Building Hype with Ecommerce Pre-Orders and Waitlists

With drop culture becoming more prominent in parts of the ecommerce industry, many brands turn to pre-sales, or pre-orders, and waitlists to ensure their customers can get access to limited edition collections. 

But pre-sales and waitlists can mean a few different things to ecommerce brands. 

Pre-order, or pre-sale, refers to allowing your customers to purchase items from your ecommerce store before they’re in stock. The products are usually available to view, but the shipping is delayed because they haven’t actually launched yet.

Waitlists, on the other hand, enable your customers to sign up for some sort of notification about when a new collection or product is launching. Waitlists go hand-in-hand with drop culture — interested customers sign up to be the first to know when products go live.

Both waitlists and pre-orders are great tools to increase sales, but each one is more beneficial in certain situations. 

When to Do a Pre-Order

  1. To Build Hype & Increase Sales of a New Product or Collection

Pre-orders help build hype around a new collection by ensuring your customers can get the products they want. Drop culture has instilled in buyers’ minds that collections and products won’t be available forever. A pre-order serves to ensure that your brand loyalists will be able to get the new products they want before they sell out. 

Whereas product drops without pre-order or a waitlist rely on scarcity to produce sales quickly, even just the threat of scarcity and a solution to it help drive sales prior to the launch of a collection. 

  1. To Please Your Customers with Unlimited Quantity of In-Demand Products or Collections

Pre-order can also be a successful way to drive sales of a collection or product you previously launched with limited numbers that was in high demand.

Balance Athletica, an athleisure apparel company, often uses pre-orders after the initial launch and sell-out of their wildly popular athletic wear collections.

Following the initial launch of a collection, Balance Athletica will sometimes follow-up with an unlimited pre-order, meaning customers can get as many and as much of their products as they want. Balance Athletica then uses the orders it received during the pre-order to determine the number of products it needs to make.


  1. To Treat Your VIPs to Early Access

Creating a collection and keeping it hidden without access to the URL means you can give VIPs exclusive access to pre-orders before a collection or product drops.

You can reach them early with a targeted email campaign. It’s a small way to show your VIPs that you care about their relationship with your brand, and it’ll help incentivize your current customers to achieve VIP status.

When to Do a Waitlist

  1. To Increase the Feeling of Scarcity

By creating a waitlist, you’re increasing the feeling of scarcity around a product or collection. Customers become worried that they won’t be fast or effective enough at snagging the items they want. The very presence of a waitlist makes your loyal customers feel like they need to be on it in order to get the products they want.

Waitlists are sometimes more powerful than pre-orders because they almost always collect email addresses. By encouraging your customers to sign up to be notified first about a collection or product drop, you’re collecting emails with lots of context that can help you send more targeted campaigns later on. You can look back on the data of how many people signed up on a specific waitlist and understand what products or collections are driving the most interest.

  1. To Notify Customers of a Restock of a Previous Drop 

Waitlists can also be effective after the initial launch and sell-out of a limited collection. Not everyone is always able to get the products they want before they sell out. Once a product or collection does sell out (and assuming you plan on doing a restock), you can start collecting emails of those who missed out to notify them first or give them exclusive access next time. 

  1. To Gauge and Plan for Demand

Similar to Balance Athletica using a pre-order to custom order the number of products they’ll need to satisfy orders, a waitlist is an effective tool at planning for a restock in terms of inventory. You don’t want to overbuy or overstock items, but you also want to make sure you have enough that things don’t sell out within seconds. 

A waitlist, either before an initial launch or before a restock, will help you as an ecommerce business get a rough estimate of how many people are interested in a specific collection or product. This enables you to make smart inventory decisions.

Pre-Orders and Waitlists Are Good for Customers and Brands

Pre-orders help brands accommodate in-demand products by being able to delay shipping time and essentially custom-order the number of products they’ll need. 

They’re also a treat for customers who may otherwise miss their chance on a limited edition collection of products. It takes the stress out of drop culture, site crashes, and long online queues, and customers will appreciate the calmer approach to getting popular products. 

Waitlists, on the other hand, help drive scarcity, and provide brands with email addresses and contextual information to send personalized communications later down the road. 

In the end, both pre-orders and waitlists are effective tools at driving sales. 

Pre-orders and waitlists help ecommerce businesses drive sales by providing a solution to drop culture and the threat of product scarcity.

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