(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)
Creating product categories, like most things in PrestaShop, is easy and we will cover that soon. First we need to plan the ideal category structure, and this demands a little thought.
Planning your category structure
You should think really hard about the following questions: What is your business key – general scope or specific? Remember, if the usability is complex for you, it will be difficult to get future customers. So what will make the navigation simple and intuitive for your customers? What structure will support any plan you might have for expanding the range in the future? What do your competitors use? What could you do to make your structure better for your customers than anybody else's? When you have worked it out, we will create the category structure and then we will create the content (images and descriptions) for your category pages.
First you need to consider what categories you want for your product range. Here are some examples:
If your business is geared to the general scope, then it could be something like:
- Home and garden
- Fashion, jewelry, and beauty
However, if your business is a closed market, for example electronics, then it could be something like:
- Cameras and photography
- Mobile and home phones
- Sound and vision
- Video games and consoles
You get the idea.
My examples don't have categories, subcategories, or anything deeper just for the sake of it. There are no prizes for compartmentalizing. If you think a fairly fat structure is what your customer wants, then that is what you should do.
If you are thinking, "Hang on, I don't have any categories let alone any subcategories," don't panic. If your research and common sense says you should only have a few categories without any subcategories, then stick to it. Simplicity is the most important thing. Pleasing your customer and making your shop intuitive for your customer will make you more money than obscure compartmentalizing of your products.
Creating your categories
Have your plan close at hand. Ideally, have it written down or, if it is very simple, have it clearly in your head. Enough of the theory, it is now time for action.
Time for action – how to create product categories
Make sure that you are logged into your PrestaShop back office. We will do this in two steps. First we will create your structure as per your plan, then in the next Time for action section, we will implement the category descriptions. Let's get on with the structure of your categories:
- Click on Catalog and you will see the categories. Click on one.
- Now click on the green + symbol to add a new subcategory. PrestaShop defines even your top-level categories as subcategories because the home category is considered to be the the top-level category.
- Just type in the title of your first main category. Don't worry about the other options. The descriptions are covered in a minute and the rest is to do with the search engines.
- You have created your first category.
- Now that you are back to the home category, you can click on the green button again to create your next main category. To do so, save as before and remember to check the Home radio button, when you are ready, to create your next main category.
- Repeat until all top-level categories are created. Have a quick look at your shop front to make sure you like what you see. Here is a screenshot from the PrestaShop demo store:
- Now for the subcategories. We will create one level at a time as earlier. So we will create all the subcategories before creating any categories within subcategories. In your home category, you will have a list of your main categories. Click on the first one in the list that requires a subcategory.
- Now click on the create subcategory + icon. Type the name of your subcategory, leaving the other options, and click on Save.
- Go back to the main category if you want to create another subcategory.
- Play around with clicking in and out of categories and subcategories until you get used to how PrestaShop works. It isn't complicated, but it is easy to get lost and start creating stuff in the wrong place. If this happened to you, just click on the bin icon to delete your mistake. Then pay close attention to the category or subcategory you are in and carry on. You can edit the category order from the main catalog page by selecting the box of the category you want to move and then clicking an up or down arrow.
- Finish creating your full category structure. Play with the category and subcategory links on your shop front to see how they work and then move on.
What just happened?
Superb! Your category structure is done and you should be fairly familiar with navigating around your categories in your control panel.
Now we can add the category and subcategory descriptions. I left it empty until now because as you might have noticed, the category creation palaver can be a bit fiddly and it makes sense to keep it as straightforward as possible. Here are some tips for writing good category descriptions followed by a quick Time for action section for entering descriptions into the category itself.
Creating content for your categories and subcategories
I see so many shops online with really dull category descriptions. Category descriptions should obviously describe but they should also sell! Here are a few tips for writing some enticing descriptions:
- Keep them short—two paragraphs at the most. People do not visit your website to read.
- The detail should be in the products themselves. Similar to a USP, category descriptions should be a combination of fact and emotive description that focuses on the benefit to the customer.
- Try and be as specific as you can about each category and subcategory so that each description is accurate and relevant in its own right. For example, don't let the category steal all the glory from a subcategory.
- It is very important for SEO.
Time for action – adding category descriptions
Be ready with the text for all your categories or you can, of course, type them as you go:
- Go to Catalog and then on the first categories' Edit button.
- Enter your category description and click on Save.
- Click on the subcategories of your first category. Then enter and save a description for each (if any).
- Navigate to the second main category and enter a description. Repeat the same for each of the subcategories in turn.
- Reiterate the preceding steps for each category.
What just happened?
You now have a fully functioning category structure.
Now we can go on to look at adding some of your products.
Click on the Catalog tab and then click on product. It is pretty similar to category.
In the Time for action section, I will cover what to enter in each box as a separate item. However, I will skip over a few items like meta tags because they are best dealt with on a site-wide basis separately.
The other important option is the product description. This deserves special treatment because it needs to be effective at selling your product.
With the categories, I specifically showed you how to create the structure before filling in the descriptions because I know others who have got into a muddle in the past. It is less likely, but still possible, to get into a bit of a muddle with the products as well. This is especially true if you have lots of them.
Perhaps you should be the judge of whether to fill in your catalog before adding descriptions or add descriptions as you go. So here is a handy guide to create great product descriptions. It will help you to decide whether you should fill product descriptions at the same time as the rest of the details, or whether you should just enter the product title and revisit them later to fill in the rest of the details.
Product descriptions that sell
Don't fall into the trap of simply describing your products. It might be true that a potential customer does need to know the dry facts like sizes and other uninspiring information, but don't put this information in the brief description or description boxes. PrestaShop provides a place for bare facts—the Features tab (there will be more on this soon).
The brief description and description boxes that will be described in more detail soon are there to sell to your customers —to increase their interest to a level that makes them "want" the product. It actually suggests they pop it in their cart and buy it.
The way you do this is with a very simple and age-old formula that actually works. And,of course, having whetted your appetite, it would be rude not to tell you about it. So here it goes.
Actually selling the product
Don't just tell your customers about your product, sell them the product. Explain to them why they should buy it! Use the FAB technique—feature, advantage, benefit:
- Tell the customer about a feature:
- This teddy bear is made from a new fiber and wool mix
- This laptop has the brand new i7 processor made by Intel
- This guide was written by somebody who has survived cancer
- And the advantage that feature gives them:
- So it is really, really soft and fluffy!
- i7 is the very first processor series with a DDR3 integrated memory controller!
- So all the information and advice is real and practical
- Then emphasize the real emotive benefit this gives them:
- Which means your little boy or girl is going to feel safe, loved, and secure with this wonderful bear
- Meaning that this laptop gives your applications, up to a 30 percent performance boost over every other processor series ever made
- Giving you or your loved one the very best chance of beating with cancer and having more precious time they have with the people they love
Don't just stop at one feature. Highlight the most important features. By most important features, of course I mean the features that lead to the best most emotive and personal benefits. Not too many though. If your product has loads of benefits, then try and pick just the best ones.
Three is perfect. Three really is a magic number. All the best things come in threes and scientific research actually proves that thoughts or ideas presented in threes influence human emotion the most. If you must have more than three features, summarize them in a quick bulleted list. Three is good:
- Soft, strong, and very long
- Peace, love, and understanding
- Relieves pain, and clears your nose without drowsiness
Ask for the sale
When you have used the FAB technique, ask the customer to part with their money! Say something like, "Select the most suitable option for you and click on Add to cart" or "Remember that abc is the only xyz with benefit 1, benefit 2, and benefit 3.Order yours now!"
Create some images with GIMP
If you have a favorite photo editor then great. If you haven't, then I suggest you use GIMP. It's cool, easy, and free: www.gimp.org.
Time for action – how to add a product to PrestaShop
Let's add some products:
- Click on catalog and then click on product.
- Click on the Add a new product link. You will see the following screenshots. Okay, I admit it. It does look a little bit daunting. But actually it is not that difficult. Much of it is optional, and even more we will revisit after further discussion. So don't despair. There is a table of explanations for you after the screenshots.
- Fill in your product page as described previously.
- Click on the Images tab at the top of the product page.
- Browse to the image you created earlier and upload it. Note that PrestaShop will compress the image for you. It is worth having a look at the final image and maybe varying the amount (if any) that you apply when creating your product images.
- Click on Save and then go and admire your product in your store front.
- Repeat until all your products are done, but don't forget to check how things look from the customer's point of view. Visit the category and product pages to check whether things are like the way you had expected them to be. If you have a huge range that is going to take you a long time, then consider just entering your key products. Proceed with this to get the money coming in and add the rest of your range in a bit over the course of time.
The short name/description of your product. There is a brief description and a full description box later, but perhaps a bit more than a short name should go here.
For example, 50 cm golden teddy bear-extra fluffy version.
Choose Enabled or Disabled. If your product is for sale as soon as you're open, click Enabled. If your product is discontinued or needs to be removed from sale for any reason, click Disabled.
An optional unique reference for your product.
For example, 50cmFT - xfluff.
The European Article Number or barcode. If your product has one (and almost everything does), use it because some people use this for searching or identifying a product.
The Japanese Article Number or barcode. If your product has one (and almost everything does), use it because some people use this for searching or identifying a product.
The USA and Canadian Article Number or barcode. If your product has one (and almost everything does), use it because some people use this for searching or identifying a product.
If you want to show the item on the catalog, only on the search or everywhere.
You can chose if there is a physical product, pack, or a downloadable product.
To make the product available/unavailable to order. To show or hide the price. To enable/disable the online message.
If the item is brand new, second hand, or refurbished.
Here you need to add a brief description about the item.
This text will be shown on the catalog.
When a customer clicks on the item, he will read this text.
Leave blank for now.
What just happened?
Now you have something to actually sell, let's go and showcase some of your products. Here is how to make some of your products stand out from the crowd.
Next is a list of the different ways to promote elements of your range. There is also an explanation of each option and how to do it, as well.
So you have just found some great new products. How do you let your visitors know about it? You could put an announcement on your front page. But what if a potential customer doesn't visit your front page or perhaps misses the announcement?
Welcome to the new products module.
Time for action – how to highlight your newest products
The following are the quick steps to enable and configure the highlighting of any new products you add. Once this is set up, it will happen automatically, now and in the future.
- Click on the Modules tab and scroll down to the New products block module.
- Click on Install.
- Scroll back down to the module you just installed and click on Configure.
- Choose a number of products to be showcased and click on Save.
- Don't forget to have a look at your shop front to see how it works. Click around a few different pages and see how the highlighted product alternates.
What just happened?
Now you are done with new products and they will never go unnoticed.
Special refers to the price. This is the traditional special offer that customers know and love.
Time for action – creating a special offer
The following steps help us create special offers and make sure they will never go unnoticed:
- Click on the Catalog tab and navigate to the category or subcategory that contains the product you want to make available as a special offer.
- Click on the Products to go to its details page.
- Click on Prices and go to the Specific prices section.
- Click on Add a new specific price.
- You can enter an actual monetary amount in the first box or a percentage in the second box. Monetary amounts work well for individual discounts and percentages work well as part of a wider sale. But this is not a hard-and-fast rule. So choose what you think your customers might prefer. Click on Save.
- Now go and have a look at the category that the product is in and click on the product as well. You'll notice the smart enticing manner that PrestaShop uses to highlight the offer. You can have as many or as few special offers as you like.
- But what if you wanted to really push a product offer or a wider sale? Yes, you guessed it, there's a module.
- Click on the Modules tab and scroll down to Specials block and click on Install. Getting the hang of this? Thought so.
- Go and have a look at the effect on your store.
What just happened?
Your first sale is underway.
What's this then? When customers browse products, they forget what they have seen or how to find it again. By prominently displaying a module with their most recent viewings, they can comfortably click back and forth comparing until they have made a buying decision. Now you don't need me to tell you how to set this up. Go to the module, switch it on, and you're done.
This is just what it says. Not necessarily an offer or anything else is special about it. But if it sells, well there must be something worth talking about it. Install the best sellers module in the usual place to highlight these items.
I love accessories. It's all about add-on sales. Ever been to a shop to buy a single item and come out with several? Electrical retailers are brilliant at this. Go in for a PC and come out with a printer, scanner, camera, ink, paper, and the list goes on. Is it because their customers are stupid? Of course they are not! It is because they offer compelling or essential accessories that are relevant to the sale. By creating accessories, you will get a new tab at the bottom of each relevant product page along with PrestaShop making suggestions at key points of the sale.
All we have to do is tell PrestaShop what is an accessory to our various products and PrestaShop will do the rest.
Time for action – creating an accessory
Accessories are products. So any product can be an accessory of any other product. All you have to do is decide what is relevant to what. Just think about appropriate accessories for your products and read on. The quick guide for creating accessories are as follows:
- Click on the Catalog tab, then click on product. Find the product you think should have some accessories.
- Click on it to edit it by navigating to Associations on the page and find the Accessories section, as shown in the following screenshot:
- Find the product that you wish to be an accessory by typing the first letters of the product name and selecting it.
- Save your amended product. You can add as many accessories to each product as you like.
- Go and have a look at your product on your shop front and notice the Accessories tab.
What just happened?
You just learned how to accessorize. It's silly not to accessorize, not because it costs you nothing, but because a few clicks could significantly increase your turnover.
Now we can go on to explore more product ideas.
This is very useful. Suppose you have a range of products and they all have features in common. Take, for instance, teddy bears. They are all made of something. But what if you want to have different groups for material or for size, and you need a simple solution for making that information available without polluting the product description? An example would be useful.
I have a range of teddy bears and they are made from super-soft cotton, micro-fiber, or wool knit. So I create a feature and call it ''Material''. I can then create a range of ''Values'' for ''Material'' such as super-soft cotton, micro-fiber, and wool knit. And I can assign values to any products that I choose.
You can create as many features and associated values as you need. You might want a country of origin feature, with assigned values of ''Europe'', ''China'', and ''India''. You might also have products with a manufacturer's rating. For example, Intel processors. They all have a star rating from one to five. You could create a feature of colors. The important point here is that features are usually used when it is not a fundamental part of the buying decision.
When you create features and values, you assign them to appropriate products. PrestaShop very kindly creates an extra tab on the appropriate page with all the appropriate features and values. The customer might not bother checking these values so clearly; PrestaShop's Features is for additional information that the customer might want to read.
You probably wouldn't create a color feature for a T-shirt. That would be a critical or fundamental part of the buying decision and would almost certainly be in the product description, title, image, or attribute (more in a bit). However, the color of a computer cable would be a secondary or optional requirement and might make a good candidate for a feature.
One thing features are definitely not used for is when that feature makes a difference to the price. Variations like this would be handled by another aspect of PrestaShop that we will cover very soon. Also, features will not show as part of the description when added to the customer's cart. If this is important to you, then Features is not for you.
Think carefully about how PrestaShop's Features can be used for your product range and have a look at the quick manner in which you can implement them.
Time for action – using PrestaShop's features
Here we will implement a range of features and values. I am using the country of origin example; you can choose what is appropriate to your product range.
- Click on Catalog | Features.
- Now click on Add new feature and type the name of your first feature and then click on Save.
- Next click on the Add new feature value button and type the name of the first value of this feature. Select from the drop-down list the new feature, and then click on Save.
- Repeat step 3 for all values of that feature.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 for all of the features you want to create.
- Now click on the Catalog tab again and browse to the category of the first product you want to add a feature to. Click on the product to edit it.
- Now click on Features.
- Select the feature and then the value from the drop-down list and click on Save.
- Go and look at the cool Data sheet tab that has appeared with that product on the shop front.
- Assign as many products and values as you need.
What just happened?
You have now implemented the features option on your product range and have learned that features are for optional or additional product information that does not affect the price.
Now we can go on to explore and discuss product attributes. Attributes sounds fairly dull but in fact is a very powerful feature and in my opinion is probably better implemented in PrestaShop than in any other shopping cart software. This is because PrestaShop makes a potentially complicated process nice and simple.
These are a lot more interesting than the name suggests. PrestaShop allows you to create attribute groups and then actual attributes within those groups, and then assigns them to products. A very quick and simplistic way of describing an attribute would be as a product variation.
For example, attributes are a perfect way to have a single product: teddy T-shirt. Then create a Color attribute group and lots of actual attributes—Red, Blue, Pink, and so on. The customer could then, from one single product page, select any of the available colors for that teddy T-shirt. Have a look at attributes in action:
As you can see, the customer is able to click on a drop-down box and choose from the different attributes (product variations). The first thing to note here is that this is a simplistic example and we will get a bit deeper into this before we try attributes out. The other thing to point out is that just because you might sell a product with multiple variations does not mean you must have attributes.
As an example, I might introduce a range of teddy T-shirts with karate, heart, or skateboarder pictures. I certainly could create an attribute group called style and attribute values of karate, heart, and skateboarder. However, I might decide that displaying all of the styles and their pictures in a list in the teddy T-shirts' category was very important, perhaps to make sure that all the options were clearly visible. In this instance, using attributes wouldn't be a good idea.
So as with other product options in PrestaShop, attributes and their usage need to be considered and planned carefully. Always keep in mind what is best for helping the customer make a purchase!
I said that my example was simplistic. You can actually do so much with attributes that it is really not possible to cover it all in this article. Here are some of the most likely scenarios where attributes are indispensable.
What if my teddy T-shirts came in white, green, blue, and pink? Consider if the white version was £5 and all the colored versions were £7. This is no problem at all. I can create attributes and groups and specify the different increases in price that the different attributes should have. Then when the customer uses the drop-down menu to browse the different options, they would be presented with the correct price. Not only this but the product image can also be varied to show the different options as and when they are selected.
PrestaShop even allows you to specify a new weight for each combination (for shipping purposes), an eco-tax, and different references/barcodes for each variation. PrestaShop even has a ''product combinations generator'' to enable automatic assigning of specified attributes to any given product
Time for action – an attributes example
Here we will see how to create several versions of a product. The customer can then select the one they want from a drop-down list. The product price and images will also be updated:
- Click on Catalog and then on Attributes and Values.
- Let's start by adding an attribute. Click on Add new Attributes and type in the name of your attributes group. In my case, T-shirt styles.
- Notice you have the option to enter a different public name. So you could call your attribute group something different in the admin and shop fronts. If this is important, perhaps to avoid using overly technical terms, then do so. If possible, I would keep them the same to avoid confusion.
- Click on Save when you're ready.
- Next click on Add new value. I will be adding my first T-shirt style—Karate. Then Save it. Keep adding attribute values from different groups until you have added all that you need.
- The color checkbox gives you the facility to provide actual colors, not just descriptions. If you choose these, you will simply enter a color code as well as an attribute value for each option. If you are providing an image for each attribute option, this feature is unnecessary. I suggest leaving it unchecked unless your situation specifically requires it.
- Now we will go to the first product that we need to add these newly created attributes to. So click on Catalog, find the appropriate product, and click on it to edit it.
- Notice the Combinations tab among the other product tabs. Click on it and we will create our product combinations from our attributes.
- At the top, click on new combination.
- Below this click on Add and it will be added to the box. You can add multiple attributes to this product this way, but keep it simple for now and leave it at just one.
- You can now optionally add references, locations, and EAN codes.
- Here is the really good bit. Suppose one option is a bit more expensive, a bit heavier, or has a different eco-tax to the original product to be applied, simply enter that next in the area indicated below:
- Enter an Quantity, or Wholesale price if it is different from the original product. When it comes to Impact on price, select None, Increase or Decrease, then in the quantity box put the amount of the increase or decrease. You can do the same with weight, but as explained when creating products, this is only necessary if you intend to calculate postage using weight.
- If you want to create a different image for this combination, it needs to be previously uploaded on the image tab. You can then simply check the box next to the appropriate image.
- When you're done, click on Save.
- You can now click on the product again, select Combinations again, and add another combination based on different attributes.
- Go and have a look at your product in the shop front to see it in action.
What just happened?
You now know how to create product combinations using attributes.
The last possibility I would like you to just consider is this. Remember accessories? Your customers are shown a range of pre-selected add-on sales to choose from. What about creating attribute groups to match product categories and values to match actual products? Your customers could click on a drop-down menu and instantly add the T-shirt of their choice to their teddy. Nice!
Have a go hero – the combinations generator
If like my teddy T-shirt example you only have a few combinations, that is not a problem. But what about if we had multiple combinations from multiple attribute groups each containing multiple values? The above process could be rather long and frustrating! Fortunately, there is a solution. The clue is in the Have a go hero title.
Here's the answer:
Simply click on the combinations generator at the top of the Combinations tab. Select all the attributes from the right-hand box that you want to use with this product. Click on Add Generate|, and a table of all the possible combinations are generated. You can delete with a single click those that are unnecessary and fill in the weights and prices of those you want to keep. Then click on Generate and its done. There is an imperfection with generating attributes when you have lots of them. If you generate more than 10,000, you might run into problems but I am reliably informed that a fix/new module is in progress.
This is a bit more niche than the other product features we have seen and there is a good chance you might not need this. But just knowing that you have the customizing option might open your mind to new ideas. And if you do need to offer your customer's custom options then this quick explanation and guide will be invaluable.
So what is customizing in a PrestaShop context? Click on the Customization tab of one of your products.
Notice you have the option to specify the number of File fields and/or Text fields. If you do, then these would appear on the product page. Try it if you're curious. So let's say I am selling a teddy bear T-shirt, and I would like the customer to specify a name to put on the T-shirt. All I need to do is to add a positive number in the appropriate box. PrestaShop would then pass on the details of the customization when the customer places the order. Of course, I could specify multiple text fields for a message. I could also specify a file field enabling the customer to upload a file to me. This could be a photograph for the teddy T-shirt or perhaps a picture to go on a custom gift tag.
All this assumes of course that I can produce the teddy T-shirts. PrestaShop obviously cannot do that for me. But the scope of the customization feature is only limited by your imagination. Here is a quick guide to add a customization to your product.
Time for action – allowing your customers to customize
Follow this simple guide to add customizations to your products:
- Find and click on the product you want to add a customization option to.
- Click on the Customization tab and enter the number of file and text fields you require to enable your customers to configure their customization.
- Save the product.
- Go and visit the product page to see the effect. How simple was that?
What just happened?
Although not needed by every store owner, this is a powerful product feature that is well worth being aware of.
Everything we have looked at in this article is fairly non-technical. But the huge range of options and features you have at your disposal can sometimes cause apparent complexity. It is well worth playing with the PrestaShop catalog options, and perhaps, re-reading this article so that you can fully grasp how PrestaShop manages your catalog and how incredibly flexible and diverse it is.
Having said that, don't hold back on further development until everything is perfect. Any e-commerce store should be an ongoing cyclical thing that you constantly add to, improve, and refine. Also, don't forget my suggestion about opening your shop with just a core range of products and then adding more on an ongoing basis. If you can be making money while working on your catalog, then I think it makes sense.
Pop quiz – a few product marketing questions
Q1. Using what you have just learned, how could you sell a product for less than the cost price and still make a profit on the purchase?
- By looking for a cheaper supplier
- By Creating a special offer
- By setting the price very high at first and later on, drop the price
Q2. Arrange the following into feature, advantage, and benefit:
- Women will love you
- Your abs will be rock solid
- The new body toner uses the latest fitness technology
We learned a lot in this article about e-merchandising. You now have well-presented products with descriptions that actually sell.
Specifically, we covered:
- Categories: We learned about planning, structure, creation, and describing them in an enticing manner.
- Products: We saw how to create and implement them as well as creating short, concise sales copy that sells.
- Product options: We looked at a whole range of ways to enhance, highlight, and offer options on your products, including special offers, linking accessories, attributes, recently viewed, and offering customization.
Resources for Article:
- Security and Disaster Recovery in PrestaShop 1.3 [Article]
- Customizing PrestaShop Theme Part 1 [Article]