We wrote recently about the differences between simple and configurable products within Magento. These product types are just two of the six distinct product types available in Magento. Understanding these product types and how to use them can help build a comprehensive catalog that is easy for the store owner to manage and easy for the customer to shop from. Let’s take a closer look at each of the six product types.
Simple products are essentially ‘what you see is what you get’ products. They do not have any variations, such as size or colour. The perfect example of a simple product is probably a book, since this cannot be sold in variations of small, medium or large, or colours such as red, blue or green. The book is just what it is, with no decisions to be made by the customer. For many online retailers, simple products make up the bulk of their catalogs.
Configurable products are those that require the customer to make a selection during the purchasing process. The most common selections relate to size and colour, but other options might include finish or material. For example, a door knocker might be available in polished steel or brushed chrome, whilst a painted bookcase might be offered in high gloss or matt finish. Shoes and clothing are almost always set up as configurable products, but many other items lend themselves to being set up as configurable products too.
Don’t be tempted to set up multiple similar simple products when really a single configurable product with multiple options would be more suitable. Doing this runs the risk of annoying your customers who have to wade through pages of near-identical products. Google does not favour this approach either, and may view those simple products as duplicate content, dishing out a harsh penalty because of it.
Grouped products and Bundled products can be easily confused. Grouped products are essentially groups of simple products that are intended to be sold together. A good example of a grouped product is a furniture set comprised of a sofa, chair and footstool. Each item is a simple product and can be purchased individually. However, by making use of grouped product functionality, the retailer can pull all three items together into one product set, so that it is presented to the customer as one grouped product. The customer then selects the quantity of each component piece that they wish to order. If the items are not set up as a grouped product, there is a risk that the customer will not realise that there are other items in the set, resulting in missed sales opportunities.
Bundled products are perhaps the hardest product type to grasp for those new to Magento. The bundle product is a unique entry in the catalog, but it is made up of multiple other products, from which the customer selects their own specific configuration. The best example of a bundled product is a custom-built PC. The customer starts with a base product, and selects various elements to configure their own PC bundle, such as RAM, sound card, processor, memory and peripherals. As each selection is made, the ‘Price as configured’ updates dynamically, so that the customer can see exactly what the final price will be for the configuration they have selected.
Most people are familiar with downloadable products. These are not physical products that can be held in the customer’s hands, but are items that can be downloaded via a website link after purchase. eBooks are downloadable products as are many software products, such as anti-virus tools. Commercial Magento themes and extensions are also downloadable products.
Virtual products are the most intangible of Magento’s product types. They are not physical like shoes or lawn mowers, and are also not downloadable like eBooks. Services such as software installation or customer support packages are virtual products. By their nature, virtual products do not require inventory tracking. When selling virtual products, it’s important that all staff are fully trained to understand what is included in each virtual product, to ensure a consistent customer experience.
With the help of third-party extensions, further product types can be added to Magento, such as subscription products and recurring payment products. Examples of these would include magazine subscriptions, software as a service (SAAS) licenses that are billed monthly and weekly vegetable boxes.
It’s clear that Magento offers a comprehensive range of product types to suit all kinds of retail stores. By understanding the various product types and what can be achieved with them, the retail store owner can maximise sales revenues and provide the best customer experience possible.