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BigCommerce V3 Options, Variants and Rules Compared to V2

Now that you have an idea of the general differences between V2 and V3, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. The biggest differences between BigCommerce’s V2 and V3 product experiences can be found in how options function. Options are a major part of many store owners’ product management, so understanding these differences is critical if you’re considering an upgrade to V3.

No More Option Sets

First off, V3 options are no longer tied to option sets. This will be welcome news if you hate having to create option sets for every one-off option just so you can assign it to a product. However, the nice thing about option sets is that they can be applied in bulk. You can select a bunch of products on the Products > View screen and use the action menu to apply a specific option set. In addition, you can export your products, plug in the option set name and then import your products back into the store.

V3 does have shared options, but there is currently no way to apply them to multiple products at once. After creating a shared option, you must edit each product in the control panel and then apply the shared option to it. This process takes several clicks. And if you have thousands of products that all use the same options, you can imagine how impractical this is.

Changes (and Limitations) to Variants and SKUs

The V3 experience also introduces variants. While variants technically exist in V2, they are really never mentioned. A “variant” is a combination of all options assigned to a product. For example, if I sell a t-shirt that comes in S, M, L and red, green, blue, I’ll have nine variants – one variant for each size/color combination.

With V3 options, these variants are automatically generated and assigned a SKU. For those stores that never really used skus, this shouldn’t make much difference. For those who use the SKU generator in V2, you no longer have the ability to customize the format of these automatically generated SKUs. BigCommerce will simply assign them based on the product’s overall sku, or just randomly if you didn’t enter an overall sku.

One quite important thing about V3 options is that you are limited to 600 variants. To be fair, this is a higher limit that some other platforms have, including Shopify. However, if you sell highly customizable products, you can easily reach this limit. Let’s consider a wood table that might have these options:

  • 3 sizes
  • 5 table top materials
  • 5 finishes
  • 5 leg styles
  • Wheels or no wheels

This product setup would result in 750 variants, over the limit. The workaround would be to make some of these options into modifiers/customizations, which are generally optional and cannot be assigned a sku. Alternately, you could split this product into three unique items, one for each size.

If you’re starting a new store, the 600 variant limitation is easier to work with. You can determine how to configure your products in advance. However, if you’re converting from V2 to V3, this limitation may require you to rebuild some (or all) of your products. That may or may not be worth the time depending on why you’re making the switch.

V3 Options and Rules

There are many functionality gaps between V2 and V3 options when it comes to rules. For one thing, rules no longer exist for options. They can only be used for modifiers/customizations. You do still have the ability to change the photo, price, weight and other attributes for options. BUT, they are now assigned on the variant level.

Let’s look at my t-shirt example again to better understand the implications of this change.

In V2, if I want to charge more for the Large size, I can create a rule that adds $2 to that size, regardless of what color the customer selects. In V3, I can only added a fixed price and it must be assigned to all SKUs that contain the Large size (large red, large blue and large green).

First, this is more work to set up for the store owner. Second, it means that if I increase the base price of my t-shirt, I also have to manually update the fixed cost of those Large variants because they will no longer be $2 more. Third, from the shopper’s perspective, they will not see any price change when they select the Large size. Since the price change is assigned at the variant level, they won’t see the price change until they select both size AND color.

The same applies to photo changes. In V2, you can create a rule to change the photo when a shopper selects Red, regardless of whether they’ve selected a size. In V3, the photo only changes when the shopper has selected both color AND size since the photo is assigned at the variant level. And again, you as the store owner will need to upload that red t-shirt photo three times – one for each color/size variant.

One of my biggest frustrations with V3 options is the variant based, fixed price change. Having worked with many V3 stores now, I’ve found it’s very easy to enter the wrong price for specific variants when a product has multiple options.

We can use my custom table example again to see why, even if we simplify it. Let’s say the basic table costs $399 and has the following option prices as given to me by the manufacturer:

Table Top Options
Wood table top – base price
Glass table top – add $49
Mosaic tile table top – add $79
Marble table top – add $149

Leg Options
Standard square leg – base price
Rounded leg – add $59
Tapered leg – add $79
Clawfoot leg – add $109

Finish Options
Wood finish – base price
Black finish – add $29
Gold metallic finish – add $69

Quick, how much is the variant that includes a glass top, tapered leg and black finish? Or the variant that includes a mosaic top, clawfoot leg and metallic gold finish? Better have your calculator ready! This is all MUCH easier in V2 where you can just create “add X” pricing rules to the different available options.

Making this task even more difficult is the fact that the variants are displayed in the grid. Since the grid has a fixed size, you often can’t see the full list of options that make up the variant on screen. Yes, you can click into each variant and scroll all the way to the right, hoping that you remember what you’ve seen so you can calculate the correct price. Or, you can export the product, calculate and enter the prices in your spreadsheet and then re-upload it. Either way, it’s very time consuming and prone to calculation errors.

I previously mentioned that there are still shared options in V3. But, since pricing is done at the variant level, you cannot assign price changes to those shared options (unlike in V2). So you’ll need to do these price calculations for every product individually.

One final thing about V3 options and rules. In V2, you can easily hide an option that is sold out or temporarily unavailable. If I’m out of Large t-shirts, I can create a rule to hide Large from the Size dropdown. Since V3 uses variants, and variants are combinations of sizes and colors, my only choice is to disable the three variants that include the Large size (large red, large green, large blue). Disabling doesn’t hide the option. It just makes it unavailable for purchase. So when a customer selects Large and Red, they will see a message saying that product combination is not available. This is not a great experience for the customer.

No More Copying Options

While you can still copy shared options (more on that in the next blog post), you cannot copy options created within a product. This is mainly a problem for store owners that use options to create sets or bundles.

Let’s say I want to sell a 3-pack of t-shirts and the shopper can choose the color for each one. First I’ll create a size option (S, M, L). Then I’ll create a color option (Red, Blue, Green). In V2, I can add that same color option to my option set three times. I just need to change the display name to T-Shirt Size 1, T-Shirt Size 2 and T-Shirt Size 3.

With V3 options, I need to create three separate size options. There is no ability to copy the first size option once I’ve created it and just change its name. And if you created Size as a shared option, you cannot add it to you product more than once. As you can imagine, this becomes quite labor intensive when you are selling a set or bundle with 10, 15 or more selectable options. Trust me, I’ve done it. If you’re selling bundles using V3, I highly recommend grabbing yourself a glass of wine or putting on some good music first.

Adding V3 Options is More Time Consuming

This is a user-interface issue and not so much a functionality gap. But I still find it annoying. In V2, the little “+” to add a new choice to an option is located on the right side of the screen. This means I can click that “+” button 20 times and create 20 additional fields without moving my mouse.

In V3, the link to create a new field is below the last one in your list. So to add another field, I have to scroll down, then click the link. Scroll down, then click the link. For every new field I want to create.

I know this seems trivial, but when you’re creating an option that has 20 or 30 choices and you’re copying/pasting from a list, the time difference really adds up. I can quickly add 20 empty fields and then fill them in afterwards on V2. In V3, the scroll-click process not only takes longer, but it’s harder to keep track of how many I’ve added. A nit-pick for sure, but one that increases my billable time to clients when my goal is to complete their projects as quickly as possible.

In my next post, BigCommerce V3 Shared Options Compared to V2, I detail V3 shared options and how they differ from V2. Read it now >