How to Easily Manage Discontinued WooCommerce Products

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If you discontinue a product that you sell on your WooCommerce store, you shouldn't delete it because it can be a useful source of SEO traffic. In this post, you'll learn a better way to handle end of life products via a dedicated WooCommerce discontinued products plugin.
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If you have a WooCommerce store, you’ll almost certainly have discontinued products at some point in your store’s life.

Your product list is always changing, and you might be replacing products with new versions (and discontinuing the old ones), changing up your stock strategy, etc.

When that happens, you’re faced with an important question – what do you do with WooCommerce discontinued products?

Well, let’s quickly talk about what you should not do. You never want to just delete your end-of-life products, for several reasons that we’ll discuss in this post. But you also don’t want to confuse users by making it seem like they can still purchase discontinued products.

In this post, you’re going to learn everything that you need to know about managing WooCommerce discontinued products:

By the end, you’ll know why and how to set up a dedicated discontinued stock status that you can use to clearly mark products as discontinued without deleting them or confusing users:

WooCommerce discontinued products example

Let’s dig in…

Why Not Just Delete or Hide WooCommerce Discontinued Products?

If you discontinue a product, your first thought might be that you should just delete the product or maybe completely hide it from your store.

Here are a few reasons why that’s a bad idea:

Discontinued Products Can Still be Valuable for SEO

One of the biggest reasons that you don’t want to delete or completely hide your discontinued products is that they can still be a valuable source of search engine traffic.

You probably worked hard to rank your products in search in the first place, and that traffic doesn’t go away just because you stopped stocking the product.

By keeping the discontinued products public, you can still connect with those visitors and encourage them to browse your store and purchase other products.

If you see sustained traffic/interest in a certain discontinued product, that also might be an indicator that you should consider bringing that product back or launching something similar.

Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re not misleading searchers, so you should always:

  1. Clearly mark products as discontinued.
  2. Suggest similar products that are available (if possible) so that you still satisfy their search intent.

We’ll cover how to do those last two things later in the post.

It’s Confusing for Shoppers Who Purchased That Item

In addition to helping your store connect with new customers in search engines, maintaining public content for your discontinued products is also useful for your existing customers who may have purchased that item.

Shoppers might want to look up details about the product in the future, which requires browsing the product page. I’ve personally done this a number of times.

If you delete or hide the product, shoppers might be confused and wonder why they can’t see the product even though they purchased it from your store.

It Messes With Your Reporting

If you simply hide your products, this one isn’t an issue. But if you’re thinking about completely deleting discontinued products, that’s a huge issue for your store’s reporting.

Even if you discontinued the product, you’ll still want to be able to factor in its sales figures in your reports. For example, maybe you’re thinking about launching a similar product and you want to see how it might perform. Or, you could be running any number of other reports.

Keeping the product ensures your reporting is accurate – and you never know when having that data might be useful in the future.

Why Not Just Mark Them as Out Of Stock?

If I’ve convinced you that it’s a bad idea to delete or hide your discontinued products, your next thought might be that the best solution is to just mark discontinued products as out of stock.

After all, they are out of stock products in a way.

But there’s a problem with that:

If a product is out of stock, that implies that it’s going to be back in stock at some point. But if the product is truly discontinued, it’s never coming back (at least not for the foreseeable future).

Basically, you’re confusing your shoppers, and maybe even making them think that they should hold off on their purchases until the product comes back in stock (instead of maybe purchasing another product from your store).

This approach also complicates your store admin, as those products will show up in your stock status reports even though they’re discontinued.

The Right Way to Handle WooCommerce Discontinued Products

WooCommerce discontinued products example

At this point, we’ve talked about why discontinued products are important to keep around for SEO and other reasons, but why it’s not a good idea to just mark them as out of stock.

So – what’s the “right” way to handle your end-of-life products?

Well, the ideal solution is to have some type of WooCommerce discontinued stock status that lets you create a special distinction just for discontinued products.

That way, you can:

  • Clearly mark discontinued products as “discontinued” and temporarily out of stock products as “out of stock”.
  • Add a custom message to explain what’s happening if needed.
  • Easily filter out discontinued products in your backend reporting.

In addition to setting up a dedicated discontinued stock status, you also might want to edit the product slightly, especially the short description. 

For example, you might use a short description to direct people to a similar product that’s still available for purchase.

How to Set Up a WooCommerce Discontinued Products Plugin

WooCommerce discontinued products plugin

To implement the tactics above and manage the end-of-life products in your store, you can use the WooCommerce Discontinued Products plugin from Barn2.

This is an affordable premium plugin that helps you implement the following:

  • Dedicated discontinued stock status – you’ll get a dedicated stock status that you can assign to products – just like “In stock”, “Out of stock”, and “On backorder”.
  • Custom message – you can add a special custom message to discontinued products to help explain the situation to shoppers.
  • Product variation support – for variable products, you can mark specific variations as discontinued while still making the other variations available for purchase.
  • Control visibility – you can still include the discontinued products on your shop and category pages. Or, you can hide them from your shop functions while still making the page public (and indexable for SEO).
  • Integrations – the plugin works well with other WooCommerce plugins that we’ve written about such as WooCommerce Product Table (our tutorial) and WooCommerce Lead Time (our tutorial).

The WooCommerce Discontinued Products plugin starts at just $49 for use on a single store and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Here’s how to use it:

1. Activate Plugin and Configure Global Settings

To get started, install and activate the WooCommerce Discontinued Products plugin. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to purchase a license first.

Once you’ve done that, go to WooCommerce β†’ Settings β†’ Products β†’ Discontinued products to activate the plugin with your license key and configure some basic high-level settings.

Configure plugin settings

First, you can choose the Discontinued text. This is the main alert text/message that will appear for discontinued products – here’s an example of where it displays:

Where the discontinued text appears

If you want to direct shoppers to other products, you might want to make the message a little longer and offer some alternatives (such as telling people to search your store).

Second, you can choose whether to hide discontinued products from your store or not. Even if you check this box, your discontinued products will still be visible to search engines and anyone who enters the URL directly. Hiding the products just means that they won’t appear on your shop/category pages.

2. Mark Products or Variations as Discontinued

Now, you can go in and mark individual products (or product variations) as discontinued.

For simple products, go to the Inventory tab of the Product data box and set the Stock status to Discontinued:

Marking simple products as discontinued

For variable products, you can go to the Variations tab and edit the specific variation that you want to mark as discontinued. Then, set the Stock status drop-down for that variant to Discontinued:

Marking variations as discontinued

With this approach, the variant will no longer appear as an option on the frontend of your store, but you’ll still be able to see it on the backend and in your reports.

And that’s it for configuring the plugin! But let’s go over a few other tweaks and tips you might want to implement…

If you want to add some additional context about why a product is discontinued, you can use the Product short description to add some text about the discontinued product. This will appear below the Discontinued text that you entered in the first step.

This can also be a good spot to recommend similar products that are still available.

In addition to the short description, another good way to promote other products is to set up related products, upsells, and cross-sells. You can use these features to push visitors towards products that you still offer.

4. Change the Color of the Discontinued Text If Needed

By default, the discontinued text message appears in red, which is a nice eye-catching color. However, you might have situations where you want to change the color of this text.

The WooCommerce Discontinued Products plugin doesn’t include a built-in option to change the text color, but you can easily fix this with some simple custom CSS.

You can add the custom CSS by opening the WordPress Customizer and going to the Additional CSS section.

Here’s the code – just replace the six-digit hex code in the example with the color that you want to use:

.woocommerce div.product .discontinued {
color: #0274be;
Change the color

How to Filter Out Discontinued Products in Your Dashboard

The nice thing about having a dedicated discontinued stock status is that you can use it in your filtering and reporting.

For example, to quickly pull up a list of your discontinued products, you can use the Filter by stock status drop-down and select Discontinued:

How to filter discontinued products

Optimize Your WooCommerce Discontinued Products Today

Pretty much all WooCommerce stores will have discontinued products at some point. But with the right approach, you can still use those products to attract traffic to your store and provide information to your customers.

In this post, you’ve learned the best way to handle discontinued products on your store and how to create a dedicated discontinued stock status using the WooCommerce Discontinued Products plugin. 

Do you still have any questions about managing discontinued products on your WooCommerce store? Let us know in the comments!

WooCommerce discontinued products

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Colin Newcomer

Colin has been using WordPress for over a decade and is on a quest to test all 60,000+ plugins at WordPress.org. He has been a Writer and Product Review Expert for WP Mayor since 2017, testing well over 150 products and services throughout that time.

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