6 Ways to Unload Dead Inventory and Boost Sales

admin-20 March 2020

Are you an eCommerce business owner wondering how to unload dead inventory? You’re not alone! The ultimate challenge most online sellers face is having a portion of inventory that just won’t sell.

Dead inventory is a cash flow killer. After all, eCommerce retailers only make money by moving boxes, not storing them. The fact is, there will always be products that are not so easy to sell even if you have a Shopify store or sell through Amazon or eBay.

While trying to determine the real cost of dead inventory, a study by Industrial Distribution discovered that when additional costs are taken into consideration, the total cost of holding inventory is a shocking 25-30% more than the unit cost of that inventory.  

6 Ways to Unload Dead Inventory and Boost Sales

Why Dead Inventory is Bad for Business

Below are some of the ways you lose money with dead inventory.

Increases holding costs

Dead inventory can be as a result of seasonal goods or a surplus of a large number of purchases. Putting these products in the warehouse generates long-term storage costs over time. 

Shifting dead inventory from a prime warehouse real estate will cost money in terms of the labor required to handle the products and keep them in “saleable” condition.

Affects your IPI

The Inventory Performance Index (IPI) is a metric Amazon uses to measure your inventory management. It usually considers how well you balance inventory levels as well as sales. It helps FBA sellers determine how their inventory is performing, where to improve and eligibility for unlimited storage.

An IPI score that’s above 450 indicates a good FBA inventory performance. A score above 550 shows a healthy inventory while scores below 399 lead to limits being placed on your storage and overage fees. Dead inventory contributes to you paying a higher percentage of your FBA revenues and a reduction in your score.

Inventory Performance Index

How to Unload Dead Inventory

So, how exactly do you unload dead inventory? 

Here are some effective tips you can implement to keep a healthy inventory cycle.

1. Provide Discounts and Price Reductions

Offering discounts and price reductions are the most direct and common ways of dealing with dead inventory. However, you must be careful with the skills you use. 

When handled incorrectly, discounts can devalue the quality of your products to customers or condition them to wait for the next sale before buying from you.

To get price reductions right, cut prices in stages. This is because when you drop the prices too fast, some customers find that the products they purchased from you yesterday are now down by tens of dollars. This will make them ask for a refund and cripple your margins even more.

A good discounting strategy is to make a gimmick for the discount. When you make the discount look like a benefit instead of a helpless action, potential customers will be more inclined to make the purchase.

For instance, highlighting the price of the product before the discount was applied and the price afterward works. Show the original price, strike it out and add the new discount price below the product. Always justify your discounts to potential customers. It could be an offseason discount or creating event-based discounts around holidays, brand milestones or anniversaries.

In addition, you can use these discounts as incentives for building your email list or encouraging existing customers to share your site and products with their social circles.

Lastly, create a table of all the expenses and costs to ensure you’re fully aware of the profit reduction or loss caused by handling dead inventory. This analysis will help you identify the times you normally experience a dip in sales. Furthermore, this will help you think of other ways to drive sales without having to go for marked down prices.

Cross-sell Vs. Up-sell

2. Use Bundling Sale

Using a bundling sale is another way to unload dead inventory. Bundling involves taking a group of products and then selling them together at a price that’s slightly lower than if they were sold separately.

Bundling increases the perceived value of an order and helps you move your dead inventory. Depending on the products you’re trying to sell, there are different ways to bundle products.

The most effective way to do this is by bundling the best selling products with your dead inventory. Customers will view that bundle as a bargain and become more inclined to make a purchase.

You can ask your fulfillment partner to kit items together. There are several ways to do this including:

Buy 1 get 1 free

No matter how big the discount is, it doesn’t stand a chance against “free.” AMG reported that 66% of shoppers said that they preferred Buy 1 get 1 offer to other discount promotions.  

This offer helps you get rid of dead inventory and maintain profitability at the same time. Creating urgency is key for a successful buy 1 get 1 free offer. Setting up a deadline makes shoppers act sooner. Utilize a countdown timer on your site to create the fear of missing out.

Half price for the second item

As we mentioned earlier, discounts can create an impression that the product is lower in terms of quality. When you offer the second item at half price, customers perceive it as a special promotion instead of a poor quality product. This makes their shopping experience more delightful creating a win-win situation. 


If you’re worried about how to unload dead inventory, a giveaway could be just what you need to spark interest and turn people looking for a great deal into customers. 

The best giveaways should be fun so consider using elements of gamification to intrigue participants. For example, you can give away 25 different prizes on 25 different days.

Using interactive marketing techniques is also another technique to make giveaways fun. Use polls, quizzes, and photo contests to engage customers.

Free shipping

90% of customers view free shipping as a top incentive for encouraging them to shop often. In addition, shipping is the primary reason for 86% of shoppers to abandon their shopping cart.

It’s advisable to avoid delivering low-cost products for free because their shipping costs are usually higher. That’s why you need to set a minimum order value to be able to generate enough margins. It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t set that limit way above your average order value.

Use free shipping to encourage customers to spend a certain amount of money. Common thresholds range from $25 to $100. You can also provide free shipping for specific products. As long as a customer buys a product with free shipping, they won’t be able to enjoy free shipping for the entire order. You have to factor in a certain weight range as well.

3. Offer Flash Sale with Limited Time

Countdown Timer

A flash sale is quite different from ordinary discounts. It’s a short-term promotion or discount on products and usually lasts for less than 24 hours. The most important thing is to provide the lowest price and a time limit. 

The main goals of a flash sale are to get potential customers to impulse buy and sell your dead inventory. You must put the item at the lowest price at one time, otherwise, the effect of a second flash sale for the same product will be very poor.

Flash sales are popular on Cyber Monday and Black Friday but some sites take it a step further and offer “daily deal” flash sales. It’s recommended to make flash sales rare in order to give your customers that extra jolt to act fast and buy immediately.

Incorporate flash sales to address the issue of how to unload dead inventory. Research shows that flash sale emails increase click to open rates of 74% of businesses. Furthermore, they increase transaction rates for 67% of businesses.

For your flash sale to work, promote it ahead of time. Create fun countdown emails as well as social media posts to give customers a heads up before your flash sale goes live. This is because people like to research and read reviews on products before time. 

It’s also worth noting that you should keep the time-frame short. 3-hour flash sales have the highest transaction rates at 14%.

4. Sell Products on Multiple Channels

Selling on multiple channels may make your products sell faster. In a recent study, 48% of all online product searches often start on popular marketplaces such as Amazon, Etsy, and eBay. In addition, when it comes to common marketplaces, 65% of customers feel more comfortable buying from merchants they’ve never heard of before.

If you’re wondering about the impact of multi-channel selling on ROI, Stitch Labs discovered that retailers who sell on just 2 separate online marketplaces experience a 190% jump in revenue over those who sell on only one.

Furthermore, SAP affirmed the positives of selling on multiple channels. Results from the companies surveyed showed that almost 75% said that multi-channel selling increased sales, 64% said it boosted customer loyalty, and 62% said multi-channel selling gave them a competitive advantage.

These stats show that there’s a wealth of opportunity in selling on multiple channels. However, managing each outlet to its full potential is easier said than done. 

This is primarily because different channels have different item display methods.

Item search rules and consumers from different channels have different preferences.

The first step is to prioritize channels. Amazon may be the leading online marketplace but it also comes with a cost. Below are some of the questions you can use to determine the best channel for you.

  • Can you still align with your brand?
  • Can you reach your target customer base?
  • Is delivery cost-effective?
  • Do the margins and terms of payment work?
  • Does the customer volume make up for the above 4 issues? 

It’s also important to understand your customers on every platform. This helps you determine what they’re looking for and how they make a purchase. For instance, if they want quick delivery, Amazon is the better option. If your target audience is into handmade goods that are locally made, Etsy should be your top option.

You need to pay attention to inventory management. Common issues boil down to stock fluctuating between channels and customers finding that a product is out of stock shortly after making an order. These issues can stunt sales and damage your brand’s reputation.

Ensure the inventory of different channels can be updated and synchronized in real-time. Leverage on inventory management software to gain access to key insights across different channels.

5. Leverage Social Media Marketing

74% of customers rely on social media for information to make future purchases. In addition, customers are more likely to buy a product after learning about it on social media. You simply can’t afford not to advertise on social media if you’re looking for ways to deal with how to unload dead inventory.

Social media is a great way of getting low-cost and targeted traffic. Successful selling on social networks depends on your target market and the platform you choose. In order to make your products visible, you’ll need to use paid ads.

Social media networks like Facebook and Instagram put a paywall between audiences and brands. This leaves brands being forced to pay in order to acquire customers.  

 Each social media platform is different. Therefore, you need to understand the sales process of your target audience and create content tailored to the demographics of each social media channel.

Facebook is the biggest social media network and provides the most targeted ads. You also get more freedom in content, videos, and images. You’ll always have more success on Facebook when you boost posts or run ads for products.

Leverage the Product Catalog feature that lets you link inventory in your eCommerce store to your Facebook business profile. This ensures that you are able to sell those products directly through Facebook.

Instagram boasts the highest rates of engagement compared to other social media channels. Shoppable post is an important feature that works the same as Facebook’s Product Catalog. 

Pinterest is a highly visual platform that’s great when you have a predominantly female audience. That’s because users are 42% female and only 13% male. In addition, the millennial generation is still the majority age range. 

It offers buyable pins where viewers can see the price of an item in blue. To activate it, just connect Pinterest to your eCommerce platform.

It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t stretch yourself too thin when it comes to social media marketing. Double down on just one or two channels only to improve your chances for success. Ensure you use conversion-oriented content and add social sharing buttons on the content you post on your blog.

Social Network

Image from 2019 social media comparison infographic

6. Cooperate with Influencers

Influencer marketing is the fastest-growing way of acquiring customers. It yields an average return of about $7.65 for every $1 you spend. Similarly, 92% of customers trust recommendations from individuals they don’t even know more than they trust recommendations coming directly from a brand.

However, the high demand for influencers has led to some people buying fake social media followers. Brands have become more cautious when choosing who to work with. Instead of investing in a major influencer, go for micro-influencers who have smaller followings. This makes them more authentic because they are personally invested in their online presence. 

For instance, if the product is creative, consider cooperating with some micro-influencers. By showcasing your products through YouTube, you can let consumers know your product better. In addition, you should take this opportunity to use the traffic to promote transformation. 

If your product is relatively common, you can think of more ways to develop creative use scenarios for the product. For instance, hold a Facebook photo caption contest where different influencers illustrate different ways of using your products. 

Create GIFs and memes to gain traction on your social media posts as well as ads. Use Facebook and Instagram stories to tease updates or encourage them to check out your products or offers.

Wrapping Up

It’s easy to give up on products that are not moving, but it doesn’t have to be hard. When handled properly, dead inventory can open up sales and boost customer engagement.

If you try out the tactics listed above and you’re still left wondering how to unload dead inventory, then donating it may be your best option. You could also contact suppliers to see whether returns or exchanges are possible.

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