18 February 2024 |

WAITLIST Dos and Don’ts

By Ari Murray

When done well, standing up a well-executed waitlist campaign can create momentum for weeks and months and ever years to come. 

When done poorly, a BOTCHED waitlist/ pre-launch / pre-order strategy can turn any drop into a flop. 

There are rules. I’ve created them LOL. But, I’m old and I’ve seen some things and I used to be an ecom customer service agent (my 1st role in ecom).

Meaning, I’ve personally felt the WRATH of unhappy customers who were tricked by a faulty waitlist / prelaunch / pre-order strategy. 🐲

Let’s break it down, my dear sweet millionaire. 



🌹: Do create a way for your customers to sign themselves up for a product that is not available. Sold out is unacceptable. If a product is out of stock on your site and if it is not discontinued permanently, you should capture every visitor that wants it. You should capture them when they are on your PDP and they see that they can’t buy it then. Instead of letting them leave, get their email and phone number. 

Examples (do this / steal this functionality) exactly… 

👄: Rhode Skin (notice the hero homepage is devoted to pushing their new product drop, building hype for the waitlist, and letting customers fork over their info so that they can wait in line for the product)

🩷: The Skinny Confidential (notice the ADORABLE, HEAVILY BRANDED waitlist signup experience from this PDP for mouth tape). 

🌹: Do update your mega nav to include a COMING SOON or WAITLIST menu item. We do not want to hide our waitlist. We want it to EASY to find and EASY to sign up for. Because a waitlist drop strategy only works if a LOT of customers sign up. A tiny waitlist list is terrifying. A big waitlist list is what we want.

The only reason to sign up for a waitlist is because you think that once the product you want comes back, you will only have a shot in getting it if you’re notified RIGHT AWAY and if you can SHOP QUICKLY and get it before it stocks out again. If you’re on a waitlist and then you get notified that the product is back and then that product doesn’t stock out, then you’ve learned that you actually don’t need to be quick to shop in future. That the product you signed up for isn’t actually in hot demand. That it’s not actually popular. That’s bad!

A waitlist only works if it’s paired with scarcity. And scarcity only works if there’s NO MORE LEFT when you restock. 

Examples (do this / steal this functionality) exactly… 

🇸🇪: Djerf Avenue Coming Soon section in mega nav:

🇸🇪: While you’re on Djerf Avenue’s site… look at their Coming Soon collection page. It’s really low tech but very clear and very worth stealing. Has the exact products that are available to sign up for (the products that you can join the waitlist for) and has the DATE OF THE RESTOCK. This is so low tech – it’s just leading to individual PDPs that are set at 0 stock and that have a notify me button instead of a SHOP NOW. That’s it! Steal this! 

🌹: Do announce the waitlist in a very UNFILTERED / ORGANIC WAY. Meaning, if a product sells out and you are converting your site to this waitlist functionality, you need to ANNOUNCE that waitlist in a way that looks unplanned. If you have a campaign asset ready with a video of your founder in perfect hair and makeup acting “shocked” at the stock out and then swiping up the waitlist… that’s so fake.


Instead, do have your founder or your CMO or your Social Media Manger come on camera and say thank you for your support of this launch, we are working to restock as quickly as possible, we love you and please sign up for the waitlist so you don’t miss out. But, just make sure this is NATURAL. UNFILTERED. UNPERFECT. NOT POSTED AT 9AM PT EXACTLY. Post it at a random time in a raw and messy way… so that the entire waitlist campaign feels authentic and so that it actually feels like the product stocked out and that if you don’t sign up for the waitlist then you won’t get it. 


🐲: Don’t put a product on preorder unless you know EXACTLY when it’s coming back in stock, in warehouse, ready for shipping. And, unless you have that date listed under the CTA on the PDP – clearly, you are not allowed to sell a product as preorder. In my past, I worked at a company that wouldn’t advertise when the product was coming back in stock. It wouldn’t even make the CTA preorder. It would just say SHOP NOW. Then, only once the customer ordered, would the customer find out the product was going to have a delay. This is wrong. 

Don’t take anyone’s money unless you communicate 1ST when the product is coming back. 

🐲: Don’t forget about your subscribers. If a product is about to stock out, and you have let’s say 500 people that are subscribed to it, and you have 500 units left in stock, you should sell it out at that exact point. Even if you have more inventory on the way… something could go wrong. Your container could get lost at the port. Your manufacturer could run late. ETC, ETC. It’s so much easier to SAVE THE INVENTORY for that renewal, and to switch to a waitlist EARLY.

Protect your subscribers. Sure, you’ll be sad to not sell those extra 500 units. But, in time, the demand you’ll create by selling out / switching to a waitlist will be much more than 500 units worth. AND, YOU WON’T HAVE DAMAGED THE EXPERIENCE OF YOUR MOST IMPORTANT COHORT – YOUR SUBSCRIBERS.