There is a major difference between the functionality offered by ProductCart Configurator and “unlimited product options”. “Unlimited product options” means that the store administrator can associate a product with a potentially unlimited number of option groups and attributes (e.g. styles, colors, sizes). The various option groups and attributes are not “products” available elsewhere in the store (e.g. “size:large” is not a product, but rather a product property).
Product options, in other words, don't “exist” separately from the product that they are applied to.
This approach works just fine when the store sells relatively “simple” merchandise. For example, it works great if the store were to sell a pair of khakis, where the options available for the customer to select could be style, color, size, etc. The only issue there might be that in some cases the different product variations exist as individual inventory items, and therefore have their own stock level, weight, images, etc. This is what the ProductCart Apparel Add-on was created for.
This approach, however, does not work nearly as well when the store sells much more complicated items, which are a combination of products available as stand alone items on the store (e.g. hard drives, or outdoor chairs), items not available stand-alone (e.g. microprocessors), and options (e.g. white or black desktop case).
Here is an example to clarify this crucial point. Let’s say your store sells custom furniture (or allows visitors to obtain customized, real-time quotes). Finished pieces of furniture are made of wood panels, cabinets, door knobs, counter tops, and many other items, some of which may also be available for sale as stand alone items (e.g. replacement door knobs), and some of which may not (e.g. wood panels).
The final product (e.g. a custom-configured kitchen), is the combination of a variety of other products. These aren’t just “options”, they are actual products, each with their own price, image, description, weight, inventory level, etc. Some of them may be available for sale as stand-alone items, some may not.
ProductCart Configurator gives you the ability to combine ANY existing products to create a new, configurable one.
In this example, a customizable kitchen may allow the customer to select from 5 of the 10 counter tops carried by the store, 4 of 7 refrigerators, all of the wood paneling, 6 of the 24 types of door knobs in their catalog, etc.
ProductCart Configurator gives store administrators far more flexibility than shopping carts using simple product “options”. To summarize:
- Product options are NOT separate products, but rather attributes of a certain product. Therefore, they are NOT available on the store for purchase as separate products, and they don't have a weight, an inventory level, etc.
- With ProductCart Configurator, a selectable option (e.g. a hard disk that is part of a custom made desktop computer) can be made available for purchase as a separate product. It’s up to the store administrator to decide.
- Because selectable options on a configuration page are actually separate products in the store catalog, the following additional statements are true:
- The customer can have access to more information on each selectable option (description, images, etc.).
- The total weight of the configurable product is calculated dynamically taking into account the individual weights of the selected items.
- The total price changes dynamically based on the selected items and based on the type of customer that is visiting the store (e.g. there can be different prices for different Customer Pricing Categories, such as “preferred customers”).
- Individual items on the configuration page might be out of stock
- Different quantities of a selectable item can be added to the product configuration (if the “Show Quantity Field” option has been enabled for that category of selectable items – see later in this chapter for more information).
- The price of a selectable item within a product configuration can be updated across all configurable products to which the item has been assigned, from one location (e.g. update the price of certain microprocessors in all the custom computers where they can be selected). Of course, the price can also be updated on a product by product basis.
- Some of the selectable items might be incompatible with others.