand as a favorite among younger generations. In response to the unprecedented popularity of its tumblers, Stanley includes a “notify me” button on the PDP for sold-out colorways keeping shoppers engaged even if their favorite design is sold out.

Stanley waitlist example

Susan Alexandra

Accessory brand, Susan Alexandra, encourages visitors to “join the waitlist” for sold-out products. Those who create an account with the brand can sign in to see how close they are to snagging a product once it’s restocked, giving shoppers a reason to return to the site over and over again.

Susan Alexandra waitlist example

We hope this blog post gives you the foundation and inspiration you need to experiment with adding pre-orders and waitlists to your ecommerce brand’s website.

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