on 30 Mar 2016
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Published in : Blog, Software
Hikashop is a feature rich e-commerce platform for Joomla. Many of it's more advanced features are provided through a system of plugins, one of which is designed to generate the XML data needed by Google Merchant Centre. The feed extracts product data from your shop to populate the sponsored "Google Products" when displayed alongside organic search results.
Hikashop Google Products Variants
However I found the Google Products plugin bundled with Hikashop (as of version 2.6.1 Business) had a number of limitations that made it unusable for my project for Artist Papers. Notably it doesn't support product variants. Product variants allow you to have a parent product which describes all the common features of an item, then the customer purchases variants of that product such as different size, colour etc. This avoids a lot of duplication within your store and is easier for customers to navigate.
The original plugin also has serious performance limitations causing php timeouts with anything other than a few hundred products. After some tweaking of php timeout parameters I was able to get it to complete (taking several minutes) with a relatively modest six hundred products.
A solution to these problems wasn't going to be available from Hikashop (see forum thread here) so, having promised the feature to my client, I adapted the plugin to work for Artist Papers. I posted this news on the Hikashop forum and was contacted by Hal at boutique shoe retailer elevate your sole who had also been looking for a solution that would work for variants in his Hikashop store.
elevate your sole's requirements were quite different to mine with many more products (about 1600),enough to cause my first version of the plugin to time out, and needed to pull in pricing and other information from the parent product with the only variant characteristic the shoe size. With further modification and an extensive rewrite to overcome the performance issue the plugin now works on that store too.
For Google's specification for the xml file format and the various parameters see here
Other key features of the plugin ...
- Can use parent product sku as group id
- Can use parent pricing for variants
- Can add variant characteristics to title
The rewritten plugin, while successful in these two instances, is not likely to work for everybody. As Nicolas of Hikashop points out in the forum thread, it's difficult to make a plugin that works in every case as there are so many different ways of using variants within Hikashop, so to help other Hikashop users with variants get their inventory into "Google Products", and at the same time develop this plugin further while spreading the cost of development between those that need it, I am offering customisation of the plugin to work with your shop. If you have an online store built with Hikashop using variants then you need this to get into Google products. Contact me to discuss your requirements and pricing.