Setting Up Product Data in Magento: The Basics

Setting up product data in Magento calls for deep thought on how you want your customers to browse your site and find products. For the sake of this blog post, lets use clothing as the business vertical, given that it provides a realistic scenario that can be applied to many businesses. Before we dive into the importance of setting up your product data, I’d like to articulate why (even though seemingly obvious) this task is vitally important.

The obvious answer naturally, at a high level, is the ultimate goal of all eCommerce sites: to get your customers to buy something, and do so repeatedly. In order to do this, you’ll want to ensure their experience is a comfortable one, and rich with a set of features that allow them to navigate the site effortlessly while providing relevant results. The organization of your data goes hand-in-hand with creating that experience, and as such should be factored into the process.

Creating a Simple Product in Magento

With that being said, let’s look at the Magento dictated mandatory fields for creating a simple product for ABC Clothing Company.

You’ll notice that Magento simply requires these fields in order to create a product and has no relation (at this point) on how a customer will find this product. We’ll need to create additional descriptors to help a customer find these products. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal – getting your customers to purchase repeatedly by making their experience a comfortable one.

Layered Navigation and Possible Filters

Traditionally (and practically) in the clothing world, the vast majority of customers tend to search for items using a term referred to as Layered Navigation – as it essentially allows a customer to add / remove layers of products depending on the filters selected. To the layman, it is the filters one can choose to use when searching for a particular item. Let’s take a look at some useful attributes typically used in Layered Navigation and traditionally found in clothing eCommerce sites:

It is important to note that essentially all values in Magento can be used in Layered Navigation, but not all SHOULD be used. Creating these attributes in Magento can be time-consuming but undoubtedly well worth the time. Alternatively, you can solicit the expertise of Magento Certified Solution Partners to bulk create/import products and attributes. Give Demac Media a try, we’re experts at it and have also built a tool to bulk-load images as well.

Grouping Common Products

At this point you should have a pretty good understanding of creating products and how/why additional attributes that describe the product are required, however we haven’t really addressed laying out the data itself. Let’s take this a little further. In the scenario we’ve painted, we have created a single product, but failed to identify that this newly created product will likely have various permutations of itself. It may come in multiple colours, sizes, materials, etc. Each of these will need to be created as we did in the first scenario. The decision we need to make here relates now to your customer’s experience. If a customer were to search for Red Armani, based on the current layout of the data, they could see the following results:

– Small Armani Bomber Jacket
– Medium Armarni Bomber Jacket
– Large Armani Bomber Jacket
– Extra Large Armani Bomber Jacket

This would result in poor user experience as the customer would be presented with a screen that essentially showed the same image repeated 4 times, as 4 individual products. Fortunately, Magento has the ability to group common products and display them in a manner that makes sense. Magento does this by allowing you to differentiate products as Simple (created above) and Configurable.

Related: When does a Product need to be a “Configurable Product”?

Conceptually, you can think of simple products as the lowest common denominator in the product hierarchy, while configurable products act as the bucket that holds the simple products. These children come in different sizes and colours, much like a simple product does, where a t-shirt may come in different colours and sizes (typically).

Let’s revisit the customer search results for a moment. Using Configurable products, the same search would return a single product. Selecting the product would take the customer to the Product Details page where they would be able to choose the size of jacket they wanted. This results in an improved customer experience and lends itself to accomplishing the overall goal of all eCommerce sites – to get your customers to buy something, and do so repeatedly.

Magento is a fantastic platform for eCommerce and has all the bells and whistles anyone could ask for, but it does not provide you with everything you need. You should instead, think of Magento as the framework on which you build. The skeleton on which you fill out with muscle, that muscle being the careful consideration of your data and how it relates to the customer’s experience.

For more related Magento posts:
Mini Tutorial: How to place a product on sale/special in Magento
Mini Tutorial: Alternative Configurable Products Display in Magento
Comprehensive List of Magento Transactional Emails and their Designs