Research by Curalate found that 48% of the most popular pins on Pinterest linked to non-existent pages. Oof!
Many marketers disparage social networks' conversion power, but it's no wonder when nearly half of it's potential is wasted by some of the Web's biggest retail brands. Make sure your site doesn't squander Pinterest and other link opportunities with one of 4 better ways to handle sold out product pages.
Redirect to Home page
Dumping visitors on the home page is the most popular redirection. Not surprisingly, site owners and marketers often assume everyone is as enthralled by their home page as they are -- they're not. The only way you could further remove the visitor from the context of their visit is to throw up a 404 page.
That said, it's 1,000 time better than a 404 page (however clever), and at least recoups some SEO link benefit so long as the redirect is a 301 permanent redirect.
Redirect to Category page
Think about the mindset of the visitor. If she's referred from Pinterest, she's seen a yummy image and hungry to find a close up, more information, to own it, or find out who is the purveyor of such fine merchandise. If you must pull the product page, redirecting to a category page at least could result in some engagement with similar products.
Redirecting to a category page can also help SEO (depending on how search engines are valuing such links these days).
Keep URL, ask for opt-in
The best choice for usability is to keep the product page live, and allow the visitor to see the product and read the description. Nobody really wants to land on a surprise page, even if the product is sold out.
If there's hope of your product's resurrection, let the visitor opt-in to being contacted by you when it's back.
While you're at it, ask the user to opt-in to your regular email program and follow in social networks. Seize the click!
Keep URL, suggest close alternatives
Showing cross-sells on a product page is a start, optimizing their placement will go further. Etsy does a fantastic job suggesting similar products based on seller-generated categorization and keyword tags.
These cross-sells are only displayed across the top when the user hits a product page that's no longer active. All other pages are merchandised along the bottom.
Showing a smaller set of suggestions likely has a higher click through rate than sending the user to an entire category page of alternatives. The tighter you can tie the products (by keyword, brand, category, social affinity or combination of these), the better.
A creative approach is to suggest connecting with a "fashion advisor" or an expert from your customer service team.
This call to action can be combined with prominently displayed, smart cross-sells is a one-two punch for avoiding abandonment.
While this tactic isn't a magic bullet for converting all social traffic, minimizing any leaks from unavailable products can have a positive impact on your reported conversion rates from sites like Pinterest (or Google Images).