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

What is a Configurable Product?

A configurable product, in itself, isn’t actually a product.  It is something a user can see, but never buys.  This is the basis of confusion around this concept.  A configurable product is a container that holds products which are tightly related together.  The easiest example is clothing.  You don’t want to show all the different sizes of your t-shirt as separate products (in the world of Magento, each size is a different product).  So what do we do?  We umbrella them all under one product – The Configurable Product.  When we umbrella all theses sizes around the configurable product, we immediately have a few advantages to using this.

Why should I use a Configurable Product?

The first advantage is not having your search and product browsing pages cluttered with the same products.

Instead of seeing: T-Shirt – S, T-Shirt – M, T-Shirt – L

When browsing your website, we see: T-Shirt

This may not seem like a very big deal, but when you’ve got thousands of products, this adds up quickly.  Users will tire of using your site much sooner if they feel they’re looking at the same product.

The second advantage is how people purchase products umbrella’d under a configurable product.  On the product page, you’ll see a nice easy dropdown to select the size.  It’s not rocket science, and no one is reinventing the wheel here, but it’s awfully nice as a consumer to be able to purchase my product this way.

How do I set up my Products to be Configurable?

Easy!  You just need to supply us, the integration developers, with a unique identifier for each group of products.

So let’s say you had a set of SKUs:
34567-S
34567-M
34567-L

These three SKUs need to be umbrella’d under one configurable product.  The easiest way is to supply us with a unique “parent SKU” and give these three products the same “parent SKU”.  For this set of products, the logical choice for a parent SKU would be 34567-parent, although it can be anything you want it to be.

In the land of eCommerce it works a bit differently than everyone naturally thinks.  The crucial point to take from reading this article is this:

Every variation of any one product is, in eCommerce, its own product.

For more information on how to create a Configurable Product check out this tutorial from Magento.