A Comparison of Backorder and Out of Stock

Article Summary

Backorders are a common occurrence in supply chain management when the demand for a product surpasses the available supply. In this article, we will explore the concept of backorders, understand the causes behind them, examine an example to illustrate their impact, and compare them to out-of-stock situations. By gaining a deeper understanding of backorders, businesses and consumers can navigate these challenges more effectively.


Imagine eagerly awaiting the arrival of a product you ordered online, only to receive an email notifying you that it’s on backorder. Frustration and disappointment set in as you realize your expectations will not be met as planned. Backorders can disrupt both businesses and consumers, making it crucial to understand their implications. In this article, we will delve into the world of backorders, shedding light on their definition, causes, examples, and how they differ from out-of-stock situations.

Definition of Backorder

A backorder refers to a situation in which the demand for a particular product exceeds the available supply, resulting in delayed fulfillment. When a product is on backorder, it means that the company cannot fulfill the order immediately due to insufficient stock. Instead, customers are given the option to wait until the product becomes available again.

Causes of Backorders

Several factors contribute to backorders. Unexpected spikes in demand can catch businesses off guard, leading to temporary supply shortages. Inaccurate demand forecasting, caused by factors such as seasonality, trends, or sudden shifts in consumer behavior, can also result in backorders. Supply chain disruptions, including delays in production, shipping, or raw material shortages, can further exacerbate the issue. Additionally, the complexities of global supply chains and the interdependencies among various stakeholders increase the likelihood of backorders occurring.

Consequences of Backorders

Backorders can have significant consequences for both businesses and consumers. For businesses, backorders can lead to decreased customer satisfaction, damaged reputation, and potential revenue loss if customers opt for alternative products or competitors. The inability to fulfill orders in a timely manner can result in dissatisfied customers, negative online reviews, and a loss of trust. Consumers, on the other hand, experience delayed fulfillment, frustration, and the need to seek alternatives or wait for the backordered product to become available.

Backorder vs. Out-of-Stock

It’s important to differentiate between backorders and out-of-stock situations. While both scenarios involve the unavailability of a product, they have distinct implications. Backorders occur when a company has the intention and capability to fulfill the order at a later date, even though the product is temporarily unavailable. On the other hand, an out-of-stock situation implies that the company cannot fulfill the order at all, either temporarily or permanently. Backordering a product is a proactive approach to managing demand, while an out-of-stock situation may indicate unexpected or prolonged stock depletion.

Example of Backorder

Let’s consider a popular electronic gadget that receives overwhelming demand upon release. The manufacturer anticipates this demand and opens pre-orders to gauge customer interest. However, due to unforeseen production delays caused by supply chain disruptions, they are unable to fulfill all pre-orders immediately, resulting in backorders. This example demonstrates the impact of high demand, supply chain complexities, and the proactive decision to backorder instead of declaring the product out-of-stock.

Strategies to Manage Backorders

To effectively manage backorders, businesses should adopt proactive inventory management practices. Accurate demand forecasting is crucial, as it enables businesses to anticipate and prepare for spikes in demand. Robust supply chain management, including close collaboration with suppliers and maintaining safety stock levels, can help minimize the risk of backorders. Clear communication with customers is essential throughout the backorder process. Providing regular updates on expected fulfillment dates and offering alternative solutions or products can help maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Can backorders be avoided entirely?

While it may be challenging to eliminate backorders entirely, businesses can reduce their occurrence through diligent demand forecasting, inventory optimization, and proactive supply chain management. By staying attuned to market trends and utilizing advanced inventory management systems, businesses can better balance supply and demand.

How long should a business wait before canceling a backorder?

The timeframe for canceling a backorder depends on various factors, including the nature of the product, customer expectations, and communication with customers. However, businesses should aim to fulfill backorders as soon as possible or provide customers with alternative solutions if the wait becomes unreasonable. Maintaining open lines of communication and setting realistic expectations are key to managing customer satisfaction.

What is the difference between backorder and out of stock?

Backorder and out of stock situations both involve unavailability of a product, but there are key differences between them. Backorders occur when a company can fulfill the order at a later date, even though the product is currently unavailable. In contrast, an out-of-stock situation implies that the company cannot fulfill the order at all, either temporarily or permanently.

Are backorders bad for business?

Backorders can have negative implications for businesses, although the extent of their impact depends on various factors. While backorders may indicate strong demand for a product, they can also lead to decreased customer satisfaction, potential revenue loss, and a damaged reputation if not managed effectively. However, proactive inventory management, accurate forecasting, and clear communication with customers can mitigate the negative effects of backorders and help maintain customer loyalty.

Key takeaways

  • Backorders occur when demand exceeds supply, resulting in delayed fulfillment.
  • Causes of backorders include unexpected spikes in demand, inaccurate demand forecasting, and supply chain disruptions.
  • Businesses face decreased customer satisfaction, potential revenue loss, and damaged reputation due to backorders.
  • Consumers experience delayed fulfillment, frustration, and the need to seek alternatives or wait for the backordered product to become available.
  • Effective management of backorders requires proactive inventory management, accurate demand forecasting, robust supply chain management, and clear communication with customers.
View Article Sources
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  2. Wholesale Evolution – Manufacturing.Net
  3. Drug Shortages – Food and Drug Administration