Magento Product Types and Examples of When to Use Them

This guide provides an introduction to all of the native product types in Magento and when it makes sense to use them.

Profileby Vervaunt Team 28 March, 2020

Introduction

One of the strengths of Magento Commerce is the variation of product types available to retailers - from straightforward click-and-buy products to complex multi-product configuration, the out of the box functionality generally provides ecommerce managers with all that they need.  However with a lot of choice of products this sometimes leads to some confusion about when to use each type.  

There is a substantial amount of information available on how to set up these products in Magento, but relatively little that provides any help on when it is appropriate to use each one. This article will go through each product type and some examples of how they can be used in the real world.  

Simple Products

As the name suggests, simple products are the most basic that Magento provides.  One simple physical product with it’s own SKU. It is however possible to offer variants with a simple product through the use of custom options and tiered pricing.

Example

A website sells flowers and one of the products is a red rose which can be bought individually.  Customers can get discounts if they buy certain quantities of the red rose and there are also options for gift notes.  This can be achieved with simple products in the following way:

  • Create the red rose simple product with its own unique SKU

  • Within the product configure the tiered pricing for quantities

  • Add in a custom option checkbox with the associated cost for the gift notes (In this example, no stock is associated with the gift notes so there is no need for an additional SKU)

Configurable Products

A configurable product is not an actual product, but instead a shell which is used to group a number of simple products together.  These are most commonly used for products that are essentially the same but vary slightly by, for example, colour or size.  

Example

A retailer sells shoes on their website - one shoe style varies in colour and size.  The individual shoes for stock keeping purposes can be added as simple products with the relevant price and stock levels, for example ‘red shoe size 5’.

A configurable product can be set up with the variants ‘colour’ and ‘size’ which will feature on the product page and allow users to ‘configure’ the product and go on to make the purchase.  Magento functionality will ensure if a user selects a colour, only the available sizes will be shown or vice versa.

Grouped Products

These products are simply individual products shown as a group on a page, often used for promotions or for products where users are likely to make more than one purchase.  Grouped products are not used as much as they should be on Magento sites but there are plenty of scenarios when they make sense to use from a usability and commercial point of view.

Example

A retailer sells high end, stoneware mugs which vary only in colour - there are 6 colour variants.  Customers will generally either buy a set of these mugs all in one colour or mix and match. You could list these products as simple products only but users who want to vary colours would need to go back and forth to product pages to purchase all the variants.  You could also put all the products into a configurable but users would have to keep choosing the one they want and adding to the basket each time.

A better option would be to create a grouped product where each of the mugs could be shown alongside a quantity selector.  Once the customer has chosen the mugs they do and don’t want, plus the quantities of each, they can add them all to the basket with a click of a button.  The basket then shows these separate single product line items.

Bundle Products

There is often confusion about the difference between bundle and grouped products.  Bundle products are generally used for creating your own product by choosing from a range of options.  The bundle is its own product and has its own SKU within Magento (often causing headaches for ERP sales integrations!).

Example

A high end bike manufacturer allows cyclists to build their own bespoke bike from the frames and peripherals the retailer sells such as brakes, gears and wheels.  All of these items can be purchased separately on the site so they are all set up as simple products with their own SKU and inventory. The bundle product can be used as a ‘create your own’ functionality whereby these simple products can be added to the bundle for the customer to customise one by one, such as:

  • Step 1 - Choose frame material

  • Step 2 - Choose frame size

  • Step 3 - Choose wheel size

  • Step 4 - Choose gears type

  • Etc

Bundle products are a great way of selling more products in an individual transaction as well as an opportunity to up-sell items to a customer.

Virtual Products

As the name suggests, virtual products are not physical.  They are essentially the same as a simple product but do not have a weight and therefore will not show any shipping options at checkout if purchased without another product type.

Example 

An ecommerce store sells washing machines and they want to be able to offer an extended warranty after the purchase has been made.  Within Magento the admins can create a virtual product containing all the warranty information and the customer can choose to purchase.  If they do, the checkout experience will be simplified as there is no requirement for shipping on this purchase.

Other uses for virtual products include memberships and subscriptions.

Downloadable Products

Again, a fairly self explanatory name, downloadable products are used when the item a customer purchases can be downloaded once paid for on the website.  The digital product can either be downloaded directly from the website server or provide a link to another website for download.

Example

An aspiring band wants to sell their music directly to customers on their website in a digital format.  Using downloadable functionality in Magento they can configure the product to ensure the following:

  • Customers can hear a sample of the song for free before they purchase

  • Admins can ensure the customer has to log in in order to purchase (so they can download from their account area after purchase)

  • Admins can choose how many times the item can be downloaded

There are many uses for downloadable products with other examples including software, books and videos.

Gift Card

Gift cards are available with 2 options in Magento - virtual and physical.  Virtual gift cards are generally emailed to customers with a code to use on the website whereas physical ones need to be shipped to the customer, therefore requiring a shipping address.  Customers can even choose to have a mix of both whereby their purchase is both emailed and shipped. Retailers can choose whether gift cards are for a set amount or whether the customer can choose to set their own value.

Example

A retailer wants to be able to offer users to purchase gift cards but at present could only handle virtual cards until they can get in place the requirements for designing and producing physical cards.  The Magento admin can set up the virtual gift card and choose that the amounts can only be £5, £10 or £20. Once, the retailer has made provisions for the physical card, this can be added as an option to the product and users who purchase this can provide their address at checkout to be sent the card.

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If you have any questions about product types in Magento, feel free to email us.

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Vervaunt Team
Posts written by the Vervaunt team - covering various topics around eCommerce and paid media.