Turning off a product is as simple as disabling it, right? You don’t want to sell it anymore. And you don’t need it seen anymore. Pull the cord, disable the product and be done with it. Get on with your life.

Hold on, my friend. Let’s consider the impact to your website that comes through this flip of the light-switch to the “off” position.

  1. The product is no longer available—so it is disabled (we got this).
  2. The product’s page on the frontend becomes a 404.
  3. Visitors who click through from any linking websites that recommend your product saying, “hey, you need to go buy this” now see the 404.
  4. Search engines who follow the links from these other websites also get a 404.

How does this look for a first impression of a brand? (not bad, considering this is Legos)

Lego.com’s 404 error page.

The best way to disable a product.

Don’t disable it.

Let’s say today is a milestone for your DTC (direct-to-consumer) brand. While your brand manufactures many products, the one thing left is candles. Right now, you resell Willwick’s candles. That is coming to an end because you received your first shipment, today, of your very own candles. You must remember that since you have been the #1 distributor of Willwick’s candles, you need consider how you remove them from your website.

Mark these products as unsalable. In BigCommerce, you can do that by marking “This product cannot be purchased in my online store”:

Before

Before the update

The update

Change the value in Products > [choose product] > Purchasability

After

After the update

Now, you have the capability to change the product description and related products. Make sure it is clear to the visitor that this product is no longer available but you have plenty of other similar options. You can also share the reasoning of why this product has been discontinued.

In this way, visitors will not feel isolated or have to make a decision as to where they want to proceed. Instead, you have the capability to easily direct them on to their next destination on your website.

Discontinuing in Magento

Unfortunately, in Magento, the solution is not quite as perfect. We need to mark this product as out of stock. Also, ensure that you do not allow backorders (in the Advanced Inventory tab) for this product.

Before

The update

After

This is out-of-the-box, vanilla Magento. This is easily customized to your exact liking—but a developer would need to be involved.

The other option: 301 redirect

As I mentioned in the video, there might be a case where you wish to disassociate yourself from a particular brand: maybe it just came out that they support terrorist organizations (yikes!). So, you wish to remove all traces to this company from your website.

You might be asking, “what the [fill in the blank] is a 301 redirect?” 301 refers to a status code that tells the browser. This code means “go to a different url.” This is similar in theory to how our GPS directions on the phone work—except that the browser doesn’t have to worry about accidents, construction, etc.

BigCommerce

Go to Server Settings > 301 Redirects:

You can choose from Dynamic Link or Manual Link.

Dynamic Link: you can choose a specific entity (product, category, or page) that is entered into BigCommerce.

Manual Link: this is where you specify whatever link you want to specify. Note that if the URL changes for that linked page, your visitors will also get an error.

Magento

Go to Marketing > Url Rewrites. Create a new rewrite.

You can set the request path (the old location) and the target path (the new location. Make sure to set the Redirect Type to be Permanent (301).

You can also create a redirect to a CMS page, category or product by changing the Create URL Rewrite drop-down menu.

What is the Request Path or Old URL?

This is the URL of the product page that you want to disable excluding your domain name.

In conclusion

Please review how you handle this type of product removals. While just disabling the product does get the job done, you must consider what your visitors will see when they first come to your website. Is it the positive impression you hope to have (that is more likely to lead toward a sale)?

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