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How to manage stock for your WooCommerce variations

November 20, 2022

Manage Stock for Your WooCommerce Variations

WooCommerce has various options for managing stock at variation level. It lets you set the stock status or manage stock by setting stock quantity, allowing backorders, and setting a low stock threshold. However, WooCommerce's options to manage stock at variation levels aren't perfect for all stores.

In this article, we’ll learn how to use the core WooCommerce features for variation stock control. We'll also discover 3 fantastic plugins to display and manage variation stock on the front end. These will allow you to:

  • Show variation stock information directly on the WooCommerce shop and category pages.
  • Display and manage variation stock in bulk.
  • Display the lead time or waiting time for each variation.

For example, this is what it might look like to display variation stock on the shop and category pages:

Product table with stock column

This way, customers can see at a glance which variations are in stock and which ones aren’t. Keep reading to learn how to do this and more

List products and variations in a quick order form, complete with stock information!

How to use WooCommerce to manage stock at variation level

WooCommerce has built-in options to manage stock for variable products (as well as simple products) on your online store. To enable the default stock management feature, simply navigate to WooCommerce → Settings → Products and clicking on the Inventory link from the top.

Inventory tab

Enable the Manage stock checkbox and set basic stock management settings. You can select the low stock level display and set a low stock threshold. This lets you show or hide out-of-stock variations. And, whenever a specific product variation is low on stock, a notification will be sent to the store manager about the stock level.

In addition to this, WooCommerce also lets you manage stock at the product variation level. To do this, navigate to the variable product’s edit page. Then click on the Variations tab under the Product data meta box.

Variations tab WooCommerce manage stock at variation level

From here, you can choose the variation you want to manage stock for and tick the Manage stock? checkbox to view the Stock quantity field. You can manage stock for each variation following this method and click on the Save changes button once you’re done.

This displays a stock status on the front-end when customers select the product variation they’d like to purchase.

3 ways to better display and manage stock at variation level

While WooCommerce lets you display stock information for product variations, it isn’t ideal if you want to offer a frictionless shopping experience on your online store.

Here’s why:

WooCommerce only displays stock status after a customer selects a variation from the variation dropdown menu. This means your customers have to select a variation before they find out if it’s in stock or not. This can lead to a frustrating shopping experience.

Default stock information
WooCommerce only displays variation stock information AFTER you select a variation

On the flip side, if you set out of stock products and variations to be hidden in your store, they won’t appear in your store at all. This may lead customers to believe you don’t sell the product or variation, and they won’t check back later.

If lots of product variations are out of stock, customers will end up making multiple selections one by one before they find something they can order. This can easily lead them to abandon your store.

In addition, WooCommerce doesn’t do anything helpful like grey out out-of-stock variations to help shoppers identify out-of-stock variations. It’s better to display variation stock information from the get-go, so that customers can see which product variations are available at a glance. This not only helps save time but also prevents them from bouncing off your online store frustrated.

Next, we’ll share several plugins that offer different ways to do this more clearly. It's time to dive deeper into different ways to display and manage stock at variation level in WooCommerce.

Manage stock at variation level in bulk

The WooCommerce Bulk Variations plugin makes it much quicker and easier to bulk-edit variation stock for each product:

WooCommerce Bulk Variations bulk actions
Select specific variations and quickly update the stock levels

For example, let's say that you sell a custom printed hoodie and have received a delivery of 5 units of all the Small variations. You can select all the variations with the 'Small' attribute and bulk-update the stock to 5.

This is how to use the bulk variation stock management features:

  1. Install the WooCommerce Bulk Variations plugin.
  2. In the plugin setup wizard, activate your license key and then skip the remaining steps.
  3. Go to the 'Edit' screen for the variable product that you want to bulk-edit the stock levels for.
  4. Open the Variations tab in the Product Data section.
  5. Select the variations that you want to manage stock for. To select variations with specific attributes only, use the filters above the list of variations.
  6. Use the bulk actions dropdown to change the stock status for all the selected variations.
  7. Save the variable product.

It's that easy!

The quick way to bulk-edit variation stock levels.

List variations in a quick order form with stock information

Now we've learned the best ways to manage variation stock in the WordPress admin. Next, I'll share 3 plugins which improve how variation stock is displayed in the front end.

First, let's look at the WooCommerce Product Table plugin. This plugin helps WooCommerce store owners to better display stock information about variable products. It lets you display each variation individually in your store, complete with stock information. This ensures a top-notch user experience on your WooCommerce store.

WooCommerce variations table plugin

List variations individually in a quick order form, complete with stock information
List products, variations and stock information directly on your main store pages

You can use the plugin to display one product per row with dropdowns to select variations like how they appear on single product pages. However, the clearest way to show variable product stock is to list each variation on each row in the table. This “display variations as products” method allows you to have a stock column in the product table. Customers will be able to see the exact stock status of that variation.

An example

For instance, if your variable product has three color variations, each variation will be displayed in a separate row in the product table. This means instead of displaying a single product row for a variable product, you can showcase each variation option in a separate product row along with the stock information of each variation clearly.

This is great for showcasing the exact stock status of all product variations on your WooCommerce site. Customers can see which variations are in stock at a glance, preventing them from wasting time trying to select options that aren’t available or in stock.

WooCommerce Product Table lists the variations for multiple products at once and offers a great way to improve the layout of your main shop page and category pages. The best part is that the plugin is very easy to set up on your WordPress site.

WooCommerce Product Table tutorial

Once you activate the plugin on your WooCommerce site, the setup wizard will open. Use this to set up your product tables, paying particular attention to the following options:

  • In the Shop integration section, specify where to display the product table instead of using the default WooCommerce layout. For example, you can showcase the product table on the shop page, in product search results, in product categories, and for product tags.
  • The Columns section lets you specify which columns to display and how product images appear on the product table. For instance, you can display the product image, the product name, the price of your product, the stock status, and a purchase button. Check out the full list of columns you can display on the product table. Don't forget to include the "stock" column!
  • Now scroll down to the Add to cart section and select the Quantities checkbox to display a quantity box for each product listed on the product table.
  • Select how variations are displayed on the product table using the Variations option. Selecting the Show as dropdown lists option will display variation options in dropdowns on the product table. We recommend this option for showing the stock status clearly for each product variation. This lets your customers view the stock status for each variation option separately and helps them make informed purchase decisions when shopping from your online store.

Create a variations order form for each variable product

While the WooCommerce Product Table lists multiple products in a table on your main shop or category pages, the WooCommerce Bulk Variations plugin is different. We've already seen how this amazing product variations plugin helps you to bulk-edit variation stock statuses. However, it can also change how your variations are displayed in the front end.

You can use WooCommerce Bulk Variations to create an order form for one variation at a time. The order form replaces the standard-looking WooCommerce dropdowns on the single product page.

Manage variations grid stock information
Create a WooCommerce variations order form with stock information.

The plugin offers an all-in-one solution for displaying your WooCommerce variations better on your online store. This also means displaying the stock information for each variation and displaying them in an easy-to-use grid or price matrix. This lets customers select multiple variations at once while being notified about the stock status for each variation option on the same screen.

WooCommerce Bulk Variations tutorial

Once you install the WooCommerce Bulk Variations plugin on your WooCommerce site, it’s pretty straightforward to showcase stock information when displaying variations using the price matrix. Navigate to WooCommerce → Settings → Products and click on the Bulk variations link from the top.

WooCommerce Bulk Variations settings

Simply select the Display stock information in the variations grid checkbox under the Grid options section to enable stock status for each variation option. You can also enable the variation grid display for all your shop’s products globally that have one or two variation options. Similarly, you can enable the variation grid for all products that have three or more variation options.

In addition to this, the plugin also lets you set variation grid display options for specific products on your WooCommerce site. To do this, navigate to the product’s edit page and scroll down to the Bulk Variations tab.

WooCommerce manage stock at variation level

Enable the Product-level control checkbox and the Enable checkbox to display a variations grid for the new product instead of the default WooCommerce dropdowns.

Bulk variations grid

This way, you create a better interface for your customers to view stock information for variations on the single product page and make it easier for them to order multiple variations at a time using a single button.

As a result, this provides your customers with essential information without them needing to select each variation first. It also creates a seamless shopping experience on your online store.

Show the lead time for each variation

WooCommerce Lead Time is displays accurate information about the stock status of your products and variations.

The only plugin to show variation waiting and processing times in your WooCommerce store.

You can show lead times for all products and variations on your WooCommerce site. Including showcasing the lead time for out-of-stock products or products on backorder. This way, your customers know when to check back to place their order. Or even better, they can order backorder products immediately, safe in the knowledge of how long they will be waiting.

All you need to do is set a date for when the variation will be back in stock. After that, the plugin will automatically calculate a lead time for you. This helps keep your customers informed and encourages them to check back again when products restock.

On top of the basic stock information in WooCommerce, WooCommerce Lead Time allows you to display a special message. These messages notify customers when to check back or select a waiting time for each variation.

Static vs. dynamic lead times

It’s also important to understand the difference between static lead times and dynamic lead times. This way, you'll understand when to use each one with Lead Time. Static lead times are used when the information stays the same. For example, you can display a static lead time such as “Handling time: 10 days” for your products.

On the other hand, dynamic lead times are used to specify when out-of-stock products will come back in stock on a particular date. For instance, a dynamic lead time might look something like “Back in stock in 8 days”. You can specify a particular date and the WooCommerce Lead Time plugin will automatically display the remaining number of days before it comes back in stock.

WooCommerce Lead Time tutorial

Once you get the plugin, the setup wizard will open. Use it to choose how to display lead times in your store.

Here, you can select when to display lead times on your WooCommerce site as well as specify what to display as the lead time message to customers on the front-end. These settings will be applied to all products on your WooCommerce site.

In addition, you can set lead times for individual products and variations. Simply navigate to the product’s Edit page and click on the Inventory tab under the Product data meta box.

Inventory tab with lead time

Set the lead time for each product or variation using the Lead time text field and click on the Update button to save changes.

Lead time preview

Use multiple manage stock at variation level plugins for best results!

Now we've looked at 3 fantastic plugins for improving how you manage and display WooCommerce product variations. You can use each one on its own. But for best results, why not use them together?

Here are some examples:

Using WooCommerce Product Table with WooCommerce Lead Time

You can use the WooCommerce Lead Time plugin on its own so that the lead time information appears when customers select variations using the default dropdowns. Alternatively, you can use it with the WooCommerce Product Table plugin to display lead time for variations in each row of the table:

Lead times in a product table WooCommerce manage stock at variation level
For maximum benefit, display variation stock and lead times in a product table on the shop page

Using WooCommerce Lead Time with WooCommerce Bulk Variations

You can also use the WooCommerce Lead Time plugin with the WooCommerce Bulk Variations plugin. That way, you can display the lead time for each variation directly in the variations grid.

The better way to manage stock at variation level in WooCommerce

Used as it comes, you can use WooCommerce to manually manage stock at variation level and display information about out-of-stock variations on product pages. However, this doesn’t quite cut it. It takes ages to change the stock status and stock level for each variation individually. And even worse, the default WooCommerce layout doesn't let you display variation stock information before the customer makes their selections. This can lead to a frustrating shopping experience for customers.

Luckily, there are some amazing plugins to fix this for you:

Together, these plugins help you display your online store stock at the variation level.

We hope that this article has provided lots of useful information about the different options for using WooCommerce to manage stock at variation level. Follow the instructions to set up the plugins in your own store.

Ready to display stock information better on your e-commerce store? Get the plugins today!

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