A guide to Magento Product Types

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We’re going to let you into a little trade secret now. The success of your e-commerce business doesn’t lie in what you sell, but in how you sell it. Whether you stock the most on-trend fashions at the cheapest prices, or unique hand-crafted trinkets that can’t be found anywhere else, if visitors have issues using your site they’re probably going to take their money elsewhere.

With e-commerce, it’s all about making your website easy to use, so that customers can quickly find what they want without any bother. Then, when they get to your site’s checkout, they need to trust that their payment is safe and that any personal details will be kept secure.

If you’re already using Magento, you’ll know how easy it becomes to achieve these things. Its features lend it to be the perfect content management system for e-commerce sites. From an editor that lets you build and customize pages to fit your brand’s image to easy third-party integration and numerous security options, Magento has everything you need to ensure your e-commerce site keeps your customers coming back to you.

What many people aren’t always sure about are the six product types that are readily available for their e-commerce site through Magento. Each product type works slightly differently on your site, but they’re meant to be used to help your customers navigate your store as easily as possible, and to enable you keep track of your stock in the administrator.

If you already use Magento, or are considering starting to use it, it’s a good idea to get to know about all of the different product types and how they’d work for your e-commerce site and the items you sell.


Whether you’re selling a mug, a digital camera or a TV, if it’s a single item then a simple product type will do the job. Customers can simply select the quantity of the product and head straight to the checkout.

A simple product listing can also offer the customer a drop-down menu if they want to customise a product- for example by choosing a shirt in a different colour or size. But what makes simple products slightly different to other types are the issues that arise from tracking stock for the customised selections.

For a simple product, only one related unique stock code will exist in the Magento store administrator- the original listed product. Any customised versions that are selected won’t be specifically taken into consideration in the stock count. So, things like checking how many items you sell in one colour in comparison to another would be impossible as you’d only see the stock levels of the original listing reduce.


Where simple products types make tracking stock a bit of a handful, a configurable product makes it that much easier. Configurable product types also give customers drop-down customisable options but, unlike simple products, they allow you to track stock levels for any variations of the original.

A configurable product is essentially a grouped collection of simple ones, but when a customer selects a customised variation – in a different colour or style than is listed for example – the stock level of that specific option would reduce by one. So in this case you could check how many products in a certain colour you’d sold, and as a result configurable products are a much more ideal option when you want to track your stock more precisely.


A grouped product type is a great option if you want to sell multiple standalone products together. Say you wanted to sell a woolly hat with a scarf and gloves as a special Christmas package, you’d just create a new grouped product and add simple products to the group.

This way, you could offer the package at a special price, then customers who wanted to buy the items individually could see the merit of buying the grouped product and saving themselves money.

If a customer selects a grouped product, they will appear as separate items at checkout, but any discounts that have arisen from selecting the group package will apply.

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The bundle product type is ideal in a situation where the product that you’re selling has a number of configurable options. For example a laptop with various add-on hardware or a mobile phone that offers accessories like memory cards and headphones. These aren’t part of the package, but are available additions should the customer wish to select them. Each of the items are simple products, but will usually only be sold within the bundle.

The customer will select the product they want and an option will become available on the page for them to select the add-ons if they wish. When they go through to the checkout stage, the items will appear together as one product.


A virtual product type is one that isn’t available as a physical or digital item, but can still be paid for online. It’s a specialised simple product that will usually be used for services, rather than products, such as a website audit or gift-voucher.

There’s no shipping option for this type of product because of its virtual nature, and the customer may need to email or call your company to complete the purchase- for example providing FTP access to their site for an audit.


Downloadable products are similar to virtual products in that they aren’t physical items. The category might include products like eBooks or MP3 files, which customers can buy and download after purchase.

When the customer purchases a downloadable product, Magento generates an encrypted link so that they can download their file safely and save it. Similarly to a virtual product, a downloadable product type doesn’t allow for selecting a shipping method at the checkout, because customers can take the item there and then.

So whether you’re selling spa vouchers or professional camera kits, there’s a Magento product type available to suit the way you run your business- simply select the type you want from a drop down list when you’re uploading the items through your site’s administration.

Whichever option you choose, these six product types are designed to enhance customers’ experience and increase the sales potential of your e-commerce site. It’s up to you to select the best solution, and that really does depend on the specific needs of your business.

If you’d like any advice about Magento web development, feel free to give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.

  • Written by on 14th November 2014 at 15:14
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