Magento: Configurable Products VS. Grouped Products

Magento’s configurable products are great. But I’ve run into some things about them that I do not like. If you are just selecting colors, sizes, or simple options where the price doesn’t change, or it changes very little, then configurable products are awesome. When you run into an instance where there are significant price differences, then configurable products can really stink.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you’ve got some large rolls of paper being sold. There are 3 different sizes of the same paper. The 32″ is $365.95, the 40″ is $411.30, and the 48″ is $486.73. If you aren’t that familiar with configurable products, you have to set a price for the configurable product, then if any of the options have a higher price, you have to figure out the math and add the difference. So, in this situation, if I set my configurable product to $365.95, I would have to mark the 40″ as $45.35. So, the pull down would say something like ’42” (+45.35)’. I wouldn’t know the true price until I selected the 42″. And, if the price ever changes for any of these different sizes, I have to do the math every time and I can only update the prices through the configurable product. The prices for the simple products have no effect for a configurable product. Understand the issue here?

So – there’s a better option, namely, grouped products. Grouped products do act differently, but once you figure them out, I really like using them for situations like this. Grouped products are mainly meant to “group” different products together. Magento’s example is if you are buying a men’s suit. You’ll need a jacket, pants, button-down, tie, etc. You can group all those together. This is beneficial because you can not only sell a single button-down shirt individually, but you can also sell that same shirt (same SKU) in a suit set and still maintain the SKU, price, etc. just with one simple product.

In our situation though – we can conform our grouped product to have basically the same “product” in a sense, but just different sizes. So, we can make our simple products for the 32″, 40″, and 48″ rolls of paper, set them all to have visibility of “nowhere”, and associate them with our grouped product, and then you’ve got a “single” product with 3 different sizes of paper with a nice display of how much the different sizes cost. So – if the price changes for the 48″, simple change the price for the 48″ simple product and the grouped product shows the new price.

So, if you’ve been frustrated with configurable products that have different or odd price differences, consider trying a grouped product.

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27 Responses to Magento: Configurable Products VS. Grouped Products

  1. Monica says:

    I realize I’m late to the game. I’m struggling with the parent/child sku for grouped products as I have 338 fragrances each with 20 products. I want to have 1 fragrance with all 20 products on a single page and then pass the fragrance name (parent sku) along with the product (child sku) to the cart. Currently the child sku is the only one coming through and I have no idea what fragrance has been ordered. Any suggestions are welcome.

  2. With our Grouped Options extension,, simple products with required custom options and configurable products can be associated with grouped products in Magento.

  3. Donna Gordon says:

    I am a retailer for imported food products and I just started selling on Amazon. I didn’t believe that people would buy just 1 of our items and then pay more for shipping but that is exactly what is happening. I now want to sell only by the case on Amazon. I’m not sure how to handle this when it comes to inventory. What type of product should I have? For example, on my site I sell Cadbury Flake Bars individually but we have a minimum order of $20. There are 24 Flake bars in a case and I want to sell the case on Amazon. I have the Camiloo’s Amazon Integration module to automate uploading of inventory, prices and downloading of orders. How would I handle this?



  4. Giuseppe Barbiero says:

    Hi guys, is possible to add a non simple product in a bundle product in magento?

    that is necessary for my work .

    F.e. I sell football shirt

    I sell letters and number for printings

    So i create ( f.e. ) grouped product for a name of player ( eg. Lampard 8 is composed by 1 L – 2 A – 1 M – 1 P – 1 R – 1 D and 1 x number 8 ) and all chelsea players , so I can control stock of letters

    Then I create a chelsea shirt, with sizes apart and include players by adding the previous grouped product or another bundle with all players

    Thanks for any help

  5. Marlene says:


    I have 3 simple products I am trying to group. I have everything looking good, the grouped product shows up but the simple products do not show up in the store. Anyone else have this problem?

  6. frank says:

    Thanks for your info. I have been using configurable products for my items as I sell items with different sizes. (IE: size 7).

    My question is with the “shop by” section that shows up when a customer clicks on a category. For some reason they are not showing the sizes when using the configurable product. When I used to have it set as all simple products it would have a nice list there so people could sort/choose a size not that has gone away using configurable. Anyway to keep this?


  7. James Winfield says:

    I’m trying to do something which shouldnt be so complex but I’m really struggling! I want to sell cupcakes in groups of 6. So lets say the user clicks on “Red Iced Classic Cupcake” I want them to be able to select either 6, 12 or 24 and the price obviously changes! But so far it seems as if I have to have a price for “Classic Red Cupcakes” but this doesnt have a price! Can I do something like a grouped product and have the price of the grouped product as £0.00 and a price only applies once they choose their quantities?

  8. Erik Hansen says:

    @Richard – It actually can be done. Elias Interactive created a sweet module that enables this functionality:

    We’ve implemented their module with some modifications on a site we manage. It pulls in product photos for each of the products. Here is a screenshot of the customization: If you want the code to implement the image gallery for each product, ask Elias for the code as I shared it with them.

    Hope that helps!

  9. David Oliver says:

    I’m using a bundled product type which is good apart from the lack of quantity fields attached to the checkboxes. I’m hoping this will do the trick:

    Thought it might be of use to some of you.

  10. Richard Owen says:

    I have an odd question all the products on my site are set up as configurable with options such as size and colour which are populated with simple products. but what I am really trying to do is to group two or more configurable products together. Any help here would be great as its a real mind puzzle

  11. Patti says:

    Thanks for this post Josh.
    This is exactly the info I was looking for.

  12. Alex says:

    Thank you!
    Does anybody know how to set custom options with magento API?

  13. chris says:

    I am hoping someone might be able to steer me in the right direction. I am creating a music store using Magento where I am offering albums as mp3 downloads. I wish to be able to offer the user the option of either downloading a single zip file containing the all of the mp3 files from a particular album or to be able to download each track individually – much like the experience on iTunes.

    I seem to have come unstuck when I create a new downloadable product (the album), add the products (.zip files containing either one or all mp3’s from each album) and then set the product as “Links can be purchased separately – YES”. It all works fine except for the way the final prices are calculated. I want the price of the entire mp3 album to be displayed in the list view but only the actual price of items added to be to the cart. What currently happens when a user adds any of the items to the cart the cost of the entire album (in all cases $21.23) is added plus the cost of the actual track … sorry if this sounds confusing. The site is currently online and configured as I have just described – it might make more sense if viewed:

    I think I am on the right track with assuming that grouping downloadable products together might be the way to go but I am struggling to get my head around how to configure it. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Cool & Deadly says:

      Hi Chris,

      I’m having the same issue. I’m looking for a way to group downloadable products.

      – Grouped Products can only contain simple products (no downloadable products) and there’s no “group price” (for the whole album).
      – within Bundle Products the album could only be purchased as one (no option for single tracks)

      Have you found a solution ??
      Maybe I missed something, because since Magento has implemented downloadable products one must suggest that they considered this case..

  14. “And sometimes a merchant just need to call a developer”

    Word! :-)

  15. bonnie says:

    You said that you were able to get your configurable to add the extra cost per option. How did you do that? Were you making the various sizes options with custom options or did you find a way to make it add to the prices of the simple products. Right now I am trying to get an increase of $2 on one of my simple products associated to a configurable product without having to make it a grouped product. If you could tell me how you did that with your configurable product in your example I’d really appreciate it!


  16. Alduro says:

    Thanks Josh for your quick answer.
    I think I will create an admin module in order to build one or more simple screen for loading Courses. My client can do data entry for 20 or 30 schools following magento’s way but behind that it is not scalable.That is what my client is looking for.

  17. Alduro says:

    Hi, I’ve been reading your posts and I was wondering what would you say about a good way to configure these products I have:
    my client sells English Courses. Each course has weeks of duration so a course can last 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks and so on and each of them has their price. How should I configure this into magento ? a different SKU by Course – duration weeks combination as simple products and 1 main Configurable one ? The Course also have different start date depending on duration.
    The problem I run into is: how to configure this into magento and how to speed up the data entry time.


    • Josh Pratt says:


      I think you’ll just have to play around with it, but yes, that is where I would start. Configurable product based on course duration. It should be pretty simple. Create your attribute for course duration (making sure it is a dropdown, and can be used to create a configurable product). Then create your configurable product, and then use that to create your simple products (on the Associated Products tab on the bottom left).

  18. akiles says:

    Great work..


  19. jbean628 says:

    Here is a tough question. I need to group products as in the example above with the paper. However, my products are customized (monogrammed) and the customer needs to fill in “custom options”. Configurable and simple products offer the ability to create ‘custom options’, but the grouped product type does not. I have created them for the associated simple products. Does anyone know how to get them to show up?

  20. Absolutely,

    In your case, grouped product is the solution. It would be a little tricky if a grouped product would have simple products with custom options.

    The most important thing with Magento is to understand how each product type works. Simple, grouped, bundled, configurable, downloadable. Sometimes the solution to a complex variations can be found by combination of those types.

    And sometimes a merchant just need to call a developer 😉

  21. This evidently has a lot to do with the catalogue – my postulate is in regards to product variations is signified by attributes – and that each child need a distinct SKU to be synched properly to the ERP system – according to the existing ERP database /SKU structure

  22. “buying a configurable product resulted in the parent SKU showing on the order (the cart and the order also showed the child SKU, but the main SKU was the parent). That worked great for my setup, but some people called it a bug, so in 1.1.6 they changed it to result in the child SKU.”

    IMO the change above was an absolute necessity in case the shop at some point needs to be integrated with the company ERP system – eg. to sync items in stock and decrease manual labor of doing orders.

  23. Joy says:

    I am using configurable products the way you described grouped products. But my prices don’t change, so I don’t have that problem. The products are shoes and all the information is in the configurable except for the size, which is carried in the simple product and is reused for all the shoes.

    One problem I ran into recently is the parent vs. the child SKU. In Magento 1.1.3, buying a configurable product resulted in the parent SKU showing on the order (the cart and the order also showed the child SKU, but the main SKU was the parent). That worked great for my setup, but some people called it a bug, so in 1.1.6 they changed it to result in the child SKU. Now my bestseller list shows sizes! (child SKUs) There is an admin option to choose which image to use in the cart (Parent or Child), but they didn’t add an option for which SKU to use.

    The point is to be careful how you advocate setting up products, because we all decide to do it differently and what works today might change tomorrow.