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In Focus
Availability Groups
By Ahmed Saad, Technology Matrix Group - Copyright 2001
"Availability groups" is a built-in feature of the Miva shopping cart and can be of great use.   While it is not something that everyone will make use of, it is great for those who have a need for it.

In a nut shell, the availability group will "hide" products and/or categories from all customers not assigned to that group. 

exclaim.gif (988 bytes)  Always remember that products and categories are two separate things and relate to each other only for the purpose of organizing the store to make it more tidy. This is why you can assign the same product to more than one category. This means that if you assign a category to the availability group the products under that category are not automatically hidden as well. You will have to assign those products to that availability group if you do not want them to be available to the general public.

It is similar to putting sodas in the soft drink isle, and again in the snacks isle, and another set at the end of the isle in a sale display. The soda bottle itself has no relation to the isle it is in. If you shut down the "soft drink isle" one can still buy the soda by picking it up from the display in the snack area.

The nice thing is that once the product and/or category is assigned it practically "disappears" until the customer logs in to his account AND the customer is assigned to that particular availability group.  Not only will the product disappear from ALL the categories it is under but it won't show on any searches either. Additionally, any attempt to go directly to it by using its URL (by pasting it into the browser or clicking on a pre-existing link that is hard coded for that particular product or category) will give a "fatal error" message or your custom "bad URL" page for all users except the assigned and logged-in customers.

While not everyone will make use of this feature, it is very useful for those selling certain items ONLY to certain individuals e.g. subscription based content, wholesale only products (? in bulk), "adult material", members of a certain group, etc.

exclaim.gif (988 bytes) Note that if you want to offer products at retail prices to the public and offer the same product at the wholesale price for approved merchants an availability group is not the way to go since the products will not be visible to the 'unassigned' general public. If this is the functionality you need, price groups are the way to go.  You can also have a combination of "Availability Groups" and "Price Groups" and get a very interesting and useful combined effect.  Click here to learn about that.

To see a Step by Step tutorial on how to setup "Availability Groups" click here.

Quick Tips

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