Managing Simple Products In Magento
The product management area is often times the most common place you will find yourself in the Magento admin panel while working on your eCommerce store. There are a lot of things you can do with products within the Magento admin panel because of the amazing flexibility behind the Magento software. I will only be covering products in this section but things like attributes and attribute sets can have a major impact on products that I will discuss in a later blog post.
Here is what you need to know to get started managing products in your Magento store:
1) Click On Manage Products Under The Catalog Section
If you are unfamiliar with Magento, the products section can be found in the catalog of your admin panel. You will have to choose the Manage Products drop down to add or edit existing products as shown below in the screenshot.
2) Add A New Product or Edit Product
If you already have products in your store you can edit them individually and even search for specific products by SKU, ID number, Attribute set, Price, Qty, Visibility and other sorting features. If you are adding a new product there are many options available which can be a little overwhelming at first glance.
First you will need to select an attribute set. “Default” will be the default attributes that come out of the box with Magento. You can also customize attributes in the attribute section and assign them to an attribute set that you create. Attributes are a very powerful, versatile feature in Magento that can allow you to append unique data to your products. You can read more about attributes on our Magento attributes blog to learn more about them.
Once you have selected an attribute set there are 6 different types of products that you can choose from.
The basic product you will use for general products that do not have variations such as size or color.
This option groups simple products that you select into one product. Great for product bundles that might include several different simple products such as a three pack of different toys.
A configurable product allows you to choose an attribute such as size or color as a customer option for that product. Each option (e.g. red, blue, etc.) for the attribute (e.g. color) you have assigned to the configurable product must actually be its own simple product with its own unique SKU number. Once you have created your various simple products to serve as your options (e.g. red, blue, etc.) you then assign them to the configurable product which also has its own unique SKU number. On the frontend of your eCommerce store the result will be one product that allows the customer to select an option (e.g. red, blue, etc.) from the attributes you have assigned to it (e.g. color).
NOTE In order for this to work, the configurable product and each of the simple products that make up the options (e.g. red, blue, etc.) for that configurable product MUST have the same attribute set assigned to them.
- Virtual Product
A product that you cannot download or ship. Great for a service or subscription such as cleaning services or a monthly subscription.
- Bundle Product
Mainly used for customizable products such as a computer with different options for processor, memory, hard drive and other customizations. You can bundle the product with extra features and add ons.
- Downloadable Product
Exactly what the name implies. Meant for downloadable products like a PDF or illustrator file.
Once you have chosen your attribute set and product type its time to start filling out the product data. Many things can be left empty. For a simple product with default settings in Magento, you only have to create a name, description, short description, SKU, select a status, select visibility status, add a price, tax class, Qty, select in stock, and a category for the product to show up.
You could do the bare minimum, but there is a lot more to managing Magento products that will add significant value to your eCommerce store and customer experience in the following product information sections. This blog post will mostly cover simple product information. I will cover the other product types in later blog posts.
The general section is all the default general information you will want associated with your products. There are 7 required fields in the general section of product management in Magento.
The first section is the name of the product that you will be required to have for every product. A product without a name will obviously get no sales, even if you altered this attribute to be not required so make sure every product on your store has an appropriate name.
Description & Short Description:
The next fields are description and short description. Having a well thought out and extensive description is incredibly important for eCommerce conversions. A short description should be a very brief sentence that highlights the biggest selling points and conveys it in a way that speaks to your customers. The short description will often be displayed higher up on the product page or in the product listing (category page) and the longer description may be displayed further down the product page, however this will depend on the design and theme you use for your Magento store.
You will have to provide a unique SKU for all of your products so that you can identify every product with a simple letter and number combination such as EXAMPLE123. Many variations of a product could have the same name but each variation must have a unique SKU.
The weight field is incredibly important for properly estimating an accurate shipping cost. The default weight for Magento is pounds so if you have all your weights in kilograms you will have to convert them to pounds with the default setup or customize the System > Config options for weight to be in kilograms.
Set Product As New:
Set product as NEW FROM date allows you to tell Magento that this product is new starting on the day you select. You can also set a date for the product to be NEW TO so that Magento will stop displaying that product as new on the day you select. This is useful for displaying new products on the homepage or using icons/graphics on products to show the customer that they are new.
The status is the next field and must be set to enabled for the product to be displayed on the frontend of your Magento store. If you want to deactivate or stop a product from being displayed simply set it to disabled.
The URL key is for search engine purposes. You will want your URL to be simple and useful for SEO. If your product is Blue Widget you will want the url key to be blue-widget. Then your product url will be “example.com/category/blue-widget.” This will help tell search engines that your product is a blue widget.
If you want your product to show up when someone is browsing through your store it will have to be displayed for catalog. If you want them to be able to search for it, it will also have to be set for search. So if you want the product to be both visible in search and through browsing categories you will choose “catalog, search”. If you have a simple product that you may only want visible as part of a configurable product or group, you can set it to not visible individually.
Country Of Manufacture:
Lastly, you can choose the country of manufacture for the product.
Magento offers some pretty in depth pricing capabilities straight out of the box with the community edition. One of the amazing things about Magento is that you can offer tiered pricing to specific customer groups so that each product can have specific B2B custom pricing.
Price is a mandatory field that is set to USD by default. It is simply the price that you set for your product that will be displayed for the customer to see.
Group price allows you to set different prices for specific customer groups. So if you want a retail customer to see a certain price for your product versus a wholesale customer, you can set different prices for the two customer groups.
Special price is the discount price you can run for any specials of that particular product. The special price will show up as the discounted price from the price you set above.
Special Price From Data/To Date:
This feature allows you set your special price available for specific dates from and to so that you can have a special price running for specific time periods of a year.
Tiered pricing allows you to have different prices for different quantities that a customer might choose. For instance, if someone buys 5 or less they get the default price, but if they buy 5 or more you can set a tiered pricing discount and so on for larger increments.
Applying MAP allows you to apply the Minimum Advertised Price or (MAP) or manufacturer’s suggested retail price. You will have to setup your MAP preferences for your store in the system config if you want the product to apply config preferences.
Display Actual Price:
This is where you can choose where you want to display the actual price of the product. You can choose to have this show up in the cart, right before order confirmation, or on gesture, which allows the user to click a link to see the price.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail:
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is used by many retailers who have to abide by the manufacturers pricing guidelines as a distributor of their products. Here you can set the MSRP for your product.
Is Product Available For Purchase With Google Checkout:
This allows you to configure a product for checkout with Google Checkout. Having multiple payment options can often help conversions, so this is an option that should be strongly considered.
Tax class is where you can select whether or not your product will be taxable. Assigning “None” will tell Magento to not apply any taxes to this product. “Taxable Goods” and “Shipping” are two default shipping classes that come with Magento. These classes work much like attributes and attribute sets in which you create individual tax rules and assign them to an overall tax class, then you can assign that class to the products that those tax rules apply to. You can setup your tax classes and tax rules under the Sales > Tax section of the admin panel menu. Depending on the type of products you sell and your location you will want to setup the appropriate tax classes and tax rules that apply to your online store.
5) Meta Information:
This section is for SEO purposes. You will want to have a unique Meta title and Meta description for each product. The Meta title is the title associated with the actual product listing page, and the Meta description is the description you see in search results for that page. Search engines no longer value Meta keywords so you can feel free to ignore this section.
In the images section you can browse files, upload an image from your computer and assign it to base image, small image, and thumbnail. You can add as many images to your product as you want. Click here for more information about where the different image types will be displayed on your site.
7) Recurring Profile:
Recurring profile is a great feature in Magento that allows you to create a product that has a recurring billing cycle. This can allow you to use Magento for service-based products that may have a monthly or even weekly fee.
Here you can decide whether or not you want your customer to define the start date of the billing cycle, you can add a description to your schedule, choose the maximum payment failures for the product, and choose to auto bill the outstanding balance for failed payments in the next billing cycle.
In the billing period unit you can set whether you want day, week, bi-weekly, month, or year to be the recurring billing unit. Next you can determine the billing frequency per billing cycle and the maximum billing cycles. The billing frequency will determine how often the payment system will initiate within the billing period. The maximum billing cycles limits the number of payments, if left blank they will be charged indefinitely on the billing cycle until their account is suspended or cancelled.
A standard monthly subscription for one year would look as follows:
Billing Period Unit: Month
Billing Frequency: 1
Maximum Billing Cycles: 12
The trial period allows you to setup a trial period for your recurring profile product. Just like the billing section, you can setup a billing period unit, frequency, and maximum billing cycles for the trial. You can also set up a special trial price, whether that be discounted or even a free trial.
The initial fees allow you to setup an initial fee for your services and whether or not you want to allow it to fail or not. This is great for services that may have a higher up front cost to initiate but lower monthly or recurring cost to maintain.
The design section allows you to customize the design for each specific product. This can be an especially powerful feature if you want to have different theme designs for different types or groups of products.
In the custom design section you can assign any theme you have configured in your Magento setup to a particular product.
Here you can decide when you want this theme to be active from and to. This is particularly useful if you have seasonal themes that you want activated for certain time periods.
Custom Layout Update:
Custom layout updates allow you to create a new block, update existing content, assign actions to blocks, and remove blocks for each product. This requires xml tags to execute, however you do not need the <?xml..> declaration and root tag to implement.
This is similar to the category page layout that allows you to choose either no layout updates, empty, 1 column, 2 columns with left bar, 2 columns with right bar, 3 columns or a custom layout that your theme developer may have created. You may want to have different page layouts for each product or stick with one particular page layout for all products.
Display Product Options In:
This allows you to display the product options such as size or color that you would use to customize your product either before the info column or after it.
9) Gift Options
Gift Options are fairly simple, they allow you to create a gift message for gift cards.
The Magento inventory section allows you to carefully manage your inventory well beyond simply the quantity of each SKU in stock.
Yes or no as to whether you want to use Magento to manage inventory.
A standard feature in all shopping carts that allows you to manage the quantity available for your SKU.
Qty For Items Status To Become Out Of Stock:
This allows you to set this number to 0 or something other than 0. For instance if you only sell an item in cases of 6, you may have a quantity of 5 available but when the stock reaches 5 the product becomes out of stock because you have chosen not to sell it in increments less than 6.
Minimum Qty Allowed In Shopping Cart:
You may require a minimum number of items to ship a product. Most likely this will be set to 1, but if you are B2B or even B2C you may have a need to increase this.
Maximum Qty Allowed In Shopping Cart:
Can’t ship 1000 of a product in one order? Set a max Qty so that no one can purchase an amount you cannot fulfill.
Qty Uses Decimals:
If your product is in weights or can be broken into fractions you may want to use decimals if you have 2.5 pounds or 2.5 qty.
Can Be Divided Into Multiple Boxes For Shipping:
Some products are complex, and need to be shipped in multiple boxes. Select yes if this is the case.
You may want to allow backorders even if your qty is zero to get more sales and fulfill them later. Backorders are a great way to increase consumer urgency and sales.
Notify For Quantity Below:
Want to be alerted when your product inventory is depleting, set a quantity so that when it reaches that level it will alert you with an email. You must use System > Config settings to setup the email for notification.
Enable Qty Increments:
If you want to sell your products in batches set the desired quantity here by unchecking the config box and setting a batch qty you want for your product.
This must be set to in stock for the product to show up on the front end unless you customize your site or have a theme that allows you to display out of stock products.
Category management for a product is very similar to the way you manage the actual categories in Magento. Here you simply select the categories that you have set up in Magento that you want the product to show up in. Our previous blog post on Magento category management shows how to setup and manage categories in Magento.
12) Related Products
Select any product you want to be a related product to your current SKU. You may have to uncheck yes on the left and set it to any to see all the products available and then select the ones you want to be related.
The Up-Sells works just like the related products but for Up Sells, which are meant to be higher end additional items like an add on or an extension to a product.
The Cross-sells works just like the related products as well but for Cross-sells, which are meant to be cross-related items that might be in a different product category.
15) Product Reviews
Here you can moderate and edit all of the reviews for your product just like you can manage each product individually.
16) Custom Options
Custom options allow you to create things like sizes, colors, and other variations within a product. So a T-Shirt might have multiple sizes and colors, and you can do this with custom options. It allows you to have a unique SKU associated with each option and an additional price.
This is opposed to creating variable products as configurable products, which is more complex and time consuming. Custom options are a simpler and faster way to create variable products, but if you want more control over each SKU in the variable product then you will want to create a configurable product.
You can choose from the different input types, text field, text area, file, dropdown, radio buttons, checkbox, multiple select, date, date & time, and time for your custom option. What input type you should choose will depend on what type of product you have. For instance a color will most likely be a dropdown or radio button in which only one product option can be chosen, rather than a multiple select in which multiple options can be chosen. Date & Time may work well for a downloadable product or virtual product that is a service or ticket in which it is only valid at certain times. You can experiment with the different input types to figure out which ones are best for your products.
I developed two screencasts to cover the functionality of Magento product data in the admin panel.