Skip to content

Selling Products Using WooCommerce Product Types


You sell all kinds of products and services with WooCommerce. But when adding these to your site, they will be assigned specific product data.

So, as you are assigning these, don’t just think products. And although you will see that a lot of what I’m talking about is labeled product, all can be used for services as well.

Essentially your services are also a product.

Here are the four default types that come with WooCommerce:

  • simple product
  • grouped product
  • external/affiliate product
  • variable product

The Product Types

When adding a product, you will choose among these options:

Simple Product – this is a single physical product that has no variations.

Simple Product Virtual – an example of this might be a service, such as hourly consulting.

Simple Product Downloadable – this is both virtual and downloadable, such as an ebook or a music file.

Grouped Product – a collection of products that are related but purchased separately. An example would be different models of the iMac from Apple.

External/Affiliate Product – a product you add to your store that takes buyers to another site to purchase it. Affiliates work well,  products you make a commission on.

Variable Product – some products will have different variations and multiple images. For example, a t-shirt that comes in different sizes and colors, with different prices.

Note: some extensions if installed will add more product date choices, such as subscriptions.

product data types WooCommerce

When you create a product or service,  the page looks very similar to creating a post in WordPress. But this is what is called a custom post type, so it has additional options.

add new product WooCommerce

Product Descriptions

Each product or service you create will have two descriptions. Creating and formatting a description is no different than creating a post or page in WordPress and you use the same editor window.

Product Short Description

This description will typically show up next to the product image, price and add-to-cart. It’s just a teaser to lead them into the full description.

product short description WooCommerce

Product Description

This is where you place the product name and a longer description of the product. It will appear lower on the product page,  in some kind of tab format. In your dashboard, this might be a bit confusing as the longer description below is the first thing you will see when adding a new product and the short description above will be further down the page. But on the finished product page, short is at the top with the longer at the bottom.

product long description WooCommerce

Product Image

The product image is added as a featured image. You also can  create Product Galleries. This is good if a product has different colors, sizes, shapes or you want to provide different angled shots.

Product image sizes will vary from theme to theme and will be found in the theme-specific documentation.

product image WooCommerce

The challenge with some new WooCommerce users is that if they are selling services rather than products, an image doesn’t always demonstrate the service well, so you will need to get creative.

Product Image Gallery

You can also create a product galley to show all the images that are attached to a specific product. The Featured Image will show as the primary image by default. This is a great feature if your products have some variations, such as different colors.

You can see in the right screenshot that the gallery can easily be re-ordered there with a simple drag-and-drop.

product image gallery woocommerce

Controlling When the Product Shows

In your Publish options, you will find a setting called Catalog Visibility. Although this is pretty basic, you still have some options here for where to show and hide the product.

Also, it lets you set the product as a featured product. You will find that many themes that are built for WooCommerce may have options on the homepage for the Featured Product. This is where you can control what it does and doesn’t show.

product visibility woocommerce

Assigning Categories and Tags

With each product, you can assign categories and tags.

add product overview categories and tags

A Closer Look at the Different Product Types

As you can see in these screenshots, the options for each product type are different.

Simple Product

Here you get all the basic settings, which include General, Inventory, Shipping, Linked Products, Attributes and Advanced. You will see the two fields for sales tax here if you have sales tax enabled in your WooCommerce settings.

simple product in WooCommerce

Simple Product Virtual

Obviously, if you choose virtual for your Simple Product, you will no longer have the shipping option.

simple virtual product in WooCommerce

Simple Product Downloadable

When you also choose Downloadable (and likely you will also choose Virtual), you get some new options in the General Setting tab.

simple downloadable product

Grouped Product

When creating your Grouped Product, you will see that the General tab no longer exists. That’s because you are creating a Grouped Product that will have several Simple Products added to it. So in reality, it’s not an actual single product to purchase.

Grouped Product for WooCommerce updated

Now you will go down to Linked Products and add the products to this group using the Grouping field.

add grouped products

To learn more about grouped products, see our post: How To Set Up Grouped Products in WooCommerce

External/Affiliate Product

When you create this product, you will be sending your customers to an external site to purchase it, so both Inventory and Shipping have been removed. Then, under your General tab, you will find settings for the URL or link to send customers to make the purchase.

See more about this on our post Setting Up External Products and Affiliates in WooCommerce.

Variable Products

T-shirts are a good example of a variable product because you have different sizes and colors. All those variations need to be tied together. This is where you will be using Attributes and Variations.

For example, these t-shirts come in three colors. We have created three attributes and assigned them here.

If we go to variations and tell it to Create variations from all attributes, we can set up all the product data for each variation. If we had also added the attributes of three sizes, we would have produced even more variations. As you can see from the drop-down menu, you have a lot of options.

And we have settings for each variation. For example, this is the info you will need to add for the green t-shirts.

See our post: Setting Up Variable Products in WooCommerce

Beyond the Default Product Types

As I mentioned before, as you add some extension for additional functionality, you will see more options in your Product Data list and settings on the product pages.

Examples of this would be the  Bookings extension, Subscription extension and, of course, there are many more.

WooCommerce Tab Manager

You will also notice a tab called Tabs. This is an extension that comes in handy if you want to add more tabs to your product page for additional information. As you can see here, we have the option to change the default tab title for Description and Reviews and add custom tabs.

If you would like to learn more about this extension, visit this post.

Advanced Pricing

By default you can add the price and the sale price. But what if you need more. There really is no control over running a sale based on specific criteria, such as bulk pricing, select discounts, a sale on a category or end scheduling a sales. But with the Advanced Pricing plugin, you can create pricing rules based on specific customers or products.

Selling Your Photography

Selling photography is a bit different than selling other products and WooCommerce has the perfect extension to help you sell both publicly and privately to clients and customers with the WooCommerce photography extension.

Selling Everything

This touches just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to WooCommerce. The beauty of WooCommerce is that it has some very powerful default settings that come with it. But every online store has different needs and there are so many variables. Instead of bloating WooCommerce with dozens, if not hundreds, of features, the extensions and plugins out there give you alternative solutions for your specific needs.

Now that you understand the basics of product types with WooCommerce, you can see how flexible it is. eCommerce is not just about selling physical products, it’s about selling everything online.

Do check out more of our site as we have a lot of other helpful posts on WooCommerce.


  1. Valerie on November 18, 2017 at 8:13 am

    My challenge is separating my affiliate/external products from my simple products. I sell jewelry online. For products I don’t have in stock, people can order from the parent company using my link. I’m trying to keep the external products separate — I put them in their own category, so they display correctly together, but I *don’t* want them on the archive pages for my other categories, necklaces, for example. It’s too confusing for customers. Suggestions? I can keep them appearing (by excluding the category) on the shop page, but not the product archive pages, and even after looking at the template, I can’t figure out how to filter the ‘latest-products’ category, or the ‘external’ product type.

    • BobWP on November 18, 2017 at 8:36 am

      Okay, I think I understand. How are people finding these links then? For example, do you still want them to come up in search on your site? Reason I ask, and you probably know this already, is that you can hide a specific product entirely, except with a direct link to the product page.

  2. Brian Weiske on February 3, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    Hi Bob, I’m glad I found your blog via Google search. I do have a question, if you don’t mind.

    I’m trying to setup WooCommerce to sell both New and Used products. I’d like the visitor to be able to go down either path, as if there were a fork in the road. If they were to click ‘used equipment’ in the nav bar I’d like them to be able to see and browse through categories and products of ‘only’ used products, and vice versa with the ‘new side’. I can’t figure out how to do this with WooCommerce. Do I need to create two instances of WC within the same WP install (is that even possible)? I’ve tried to use attributes but once you go down the path, then select a different category from the left, you’re given all new and used products again as it seems to wipe away the overall selection of ‘used’ at that time.

    Again, I apologize for this being out of the blue. I’ve searched the web and also looked through your blog and found a lot of interesting WC articles but nothing on this.

    Any thoughts would help tremendously?

    • BobWP on February 4, 2018 at 6:59 am

      What I would suggest and what would be easiest, is to remove your shop page in your navigation bar, then create a new and used product category. Once you have that set up, go to Products > categories, choose to “view” the category and copy that URL. Now go into your menu and create a custom menu for that category and add it to the nav bar. That should do it or I think that is what you are trying to do 🙂

      • Brian Weiske on February 4, 2018 at 1:58 pm

        Bob, that’s fantastic and seems to have worked there.

        So, I think what you are saying is that I would need to have created two categories, which then have other categories underneath (even if they are duplicated under each of the parent).

        For example, this is what I’m looking at (with two categories, then categories under those two):

        Pre-Owned Equipment
        – Audio
        – Cameras
        – Camera Support
        – Displays
        – Lenses
        – Lighting
        – Switches and Routers
        – Terminal

        New Equipment
        – Audio
        – Cameras
        – Camera Support
        – Displays
        – Lenses
        – Lighting
        – Switches and Routers
        – Terminal

        Two other questions for you sir.

        1. Showing the underlying categories from the ‘Pre-Owned’ menu page result?
        When I created the URL like you said, I got “/product-category/pre-owned-equipment/”. This shows all of the products within that top category. However, I have the categories (Audio, Cameras, Lighting, etc.) under that (parent) category so is it possible to then show the underlying categories, instead of all the individual products? Maybe a “?category=all” or something.

        2. When you get down to the product pages, it seems that the category listing on the left sidebar is gone. Perhaps it’s the lack of products that I have in there at this time but maybe I’m missing something on the sidebar settings.

        If you would like to see what I’m talking about, here’s the staging site I’m building.
        UN: demo
        PW: 6d433265c415

  3. Keely Worth on March 23, 2018 at 7:00 am

    Hi Bob,

    How would you sell a workshop in Woocommerce? What product type? The workshop has 2 price points – $70 for members, and $90 for non-members.

    We don’t need any shipping details, obviously – only need their name, email, and phone number.

    Have Googled my brains out and am exhausted!

    All help appreciated.

    • BobWP on March 23, 2018 at 7:23 am

      Oh yes, Google can be your friend or a deep, rabbit hole.

      I did sell workshops myself for the longest time online, but i used an even calendar plugin that intregrated with WooCommerce. WooCommerce by itself isn’t the most streamlined in that case.

      The best and easiest route would probably be to:

      1. See as a grouped product. Workshop with two prices.

      2. Customize your checkout to get rid of those fields you don’t need. Two options here. There is a free plugin that does this this over on And a premium extension that has more options. I am guessing the free one would do it if you do a search over there.

      Hope that helps.

Your thoughts...