Shopify organizes product lists and grids through pages called collections. There are two types of product collections in Shopify: manual collections and automated collections. Although it is impossible for your customers to see the difference between these 2 types of collections, on the manager side, in the Shopify admin console, they work differently.
Manual collections vs. Automated Collections
Manual collections are created by the website administrator who must then manually select the products to add (or remove) to the collection.
Automated collections are also created by the website administrator , but, on the other hand, products are added and removed automatically by Shopify based on predefined criteria, such as product tags (tag), product type, brand (vendor / distributor), quantities in inventory, etc. Note that the conditions can be added.
It is important to understand the difference between the two. As a Shopify store owner or manager, you need to be in control of how you organize your products in your selling system. Otherwise, you will never be sure that your products are clearly visible and available on your site or your point of sale (POS). It only takes an oversight to add manually for a manual collection, or a missing condition on an incomplete or erroneous product in the case of an automated collection for your product not to appear in your collection.
Note that once a collection has been created, it is impossible to change a manual collection for an automated collection and vice versa. It is therefore important to create the collections on your site with a clear intention.
When to use manual collections in Shopify?
Custom collections are perfect for creating themed collections, i.e. collections that group and organize products that are presented for parties, events or activities: "Mother's Day", "Celebrate FIFA 2022", "Picnic outing" For example. The products of these collections are changing and the visibility of these collections is not permanent. They appear and disappear from the menu, your homepage and your promotions cyclically. They are more related to marketing campaigns. Think of this aisle at the pharmacy or supermarket which offers products for Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, then Father's Day, the summer season, back to school, Halloween, Christmas...
Even if they return cyclically, the fact remains that it is better not to create a new one every year. For example, it is better to have a "Mother's Day" collection that we reuse every year than to create a different one each time... "Mother's Day 2022", "Mother's Day 2023", etc. By keeping the same collection, the collection URL will stay the same, which is good for SEO and to avoid broken links in automated campaigns (emails, advertisements, etc.).
The benefits of manual collections in Shopify:
- They can be used to create thematic collections, to highlight the most popular products, or to offer special offers.
- They allow you to create custom product groups, without having to manage product information or understand the logic of conditions necessary for automated collections.
- They offer great flexibility to organize products manually, without logical conditions.
The cons of manual collections in Shopify:
- They require manual product selection, which can be cumbersome, especially if you have a large product catalog.
- They can be difficult to keep up to date, if new products are added or if existing products are modified. This can lead to outdated or inconsistent collections, which can negatively impact customers' online shopping experience.
- They can lead to selection errors, if products are misclassified or if inappropriate products are added to the collection. This can negatively affect the quality of collections and customer satisfaction.
When to use Automated Collections in Shopify?
Automated collections will automatically add and remove the products it contains according to the classification criteria that organize them. The criteria are based on product information which must be reliable. They are ideal for permanent collection pages - those that have a prominent place in the menu... that should always be automated. The product offer is constant and the rules of the collection do not change. To take the example of the pharmacy or the supermarket, the majority of sections and aisles do not change.
The benefits of automated collections in Shopify:
- They make it possible to group products automatically, according to predefined criteria, which avoids having to select them manually.
- They are updated automatically, according to the modifications made to the products, which makes it possible to always have an up-to-date list of products.
- They allow you to combine conditions, which is useful for including or excluding products on sale ("Price before reduction" field), as well as excluding out-of-stock products ("Stock" field).
Cons of automated collections in Shopify:
- Loss of control over the products included in the collection if the organizing criteria are unclear, as these products are automatically selected by Shopify, based on the predefined criteria.
- The difficulty of excluding certain products or including irrelevant products in the collection due to unsuitable selection criteria or product changes.
- The multiplication of conditions in the collections or even the creation of very similar collections if the conditions for additions are not well controlled.
How to ensure control by using the 2 types of collections well?
Automated collections should be used primarily for menu categories that are permanent. I recommend the use of a PIM or a standardized product import file (a CSV file) to use tags on the products that will correspond to the title of the automated collections. In this way, it is easy to manage the addition of products to collections, and this for 3 reasons:
- We standardize the product information used
- We limit the classification to a single condition
- It is easy to see at the product level which collections the products are part of by evaluating the tags.
In my opinion, all collections could be automated. You may not have thought of it, but there are advantages to creating a "Sales" collection in an automated way: the products can be removed as automatically as they arrived by using the "Price before reduction" condition.
Sometimes, however, you need to quickly create a collection for a promotional campaign. Some then need more flexibility: they prefer to search and check products to add to a manual collection, than to add tags on the products in batch .
I lose you? Make an appointment .
Manual collections can be excellent for creating themed and promotional collections. It can also be adequate to manage the "New Arrivals" collection... if you think of removing the products after some time. Otherwise, there will be old stock in your novelty collection!
In summary, manual collections in Shopify offer great flexibility and freedom to organize products, while automated collections offer greater control and proven standardization if you are in control of your product information. Each type of collection has its own advantages and disadvantages, and it is worth choosing the one that best suits your situation. Would you like to import your products in batch and use standardized automated collections? Make an appointment!
PS. Even if a collection is automated, it is possible to set its sorting method (product display order) manual to control the order of presentation. Do not mix the addition of products with the sorting of products.