Until September 2015 Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) had always been just a recommended attribute within the Google shopping feed – with merchants able to select 2 of the unique identifiers (brand, gtin and mpn). In September Google released an update that started to require GTINs for products in a merchants feed; the initial introduction of this was through a list of 50 designated brands.
As of May 16th 2016 all merchants selling branded products will be required to submit GTIN values in their Google shopping feed.
What is a GTIN?
Most of us come across barcodes on a day to day basis and we are quite familiar with the role they play in the buying process; but what is a GTIN?
A GTIN is a unique and internationally recognised identifier for each individual product. GTINs vary by country and product type but include UPC (North America), EAN (Europe), JAN (Japan), and ISBN. These GTINs are then printed on the packaging of products under the barcodes (see example below of the different types).
(Image Source: GTIN Info 2016)
Why are Google so interested in GTINs?
As GTINs are standardised across individual products, if merchants are required to submit correct values then Google can easily aggregate product information based on the Google shopping product catalogue and Manufacturer centre. It also allows Google to understand the products that are being sold so that it can deliver more relevance to the end user.
Who does this change affect?
Any merchant who sells brand name products (including own brand if they have a GTIN assigned by the manufacturer) will need to adhere to Google’s new requirements; so it is important to check your feed to ensure your GTIN attribute is populated correctly.
If you are selling custom goods, made to order, one of a kind items or anything produced before unique identifiers were introduced (e.g. antiques) then you will be exempt from this new update and should continue to use the relevant unique identifiers in your merchant feed.
So what do you need to do?
Google states that if you are targeting Australia, Brazil, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, or the US then you must submit correct GTIN values (assigned by the manufacturer) along with the corresponding brand.
On the most part you may already have this information to hand for your own inventory management and as a result already submitting this to the feed. However should you find yourself without this information you should be able to access this from your distributor or manufacturer from where your products have been purchased.
It is important to bear in mind Google will not accept incorrect GTIN values and so advise against simply just creating or purchasing your own, as these will result in product disapprovals in the feed.
When do I need to take action?
Google has already begun reviewing and scanning feeds looking for any that don’t meet this new requirement. What you will begin to see in your merchant centre is item warnings indicating ‘missing GTIN’ or ‘Invalid GTIN’ if you have any products that don’t meet the requirement.
However, we can breathe a little sigh of relief as Google has allowed time for Merchants to optimise their feeds and correct any issues prior to the full roll out in May 2016.
You will need to start taking action now however to ensure that your feed is ready come May, to avoid any down time and lost revenue due to item disapprovals.
This could prove a key change for Google shopping that will allow increased accuracy and consistency across product ads. It is a way for Google to ensure that product information is standardised across merchants.
The key point is that Google are again working to try and make the user experience more relevant – by providing more accurate information and reviews – highlighting an even stronger importance to collect customer reviews as this could become a key differentiator.
If you need any assistance getting set up with your Google shopping or making sure you are meeting Google’s latest requirements then get in touch on 0116 298 7482 and we will be happy to help.