How to know if competitors are out of stock?

From the experience I gained from the different kinds of ecommerce projects I worked for, I often recognized unused opportunities to attract new customers and increase sales. The following case might not be practical for every kind of store, but is likely to work for many kinds of ecommerce systems which sell tangible products.


The project I am describing now has a different kind of niche products, which were only sold by 2-3 competitors as there were special distribution contracts which reduced the competition. Therefore, customers had to choose between a handful of online shops to purchase their products. Once a customer decided to buy from store A. It was very likely he commits to it and was lost to us.

Increase sales when competitors can’t deliver

The opportunity itself lies in this problem. Around 1-3 times a year, there is a supply bottleneck which results in an insatiable demand. To benefit from that, we needed to find out when competitors are out of stock. This was challenging because team members needed to create large excel sheets with a list of links to competitor products and monitor them daily. This means visiting the website once or twice a day which results in boring and monotonous tasks, as well as frustrated people. Besides, you may miss the opportunity on weekends, after hours and sick calls.

Competitor product

To counter this, I developed individual crawling bots which automate the website checks for the team and notify us when products are out of stock. When this happens, we start special AdWords campaigns which had already been set up, so we were able to target the potential customers of the competing shop. This was very effective and often made the new customer remain loyal to us for future purchases. Because most of the clients were also businesses, the revenue from this action was quite high, and thus resulted in a long relationship since companies prefer to use reliable suppliers.


Which tool to choose?

This case is one of the reasons I created Custodee. Custodee allows team members to monitor hundreds of competing products and alerts you when a product is out of stock so the AdWords campaigns can target potential customers of sold out products competing products. Using our service saves a lot of time which would be wasted in manual work. Furthermore, combined with the mentioned marketing strategy, it generates new customers and sales. Setting it up is also simple and can be done in two ways:


How to monitor competitor products

1. Use the selector tool, which is available on the index page and the user area. You can just simply paste a product link in the input field and select the element you want to track. As well as availability, you could also monitor price changes or different color and size options. Afterwards, click on start monitoring and you are ready to go.
Custodee selector tool 2. In the described use case, we needed to monitor between 500 and 800 product links. Adding every single product would be relatively time consuming, so Custodee allows you to import all links simultaneously via a normal excel file. You can also add the keywords already in the list. Especially when you want to monitor around 100 products of one single shop, like we did, the element you want to monitor normally stays the same for each product. Therefore, you need to find the element only once and you can paste it for all other products. Here you can find a short video on how to find the element manually:


Your final spreadsheet will look like this and is ready to import.

Import 1020 competitor products

When you are finished, you can also add team members to the emailing list so that everybody is notified when a product is out of stock.

Email your team members

Because it can be distracting when receiving email updates for each of the 500+ products, Custodee provides you with a daily cumulated report which shows you the changed products.


If you want to discuss this kind of marketing strategy, I would be happy to talk to you on twitter. Also, if you find this article helpful, please share it with others, so I can provide more content in the future.

Tony Schumacher of Custodee Tony Schumacher – Founder of Custodee