How deleting old products can lose you repeat customers

This past weekend I was ordering some new running sandals.

The important things with running sandals are:

  • thickness
  • weight
  • grip

I’ve bought some in the past that were too thin and thus a pain in the feet to run with. I’ve also bought some that were too heavy and the extra weight would be tiring on longer runs.

Fortunately the store where I get them from has all of the weight and thickness specs listed so it’s easy to compare them.

The problem is that since they’ve removed their older models from the store, I can’t compare the past ones I own to the newer one. This makes it really difficult to compare how the new versions would feel. It’s especially important with sandals because even 1mm thickness or an extra 1/2 ounce of weight can mean the difference between comfortable and painful.

This turned what should have been a 15 minute purchase into 60 minutes of measuring, unit conversions, and half a dozen browser tabs of research. It also caused me to put off the purchase for 3 months because I knew it’d require so much work.

This would have been easily solved too.

Instead of deleting a product when it’s discontinued, keep it and change it.

  1. make it unbuyable
  2. add it to a collection of discontinued products (e.g. "Older models", "Classics")
  3. remove it from any menus or highly visible links
  4. keep the existing product description and specs
  5. add some addition product copy recommending the newer model

The 5th step could even be a major conversion booster. Instead of letting the customer fend for themselves, it could recommend which of the current products to pick instead. It doesn’t have to be complex or use an app either.

For example, my old sandal model could say "For trail running, we recommend …" "For road running, we recommend …".

The full specs on the older product plus these recommendations would make it easier for a returning buyer to make their next purchase, which means more money in your pocket.

(This will also help your store’s SEO because the older product pages will probably be ranking well and you don’t want to have that just disappear by deleting the product)

Though it doesn’t look at product data yet, Repeat Customer Insights is able to make dozens of recommendations based on your customer behavior.

Using its advice you can start to improve your store and finally get customers to start returning.

Eric Davis

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