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Understanding Configurator Products

The key to quickly getting started with ProductCart Configurator is to gain a good understanding of how the product catalog is organized. Unlike any other shopping cart software that you may have used in the past, ProductCart Configurator contains three types of products:
  • Standard Products
  • Configurator Only Items
  • Configurable Products

Understanding the difference between the three types and how they interact on your store is crucial to effectively using this powerful application. Configurator Only Items and Configurable Products are unique concepts that you have likely never encountered before.

When you import products into ProductCart, you can specify which type of product each record should be imported as by using the Product Type field. For more details, please refer to the section that describes the import feature.

Standard Products

Standard Products are products as they exist in the standard version of ProductCart. Standard Products may or may not be available for sale (e.g. a “coming soon” product is not), but they are always visible in the store catalog. In other words, they always come up in store searches and might be listed among your “New Arrivals”, “Specials”, etc.

Standard Products are typically organized in categories that are visible to customers when they browse the store.

For example: a custom furniture store that use ProductCart Configurator to sell configurable furniture sets, may also sell non-configurable (“Standard” products), such as “Bar Stools” or “Metal Chairs”.

Standard Products have dozens of properties. Let's focus on a few of them, as they relate to the Configurator system.
  • Store Visibility
    Standard Products are visible in the store (unless inactive or assigned to a hidden category), and typically can be purchased (unless you have checked the “Not for Sale” option).
  • Availability
    The difference between a Standard Product that is “Not for Sale” and a Configurator Only Item is that the former is still visible in the catalog (e.g. a “coming soon” product), but cannot be added to the shopping cart (i.e. can be viewed, but cannot be purchased), whereas the latter is not visible in the store catalog at all except as part of a Configurator product configuration.
  • Weight
    The weight of a Configurator Product is based on the sum of the weights of the Standard Products and Configurator Only Items that it contains. So keep in mind that the weight that you assign to Standard Products will affect the total weight of Configurator Products that contain them.

Configurator Only Items

The functionality of Configurator Only Items is easy to understand: some of your configurable products may be the sum of items that you don't want to sell as stand-alone products.

For example: a custom computer shop may not want to sell microprocessors as stand-alone products, but will likely want microprocessors to come up as one of the selectable options when users configure a custom-built PC. Configurator Only Items serve this special purpose. They are never available for sale as stand-alone items, and therefore do not come up in store searches or any store page other than the configuration pages for the Configurator products to which they have been assigned.

They can be assigned to a category that contains Standard Products as well, or they can be organized in special categories that are not visible to customers when they browse the store, but rather only used on the configuration pages.

Compared to standard products:
  • Store visibility
    They are not visible in the store, except as part of a product configuration.
  • Availability
    They are never available for purchase as stand-alone products. They can only be purchased as part of a configurable product.

Configurable Products

Configurable Products (or Services) are combinations of Standard Products and/or Configurator Only Items, presented to the user as meaningful groups of selectable options. Some groups may contain single-choice options (e.g. you can only select one of the available monitors for your custom computer), some multiple choice items (e.g. you can select any of the available software programs to be installed on your custom computer).

The store administrator defines the groups and the items/products within each group that are available to customers to select from while configuring a certain Configurable Product. The store administrator, however, does not actually define how the custom product or service will end up being configured. That’s up to the customer as he/she makes selections from the available options.

For instance, a catering business may offer four Services: “Breakfast”, “Lunch”, “Dinner”, and “Special Events”. A “Dinner” would likely include groups of products/items that might not be available for the customer to select within a “Breakfast” menu. The actual content of a “Dinner” is then configured by the customer during the ordering process (i.e. 2 entrees, 2 appetizers, no desserts, wine, etc.). The vendor only defines the choices (groups of products/items) from which the customer can select, and their properties (e.g. whether or not a selection is required from a specific category).

To allow the store administrator to implement flexible pricing strategies, ProductCart Configurator treats product prices differently depending on whether a product is or is not part of a Configurable Product. For example, the same Standard Product can have a different price when it is purchased stand-alone and when it is purchased as part of a Configurable Product.

For instance, assume that a store is selling both computer products (e.g. printers, monitors, other accessories, etc.) and custom-built computer systems. The same ink-jet printer could be sold for $120 when purchased by itself, but only cost $105 when purchased as an accessory for a custom configured desktop computer.

Compared to Standard Products and Configurator-Only Items…
  • Store visibility
    They behave exactly as Standard Products.
  • Availability
    They behave like Standard Products, but unique to Configurable Products is the ability to make them available for “quoting only”. This feature can be set either store-wide or at the product level for each Configurable Product. When active, the Configurable Product can be viewed and configured, but not purchased. Instead, the configuration can be saved in a special area of the storefront as a “pending quote” (e.g. a customer wants an estimate of the total cost for a certain customizable product or service). The quote can then be submitted for review to the store manager, who can edit it, approve it, and make it available for on-line purchase.

Key Facts

These are the key facts to remember from this section.

A Configurable product contains a combination of:
  • Standard Products and/or
  • Configurator Only Items

It never contains other Configurable Products.

It can contain any number of categories and any number of products from the selected categories.