To help you differentiate and categorize your products you have three product types in ShipStation to choose from:
By default, all products are Standalone Products, which means that there is no relationship between them.
By using Parent and Variant product types, however, you can define certain products as belonging to another product.
Parent products are non-buyable products that contain your actual products, which are listed as its Variants. Think of Parent products as a way to categorize a series of related products, i.e. Variant products, to help with your reporting.
How are Parents and Variants useful?
Let's say you have a Kitten T-Shirt in various colors and sizes. Currently, ShipStation treats those shirts as separate, Standalone products for reporting purposes. However, if you group all the different sizes and colors as Variant products under a Kitten T-shirt Parent product, your Product Sales and Item Demand Summary reports can tell you how your new Kitten T-shirt is doing overall.
Additionally, some product-level settings (like shipping preferences or reporting categories) can be passed down from Parents to their Variants. Here's a screenshot of a Variant product's Shipping and Customs details, showing that Domestic shipping information has been inherited from the parent*:
*Any inherited shipping settings can be overridden by making entries or selections on the Variant's record.
To start using Parent and Variant product types, you must first enable Advanced Product Types in your ShipStation Account Settings.
Head to your Account Settings (the wrench icon in the upper right).
Next, select Account and then Display Options from the sidebar on the left.
Then, scroll to the section called Products, find the option called Product Type, and select Advanced (Parents, Variants, and Standalones).
Save your changes.
Once Advanced Product types is enabled, you will be able to:
- Create new Parent products
- Add Variants to Parents
Creating Parent products & adding Variants
Ideally, your Products tab in ShipStation will already contain your existing product records. If not, check out this article on how to import your products into ShipStation.
These product records will be Standalone products. Standalone products cannot be converted into Parent products (remember, Parent products are non-buyable products and they should have a unique SKU). You will need to create the Parent product in ShipStation, which will then be available to add products to as variants.
Go to your Products tab and click New Product. In the Product Details window, enter the SKU and Name, then set the Product Type to Parent:
Click Save Product Now & Continue Editing.
A new section, Variants, will be added to the Product Detail. Enter the SKU and Name of the product you wish to be a Variant of your new Parent product.
Click Add Variant. Repeat this until you have added all Variant SKUs, and then click Save New Product.
If you have many SKUs to add as Variants, it may be more efficient for you to add the Variants to the Parent SKU by doing a CSV import of your products, as outlined in this help article. To set a product as a Variant in this way, simply add the Parent SKU to the ParentSKU field for the product you wish to be a Variant in the CSV, as shown in this example:
In the above example, the five products on these rows in the CSV will become Variants of the ParentSKU, KittenTS.
*Note: If the SKU you enter into the ParentSKU field in the CSV does not currently exist in your ShipStation account, a ParentSKU will be created for it when the CSV imports - as long as that SKU does not also occupy it's own row in the CSV.