Simple Products vs. Configurable: Magento Product Type Guide Part 1

Simple Products vs. Configurable: Magento Product Type Guide Part 1

Learn about Magento’s Simple and Configurable product types and the core differences between them, so you can choose the right options for your ecommerce catalog.

If you’re just getting started with Magento, or looking to restructure, Magento’s range of choices for product types can be confusing. You might not be sure which product type would be best for your Magento store. In this guide, we’ll dive into what Simple and Configurable product types are, the differences between them, and help guide you through understanding what product type you want to choose for your products.

Simple Product

Just as the name suggests, simple products are physical items with a single SKU that do not require any additional attributes to purchase the product. A simple product can have customization options – known as a composite product, which make it possible to sell variations of a single SKU product. For instance, if you sell a water bottle, you can offer an additional straw as a customization option, but the customer doesn’t need to choose the extra option to purchase – the customer simply buys the default water bottle without the straw. Simple products can either be sold individually or as part of a grouped, bundled, or configurable product; this means that each simple product has its own unique URL, SKU, and inventory. 

Configurable Product

Configurable products are single products with variations – these options are separate, single products, with specific SKUs. Think of Configurable products like Simple products with a drop-down list of options for each variation of the product, but each variation is a simple product on its own and has a unique SKU. Unlike simple products, customers are required to choose one or more options to purchase. For example, if you’re selling a shirt, the customer would need to specify the size, pattern, etc.

Specific Differences

The core differences between Simple products and Configurable products are SKUs. Simple products only have a single SKU, while configurable products have multiple SKUs. You can achieve the same effect of configurable products with simple products by allowing customization options, but every custom simple product is one SKU, which you can’t track inventory for each variation of the simple product – you can only track each variation of the product for configurable products. 

If you’re creating configurable products, Magento will develop simple products based on each variation of the configurable product. Think of Configurable products as the original main product of Simple products. For example, if a shirt is created as a configurable product that has options for four sizes (small, medium, large, extra-large), then there would be four simple products automatically created with uniquely different SKUs. So, if that shirt has more than one option, let’s say, four sizes and four colors to choose from, that means there would be 16 variations, so 16 SKUs, which are 16 simple products.

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