Life is full of choices. Every time you buy something, you are offered a set of options to choose from. Small, Medium, Large? Red, Blue or Green? For certain purchases – clothing for example – being able to buy the same item in different sizes and different colors is absolutely essential.

Every ecommerce platform worth its salt allows the merchant to set up his web store so that he can offer these choices across his products. Retailers refer to these choices as “Product Options”.

If you are using Shopsite shopping cart , it allows different ways in which you can set up your webstore to present product options to your shoppers. One of the ways, as explained in this tutorial is to create one or more pull-down menus on the product page. Here is a 4-minute video tutorial explaining the same. This approach seems quick and simple until you think more about the inventory management and accounting side of the story.

For inventory management and for accounting purposes, merchants typically need to keep track of their stock and their sales at an individual product level. In fact, the term SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) refers to the absolute basic unit at which you want to measure the inventory / sales information. However, in the approach that I have mentioned above, there is only one SKU, but multiple options attached to it. This means that you can no longer track how many units of the “Red-Small-Shirt” you sold. Instead, you can only track how many units of “Shirt” you sold. In effect, you are losing granularity of information.

Most merchants who start off using the Product-Options route soon hit a roadblock when they try to manage inventory and monitor their sales at the SKU level. Here is a post from Eamon Rodeck of Merchant Corner (a ShopSite e-commerce design & development agency) highlighting the problem and proposing a solution.

If you are a Shopsite merchant, you know that this is a well known problem within the Shopsite community. To avoid falling into this trap, many reasonably large merchants go the route of setting up individual SKUs for every product combination they sell. And Shopsite allows you to show all these SKUs in the same page with dropdown menus even though in the backend they are all different SKUs, so that is a viable option.

However, many smaller merchants are stuck in the old way, unable to do inventory management, because they chose the route of Product-Options. At Ordoro, we have been thinking about this problem for quite a while now, and we have finally figured out a way to help out these smaller merchants do order management and inventory management without them having to completely redo their Shopsite web store.

Ordoro now works with Product Options in Shopsite

Last week, we added a feature that allows Ordoro to integrate well with the Product Options functionality of Shopsite. This means that Ordoro can now do order management, inventory management and purchasing management for both types of Shopsite merchants –

  1. Merchants who use single SKU with multiple product options
  2. Merchants who use individual SKUs for every product option combination

It has been a lot of work digging into the Shopsite XML structure for the both representations. So I thought it is worthwhile to share our design in case you are writing a program to do inventory management on your own, or if you are trying to integrate Shopsite with another inventory management program. (Just to clarify, Ordoro does all of this stuff without you having to meddle with any settings or code)

How Shopsite represents Product-Options

Here is an example for a Product Options representation in the products.xml file that you can download from Shopsite (via the Shopsite admin UI).

<Name>I love Austin T-Shirt</Name>
<MenuItem>Navy Blue</MenuItem>
<MenuItem>Green Blue Floral</MenuItem>
<MenuItem>Small (2-4) </MenuItem>
<MenuItem>Medium (6-8) </MenuItem>
<MenuItem>Large (10-12) </MenuItem>
<MenuItem>XLarge (14)</MenuItem>
<MenuItem>XLarge+ (16)</MenuItem>

From the representation above, you can see that, AUS890 is available in different colors and different sizes. Therefore, this corresponds to

1x3x5 = 15 SKUs

While downloading inventory records from Shopsite, we look for the OptionMenus tag in the XML. And if we find one, we generate all possible combinations of products that can be ordered by the shopper. Note that the number of Menus can be different for every product. In the example above, we create 15 unique SKUs and add them into Ordoro. Now, if you are using Ordoro to do inventory management, you can track inventory for every one of these 15SKUs separately. Exactly the way it should be done.

However, that is only one half of the puzzle. When you are downloading orders from Shopsite, you need to identify exactly which SKU has been ordered. You can no longer rely on just the SKU field in the XML because that does not contain all the information needed. Here is how the same information is represented in the orders.xml file.

<Name>I love Austin T-Shirt</Name>
<SelectedOption>Navy Blue</SelectedOption>
<SelectedOption>XLarge (14)</SelectedOption>

In the example shown above, the true unique identifier for the SKU is –

(AUS890, Color:Navy Blue, Size:XLarge (14))

So, while downloading the Orders file, you need to parse the SelectedOptions field and identify exactly the product that is being ordered. And then you need to match that product with the SKU information you have already generated during the inventory download.

I hope that this blog post clears up the confusion that many Shopsite merchants have regarding inventory management and Product Options. If you are using a different approach to solve the same problem, please do let us know. You can either comment on this blog post, or send us an email at