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One Big, Happy Ecommerce Product Family

Ah, product groups and families. There is a great debate (at least in my mind) around how to handle product families and their product children, specifically within your ecommerce platform. I’ve seen it handled two different ways, and while there aren’t any “right” answers, there are some considerations when potentially bundling items on your ecommerce store. Let’s discuss. 

First, let’s define a product family. In our example, we will use a t-shirt with a shark on the front as our product, and we have this specific t-shirt in blue, black, and white. A product family is when the product (our t-shirt) is the same outside of attributes like size and color. The parent product is typically a “master SKU or item,” which has children (the variants mentioned above).  

There are two ways you can display these t-shirts on your site. We will discuss both below, and the pros and cons that go with each.  

Option 1 – Individualized 

In this option, each of the t-shirts can have its own SKU number, product detail page, and product description. The only element outside of the variants that change each page is the actual SKU/item number of the product. Here are some pros and cons to this approach: 

The Pros 

  • SEO/Specific Searches – If you have unique products or highly searched variants, then there will be search engine optimization (SEO) benefits to this approach. When a customer searches Google for “small green shark t-shirt,” it’s likely that the specific product page you have for this shirt will appear if you have solid SEO. This puts the customer into an experience that is relevant, leading to a better chance of a conversion.  
  • SKU Specific Onsite Search – This likely leans more towards B2B companies, as B2B buyers typically purchase off SKU-based searches. By allowing users to search for the exact SKU they need and putting them on that specific page, that buyer will have less friction to purchase. They won’t have to search through the variants before placing their order. 

The Cons  

  • SEO– Yes, there could be some challenges here from an SEO standpoint. If you have duplicate content on your site, then Google and other search engines could see this as a negative and penalize your site. 
  • Catalog Management – Having multiple product pages for essentially the same item outside of color can create extra workloads for your product marketing team. Upkeep on multiple pages for the same items could require duplication of efforts/work.  

Option 2 – Combined Family 

In this option, the child products are rolled up in a master product detail page where all variations are listed for the customer to choose and select before purchasing.  

The Pros 

  • Ease of Use – Depending on your business and vertical, the ease of use here is second to none. Giving customers one page with all the variants they may want provides an exceptionally intuitive and streamlined experience.   
  • General SEO Searches – A potential customer might be looking for a t-shirt but may not realize they want a shirt that has a shark on it. If your shark t-shirt has solid SEO, it may appear during a customer’s “informational search,” meaning the customer isn’t sold on which specific shirt they want, but when they see your awesome shark t-shirt, they might be inspired to purchase.  
  • Product Management – Having one master product family page will help you focus all of your product content and marketing efforts in one location, creating a vibrant page filled with relevant content for all the variations and giving customers all of the details in one specific location.    

The Cons 

  • Order Fulfilment – Having all items on a family page requires your enterprise resource planner (ERP) system or order management system (OMS) to be set up in a way that can accept the variant SKUs that users could be selecting. This sometimes can be a challenge depending on how your catalog is set up.  
  • Inventory Display – Displaying and managing inventory for all the product children and variants on one page might be a user experience (UX) challenge.  

So, I’m sure you’re going to ask “Justin, which is right?” 

As usual, my answer will be, “It depends.” It depends on many things actually. What do your customers want and ask for? How is it set up today? How are your back-end systems connected? Are you leveraging a product information management (PIM) system? What do your conversion rates look like? I could go on and on.  

The Bottom Line Is… 

There isn’t a silver bullet, but what I can tell you is this: Figure out how and why your customers like to purchase from you and through your site and see if the current experience aligns to their expectations, or if they are just putting up with your shopping experience because they like you as a brand. Start there, work backward to your technology and infrastructure, and pivot where needed to exceed your customer expectations.  

Mark Twain once said, “It’s never wrong to do the right thing.” To add to Mr. Twain’s quote, it’s never wrong to do the right thing for your customer. Yes, it will cost money and take time, but in the end – if you aren’t investing time and money for your customers, what are you doing?  

For other questions regarding product grouping, contact our commerce experts today 


Thoughts on “One Big, Happy Ecommerce Product Family”

  1. Great article! I’m particularly interested in the idea of using product families to improve the customer experience. I’m wondering if you have any tips on how to create effective product families. Thanks!

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Justin Racine

Justin Racine is a Director and Lead Strategist with Perficient, and he works with clients to build and achieve their business goals through commerce-enabled technologies. Justin has over 12 years of experience within the ecommerce space, working with companies such as Cardinal Health, Johnson & Johnson, and Olam International, and has spoken at over 20 global conferences on ecommerce and branding strategy. Additionally, Justin has been published twice for his thought leadership on branding and marketing in the Henry Stewart Journal of Brand Strategy, is a contributing writer for, and a frequent contributor for many leading industry publications.

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