So your inventory and product categories have grown. Hooray! 🎉 Your store is about to reach next-level status when it comes to offering customers what they want. 

But as a store owner, you may feel overwhelmed, trying to manage it all and keep everything organized. 😩 

Never fear! Your Volusion store has the muscle 💪 to take on as many products as you can load in it and does the managing for you! Simply turn to the Inventory Control Grid, an admin feature available on product edit pages for managing the price and stock status of child products. 

As a refresher, child products 👶 are specific combinations of available product options. For example, if you sell a shirt 👚 that comes in small and large sizes, and red and blue colors, the following combinations are possible:

  • Small blue shirt
  • Small red shirt
  • Large blue shirt
  • Large red shirt

In this case, the shirt would be the "parent product" and each option combination is a "child product." 👨‍👧

Creating the Inventory Control Grid

Before you create an inventory control grid, you should have a strong understanding of product option categories and options.

Creating Smart Match Option Categories and Options

When setting up products with options/child products, you can specify how these options are presented to customers and whether you want to hide options/child products that are out of stock. 

Nothing is worse than disappointing a customer who gets their heart set on a product only to find it’s not available. 😢 With Smart Match, 🤓  they’ll never know what they’re missing! You can do this before creating your inventory control grid:

  1. Go to Inventory > Options in your Admin Area
  2. In the Filter menu at the top of your Options table, select Option Categories
  3. Click Add
  4. Fill out the required information based on the option category you’re adding (for example, Color or Size)
  5. Enter a numeric value in the Display Order field to order your option categories. Option Categories that have a numeric value in this field are displayed on the appropriate product detail pages in order (i.e. 1 at the top, 9999 at the bottom). This will be important for Smart Match options because customers will be presented with First Select and Then Select options based on the order you display your categories. 
  6. From the Display Type menu, select Dropdown Smartmatch
  7. Click Save

If you ever need to disable First Select and Then Select, you can return to the option category and change the Display Type to Dropdown.

After you’ve created Option Categories, you need to create the Options. To add new options, go back to Inventory > Options and click Add.

Check out our Smart Match article to learn more about this feature.

Enabling Options Inventory Control

Once you create options, you need to apply them to your products.

For the Smart Match system to hide option/child products when they are out of stock, the parent product must have Do Not Allow Backorders selected in Advanced Settings > Stock, and Hide When Out Of Stock de-selected in Advanced > Product Display.

  1. Go to Inventory > Products and select the product to which you want to add options
  2. Under Basic Info next to Options, click Select Options
  3. Select the options you want to add and click Save
  4. Ensure the box for Enable Options Inventory Control is checked
  5. Click Save

Now, when you scroll down the product page to the Inventory Control Grid for "ProductCode" section and expand it, you will see the new child products created by these options.

The number of child products will depend on the number of options that are applied, and the number of option categories that were used. Think of it as a children crossing zone! 🚸 

As a simple example, let's say you create a T-shirt product 👕  with two option categories: size and color. In the size option category, you create options of small, medium and large; and in the color option category, you create options of green, blue and red. Turning on the Inventory Control Grid will create the following child products from your parent T-shirt product:

  • Small green t-shirt
  • Small blue t-shirt
  • Small red t-shirt
  • Medium green t-shirt
  • Medium blue t-shirt
  • Medium red t-shirt
  • Large green t-shirt
  • Large blue t-shirt
  • Large red t-shirt

Organizing the Inventory Control Grid

Once you create child products using the Enable Options Inventory Control checkbox, they appear in the Inventory Control Grid section, beneath the Advanced Info panel of the product page.

You can organize the grid by clicking View All Options (which shows a table of the options that have been applied to the product) and View All Child Products (a table of all child products  belonging to the parent product. 👨‍👦)

The table in this section lists the child products and the settings that can be modified from this page. This table can be used as a shortcut to quickly update settings such as stock values for child products. You can also delete any combinations that are not available. The settings for each child product displayed in this table are as follows:

Option ID: 

Clicking this will take you to the product options settings page

Option Category: The ID and name of the product options category an option ID is contained in; clicking an option category ID will redirect to the option category's settings page

Option Description: The name of a product option applied to a child product

Option OrderBy: The order that options will appear in, on the product page; those with the same Order By value will be listed in alphabetic order

Option PriceDiff: The price difference for each option to be applied to the price of any associated child product

Product Price: The price of each child product; you can modify the base price of any child product here.

Stock Status: The current stock value of each child product is listed in this column; you can manually increase it by adding a positive value, or decrease it by adding a negative one. 

Inventory Grid ProductCode: The fields in this column contain the product code of each child product, which can be modified as needed. By default, if your store is configured to auto-create all child products, the product codes of each child product will be a variant of the parent product's product code (e.g. ABC123-0001, ABC123-0002, etc.).

When you’re finished making changes in the grid, click Save Changes at the bottom of the grid.


Using Your Own Unique Product Codes for Child Products

If you don’t want to use the automatically generated child product code extensions (-0001, -0002, etc.), you can assign your own like so:

  1. If you’ve already created child products in the Inventory Control Grid that are using the -0001, -0002, etc. product code extensions, go to your main Products table and delete those child products, leaving only the parent product
  2. Go to Inventory > Products > Settings > All Products Settings
  3. Deselect Enable Smart Match and click Save
  4. To prompt the Save button to appear, go back into the parent product page where the options are already applied, add a space to the product description and then delete it. Click Save. Enable Options Inventory Control should still be checked.
  5. Now, scroll to Inventory Control Grid for “ProductCode" and expand it, if necessary. You will see the grid that was created using your options, but all of the Inventory Grid ProductCodes will have the same product code as the main parent product.
  6. Add on your own unique extensions to the product codes as desired (ex.: -S, -M and -L for Small, Medium and Large options).
  7. Click Save Changes
  8. A message will appear at the top of the grid window stating The Following Products Did Not Exist, Therefore Were Automatically Created For You. Below the message is a list of the new child products (with your custom product codes) that will now be in the grid.

⚠️  Good to Know: If you use these instructions to create your own child product codes, you should be sure to turn back on Enable Smart Match if you would like for options to be hidden from customers on the storefront product page when those options are out of stock. Remember, you don’t want to disappoint your customers by offering something they can’t have!

Changing Product Codes for Child Products That Already Exist

If you‘ve already created your child products and have a full Inventory Control Grid, but would like to change those child product codes, there are a couple of ways to do it.

First, make sure the parent product page is only open in one browser tab or window of your browser when you are changing the codes. Only navigate back to the parent product and the Inventory Control Grid after you’re finished changing the codes for each child product, and be sure to click into the parent product from the Products table. 

⚠️  Heads Up: Keeping the parent product tab/window open and reloading it after you change child product codes will cause your child products to be duplicated.

If you make the changes to all of the child product codes at the same time in the Inventory Control Grid of the parent product, the system will duplicate all of the child products in your product database and you will have to go to Inventory > Products and delete all of the old child products with the -0001, -0002, etc. product code extensions. 

There’s nothing wrong with changing the product codes in this way, as long as you’re sure to take the extra step to delete the duplicate child products.

You can also make product code changes individually, like so:

  1. Go to Inventory > Products and click Search
  2. In the Code field, type the parent product code and click Search
  3. The results should list the parent product and all of the child products that were created when you saved your options with Enable Options Inventory Control enabled
  4. Click into the first child product with the -0001 extension
  5. Make your changes to the Code field and click Save
  6. Repeat this process for each child product individually

You can also click the Edit (pencil) icon ✏️  next to each child product in the Inventory Control Grid and edit the Code as you would above.

If you see a bold red message in the Inventory Control Grid area stating The Following Products Did Not Exist, Therefore Were Automatically Created For You, then you have created duplicate child products. In this case, go to your Products table and find the unwanted duplicate child products and delete them to keep your product database streamlined and aligned with the info in the parent product Inventory Control Grid area.

Images for Products in the Inventory Control Grid

If your products come in a variety of colors or finishes, you can use a small image — AKA a swatch 🔴  — to show each of these options to your customers. 

Before you begin, make sure you have created the product images and corresponding small swatch images, and that you know where you’ve saved them. The product images should all be the same size to avoid distortion.

  1. Go to the product (with an Inventory Control Grid) where you would like to upload the swatch images
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the product page, to the section marked Option Color Swatches
  3. For each option, click Add to open the Browse boxes for that option's Swatch Image and Medium & Large Images
  4. Browse for the Swatch Image and Medium & Large Images per option and click Upload Photos

If you view the product on your storefront, you will now see the options drop-down, along with swatch images. When you click a swatch image, the product picture will change and populate with the medium image, where you can zoom to view the large image.

Note that when a customer uses the swatch image to select an option for a product and adds it to their cart, the thumbnail image in the customer's shopping cart will be the main product image thumbnail, not the swatch image. 

Despite not showing the swatch image, the shopping cart will show the correct description and add the correct product to the customer's cart. 🛒

Swatch Images and FTP

If you need to reference any of your swatch images externally, the images can be found and referenced here: http://www.yourvolusionstore.com/v/vspfiles/photos/options

If you go into the /vspfiles/photos/options folder in your FTP, you will find all of your Swatch and Medium images with the naming conventions in the table below.

Photo Name Extension: -S
Photo Name: Swatch
Product Page Location: Directly above the list or drop-down of product options under the corresponding option category on the product detail page
Full File Name: [productcode]-[optionid]-S.[fileextension]
Photo Name Extension: -T
Photo Name: Medium
Product Page Location: where the main product photo appears on the product detail page when the corresponding product option is selected or the corresponding swatch image is clicked
Full File Name: [productcode]-[optionid]-T.[fileextension]
[productcode] is the product code of the product where you uploaded the images.
 [optionid] is the numeric identifier of the product option for the image.
 [fileextension] is the file type, which should be either jpg for JPEG files or gif for GIF files.

Creating All Child Products Using Imports

You may want to create a large number of child products for multiple products at once, and avoid creating the Inventory Control Grid one product at a time. The Import/Export function lets you create child products for a large number of parent products (product option categories and options must already be created).

Keep in mind that you can also use the Import/Export function to import the option categories and options. The steps below assume the necessary options have already been created.

Retrieving OptionIDs

  1. Go to Inventory > Import/Export and click Standard Export
  2. In the Export From menu, select Options
  3. You should export all the columns you need to identify which Option IDs correspond with which options (at minimum, you will likely need the fields for ID and OptionsDesc)
  4. In the File Format menu, select CSV - Comma Delimited Text File and click Export
  5. Click to download the file to your computer and open in Excel or similar spreadsheet program

Keep the file open on your computer. You’ll need to have it on hand to retrieve the option ID numbers for the next steps.

Now, export your Products table to get the column headers and product information for the products you are adding options to. This will create child products and the Inventory Control Grid.

Importing Product Options Information

  1. Go to Inventory > Import/Export and click Standard Export
  2. In the Export From menu, select Products
  3. If you’re adding options to products that already exist in your database, you can export only the columns for ProductCode, OptionIDs and EnableOptions_InventoryControl. If you’re adding new products to your database, you should export all the relevant columns, such as the columns for ProductName (required), ProductPrice (required) and ProductDescription. If you import new products to your database without the three required columns, you will see a warning message about those products in the Settings > Maintenance page of your Admin Area.
  4. In the File Format menu, select CSV - Comma Delimited Text File and click Export
  5. Click to download the file to your computer and open it in Excel
  6. Use the Options Excel file that you exported above to retrieve the relevant option ID number that you would like to apply to each product
  7. In the OptionIDs column of the Products file, fill in the option ID numbers for each product (separated by a comma, with no spaces and no trailing commas)
  8. For each product that you add OptionIDs to, put a capital letter "Y" in the column for EnableOptions_InventoryControl
  9. Fill in any other fields you would like to import, making sure that ProductCode is the first column in the file, there are no blank columns in the file and that the last column is fully populated
  10. Save the file as a CSV document
  11. Go to Inventory > Import/Export and click Standard Import
  12. In the Import To menu, select Products
  13. Browse for the file you just saved, select Yes, Replace Any Existing Data With My New Updated Data and click Import

⚠️ Heads Up: Don’t put a "Y" in the EnableOptions_InventoryControl column for any products that do not have options. This may cause an error in the maintenance tool, which creates all Inventory Control Grids.

Now, you’ve imported all of the info that’s required to create all the child products and Inventory Control Grids. Simply importing the options will not create the grids by default. There’s just one more step to create all of your child products.

Creating Inventory Control Grids

  1. Go to Settings > Maintenance
  2. Click Reassign Inventory Control Grid to open the maintenance choices for editing Grids
  3. Check the box for Create All Inventory Control Grids
  4. Click Perform Maintenance Now

❗ Heads Up: As you will see in bold red Warning text, this tool is extremely resource intensive and could take a long time to run. Your storefront will likely be very slow while this is running, and we don’t recommend that you continue making edits to your Admin Area until it is finished. Plan to do this at a time when you don’t need to do any other work on your store and when customer traffic is likely to be low, such as the middle of the night.

The Parent Product Code Field 

You may notice a Parent Product Code field available in the Products table. This field will automatically populate with the parent product code when the child product is created using the Enable Options Inventory Control checkbox. 

⚠️ Good to Know: It cannot be used to retroactively apply a child product to a parent product, because the system will not know which Options combinations should match with which child products.

Reassigning Inventory Control Grid OrderBy

By default, options will appear in the drop-down on the product detail page in alphabetical order. This works well for options like color, but for size options, you probably don't want Small to appear after Medium. 

When creating individual options, you are able to set an order by filling in the Arrange Options By field for each option. When you enter a numerical value into the Arrange Options By field, such as “001,” the product options will be displayed in the option category drop-down on the product detail page in ascending order based on the value entered. That way you can arrange the products any way you want (such as by putting your best sellers first)! 😁

If you didn’t configure Arrange Options By for each option before applying the options to products and creating your Inventory Control Grids, you can update this field and alter the display of your storefront product details page easily.

  1. Go to Inventory > Options
  2. Click the first option that you want to change the order for
  3. Under Advanced Info, fill in the order number in the Display Order field
  4. Click Save

Repeat these steps for each option until you’ve specified the full sequential order for the options.

You are also able to make these changes from the Options table view. If you don’t see the Arrange Options By (Display Order) column on your default Options table view …

  1. Use the Customize button to open the pop-up
  2. Select the Arrange Options By checkbox
  3. Click Apply Changes
  4. Click the Edit icon at the top of the Arrange Options By column to open it for editing
  5. Enter the order numbers from the table view
  6. Click Save

After you've made the Arrange Options By changes … 

  1. Go to Settings > Maintenance
  2. Click Reassign Inventory Control Grid
  3. Select Re-Assign Orderby For All Inventory Control Grids box
  4. Click Perform Maintenance Now

This will reassign the order for all products with Arrange Options By updates. You can also use this tool to update the order of option categories on a product detail page (for products with more than one option category). 

To update the order of the Inventory Control Grid for a single product, go to the product's Inventory Control Grid section of the product page and click Save Changes.

Adding and Deleting Child Products from the Grid

It’s a best practice to delete child products before adding a new option (from a new option category) to a product. 

The new option will recreate the Inventory Control Grid without any issues, but the products that were in the grid will not be deleted; they will simply be orphaned child products. These orphan child products will take up space in your product database and cut into your hosting plan's product limit.

You’ll also want to delete all child products if you’re making a change to the parent product's settings that also needs to change on the child products’. For instance, adding a manufacturer. 

If you don’t recreate the child products using the settings from the parent product (by deleting and re-adding the child products), then you’ll need to manually make the same update for each child product.

Lastly, if you have Enable Smart Match selected in Inventory > Products > Settings, Volusion will be generating unique product codes for all child products (-0001, -0002, etc.). 

When you add an option to a parent product and allow the system to regenerate the Inventory Control Grid without deleting the previous entries, the numbers of the automatically generated product codes will not start at -0001 and may cause confusion.

Importing Options to Product Database

You can import an OptionIDs field to the Products table but, keep in mind, you can’t import the Apply to Product Codes field on the Options table. This means you must update the Products table to import any mass of options and use the Create All Inventory Control Grids maintenance function.

⚠️  Heads Up: When importing the OptionIDs field in a CSV file, be careful that Excel (or any other CSV editing program) doesn’t format your list of Option ID numbers as a very large number. This will be of most concern to merchants whose Option IDs are exclusively 3-digit numbers.

If this happens, you should change the data type for the column in Excel to Text. That way, Excel won’t attempt to change the formatting of your listed option ID numbers and you’ll avoid error messages when you try to import the file into your Volusion products database. 👍

Update Price Button

The Update Price button will appear on the storefront product page when PriceDiff is configured for an option that is applied to the product.

At this time, there is no default way to force a product price to automatically update when a customer selects an option with a PriceDiff configured. The Update Price button, instead, allows customers to manually click to see the new price of a product after they select their desired options.

Summary

The Inventory Control Grid is a convenient tool for updating the most common settings for child products. Creating and using it on your product pages can make inventory management faster and smoother, especially if you sell products with multiple options. This way, you’ll have more time for your own child products. 🐶 🐱

 

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