Here’s a quick overview of Magento Product Types: how to apply them, where to use them, and some tips for customization.
Use the Simple Product type for real products (i.e., products that exist in the real world). In essence, any physical/virtual product that “ships” ties to a Simple Product, which represents that SKU (“shelf keeping unit”). Inventory is always kept at the Simple Product level.
A Simple Product will only show up in your Magento store directly if it generally has a single configuration–“one size fits all.” See other product types below for multiple-configuration product types. Example Simple Products with a single configuration:
- A Box of Crayons, small (24 Colors)
- A Box of Crayons, Large (64 Colors)
- SuperHighTech 26” HD Computer Monitor
- Han Solo Action Figure (6”)
Virtual Products are those that do not have a physical or digital counterpart. They do not ship, nor do they have a download link. This product type might be used for services like:
- House Cleaning
- 1-Year Newsletter Subscription
Note: If using Virtual Products for “subscriptions,” be aware that there is no built-in way to manage auto-renewing subscriptions. All purchases made in Magento, regardless of Product Type, are one-time purchases.
Downloadable Products are similar to Virtual Products, with the option to add one or more digital files for download. Files can be uploaded either
(1) via the Admin interface, or
(2) directly to the server via FTP and then added by URL.
When a customer buys a Downloadable Product, Magento will generate a secure, encrypted link for the download to disguise the file’s actual location from the customer. This category might include products such as:
- Computer Software
Note: If you have SSL enabled for your site, downloads may fail for all versions of IE, as IE contains a bug that prevents downloading over secure connections if the no-cache header is set. This can be easily fixed in an htaccess file by removing the no-cache and no-store headers, or by forcing download links to be non-secure.
Configurable Products are virtual (i.e., they don’t exist in the real world) and they require underlying Simple Products. They can only be used together with Simple Products; they can’t exist on their own.
In the above example, all “hot cinnamon spice tea” is sold on one page as a Configurable Product, and the different package sizes and options (which are Simple Products) are offered within this page.
Here’s another example of modeling different variants that are available via a choice of options. Say you offer T-shirts in two colors and three sizes. You would create six Simple Products individually (each with its own SKU) and then group these six as a Configurable Product; customers can choose the size and color and then add it to their cart.
Note: Very similar functionality is possible using Custom Options for Simple Products. The difference between a Configurable Product and a product including Custom Options is that Custom Options do not have an inventory option.
Grouped Products are similar to Configurable Products, allowing you to create a new product using one or more existing products in your store. For instance, let’s assume you have a “Han Solo Action Figure” and a “Luke Skywalker Action Figure” already in your store and you wanted to sell them as a bundle. You would simply create a new Grouped Product (let’s call it “Star Wars Heroes”), then add both action figures to the group via the “Associated Products” tab.
Note: Unfortunately, you can’t set a special “group” price directly from the product page. To offer a discount for buying items together, you will need to create a new Shopping Cart Price Rule.
This Product Type, also known as a “kit” in other e-commerce software, is ideal for circumstances where the user has to select at least one option from a number of configurable options. This might include products like:
- Customizable Computer Systems
- Customizable Tuxedos/Suits
Unlike Grouped Products, Bundled Products allow discounts on the underlying Simple Products.
[Adapted from Tom da Brain’s description on the Magento Commerce wiki]