When to Use a Plugin for WooCommerce Product Options

Not sure whether to use WooCommerce attributes and variations or a WooCommerce product options plugin? 🤔

In this post, we’ll explore the pros and cons of using variations versus product options. Then, we’ll talk about what types of eCommerce sites may need a plugin to create advanced product options.

WooCommerce variations vs product options, including pros and cons

Out of the box, WooCommerce doesn’t support product options. If you want this feature on your 🛒 store, you’ll need a plugin.

For that reason, you’ll want to carefully consider whether you even need product options in the first place. To that end, let’s consider the pros and cons of both variations and WooCommerce product options.

🎛️ Variations

Variations are a core WooCommerce feature that let you create distinct versions of a product using product attributes.

This feature enables you to create different versions of the same item. For instance, if you manage a clothing store, you can offer multiple sizes of the same product.

If you sell a “Brand T-Shirt” product, you might add a “Size” attribute with options for “Small”, “Medium”, and “Large”. This would generate three distinct products:

  • Brand T-Shirt Small
  • Brand T-Shirt Medium
  • Brand T-Shirt Large

Each product would have its own price and SKU.

Let’s go over a complete list of the pros and cons of using variations in WooCommerce.

Pros 👍

  • Doesn’t require an additional plugin (it’s included in WooCommerce)
  • Automatically synchronizes the stock of a product, hiding variable items that are sold out
  • Creates an SKU for each variable product

Cons 👎

  • Requires you to create ‘Attributes’ for all relevant items first
  • Relies on a manual process, so setting up each individual variation can be time-consuming
  • Doesn’t allow for visual customization unless you add another plugin like Variation Swatches for WooCommerce (variable products can only be shown in a drop-down menu by default)
  • Limits front-end viewing for products with more than 30 variations
  • Lots of variations can clog up your database

If you’re still deciding whether or not this feature will meet your store’s needs, consider checking out our complete guide to setting up WooCommerce variations. This way, you can see exactly what it entails.

🛍️ Product options

Product options let you collect additional information about a product based on customer input.

A common example would be customizable products.

For example, let’s say you sell a pocket watch. You could add a product option that lets shoppers add their own custom engraving to the back of the watch.

There’s one underlying product, but shoppers can customize it using product options. Each product option might also have an associated cost that’s added on to the price of the base product.

As we mentioned earlier, WooCommerce doesn’t support product options in the core software. However, you can use dedicated product options plugins to get the exact customization features you’re looking for.

Let’s discuss the general pros and cons of using advanced WooCommerce product options.

Pros 👍

  • Allows you to add multiple custom field options for variable items
  • Lets you modify the product’s price based on customer input, including using calculation fields (such as charging by the number of letters in an engraving)
  • Gives you more options to customize the interface
  • Won’t occupy as much database space as variations

Cons 👎

  • Sometimes product options don’t synchronize with stock (though premium tools often do)
  • The product will still only have one SKU normally – you can’t give each variation its own SKU (this might not be a bad thing, though – it depends on your needs)

When it comes to plugins for WooCommerce product options, there are tons of options available. These can provide you with more advanced features and will enable you to optimize and streamline your product management process.

When to use a plugin for WooCommerce product options

In general, you’ll want to use core product variations and attributes when you need to control the stock of each individual variant.

For example, if you have 10 small “Brand T-Shirts”, 7 medium “Brand T-Shirts”, and 6 large “Brand T-Shirts”, product variations let you keep track of the stock status for each individual SKU.

On the other hand, product options are generally a better option for more complex product configurations, especially customizable products.

While attributes and variations might work for very simple product configurations, product options will give you a lot more flexibility.

This is especially true for any store that provides on-demand personalization, as that will normally require more than the simple dropdown menu that variations allow:

Popup product options for design and custom text fields.
Image credit: Bed Bath & Beyond

For example, if your shop makes custom mugs, you’ll need to include a field where the customer can input their desired text and any additional customizations.

Since each product is by definition unique, you don’t need a separate SKU for each product customization. You can just have one SKU for the underlying product – e.g. a blank white mug – and then let shoppers add their own customizations on top of that using product options.

If you choose to use a WooCommerce product options plugin, you’ll be able to manage large amounts of variable items more efficiently. Most tools enable you to save your preferred settings and offer more advanced bulk actions.

Plus, the majority of plugins for product options will offer additional choices when it comes to customizing your product pages. For example, you could use a plugin that lets you create a pop-up, as shown in the example above.

How to use the Product Addons & Fields for WooCommerce (PPOM) plugin

If you do want to use product options, you’ll need the help of a dedicated WooCommerce product options plugin.

There are various tools that can help you create WooCommerce product options. In this tutorial, we’ll be using Product Addons & Fields for WooCommerce (PPOM).

This plugin lets you add custom fields and add-ons to your product pages. Plus, it comes with a drag-and-drop form builder, which makes it super easy to customize your product options.

Before you begin, make sure you install and activate the plugin on your WordPress site.

Step 1: Set up your meta group

The PPOM plugin allows you to create ‘meta groups’ which you can then apply to a single item. This way, you’ll be able to create product options faster.

To do this, go to WooCommerce > PPOM Fields and click on Add New Group. In the General tab, you’ll need to give your meta group a name. We’ll be naming ours “Hoodies”:

Product meta basic settings for the PPOM plugin.

Then, use the dropdown menu to choose how prices are displayed on the front end:

Controlling the price display for WooCommerce product options.

You can opt to exclude or include a price table. Alternatively, you might decide to only show the price of the selected product option.

You can also configure your group to be applied against categories. Under the Style tab, you have the option to add custom CSS or Javascript.

When you’re happy with your selections, you can move on to the next step.

Step 2: Add your fields

Now you can add the fields that will create your product options. To get started, click on the blue Add Field button:

Selecting WooCommerce product options field in PPOM settings.

As you can see, you’ll get nine different field options with the free plugin. However, if you upgrade to a Pro plan, you’ll get more than 30. These options include advanced choices like a font picker, images, a price matrix, and more.

We’ll go ahead and choose a Text Input field:

The Text Input field settings in the PPOM plugin.

This field is ideal for products that allow for personal customizations, like names and messages. Here, you’ll want to include a Title and a Description at a minimum.

When you’re finished, click on Add Field followed by Save Fields.

Step 3: Update your product

Finally, navigate to Products > All Products and locate the item that you want to add a meta group to:

WooCommerce products on the back-end of a WordPress dashboard.

Next, click on Edit and scroll down to the Product data panel. Here, click on PPOM Fields and select the group you created in the previous step:

PPOM Fields settings in Product data.

Remember to click on Update when you’re ready. This is what your new custom product option will look like on the front end:

A front-end view of a WooCommerce product with a custom text field.

As you can see, the PPOM plugin is highly intuitive and straightforward. While the above design is pretty basic, you can unlock tons of added customization options (for both fields and appearance) with a Pro plan.

🧐 Conclusion

Deciding whether or not your online store may benefit from advanced WooCommerce product options can be tricky. In the end, it really depends on how you manage your products and what choices you want to offer to customers.

Straightforward stores can probably stick with WooCommerce’s native variations feature, especially if you want the ability to separately manage stock for each variation.

However, shops selling more customizable items will likely need to use a plugin to enable product options. Product options can also just generally be more convenient to use if stock management isn’t as important to you.

If you want to use product variations, check out 👉 our guide to WooCommerce variations.

If you want to use product options, the Product Addons & Fields for WooCommerce (PPOM) enables you to add custom fields and extra options 🚀 on your product pages.

Do you have any questions about using WooCommerce product options? Let us know in the comments section below!

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