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Google Requires Product Identifiers by May 16

Online sellers who want their products to appear on Google Shopping must advertise through the Product Listing Ads program and are required to send a feed containing detailed information about their products.

Google has always encouraged sellers to include robust product information to drive ad performance and conversions, but last year, it imposed new requirements affecting 50 national brands. Now sellers face a new deadline – retailers must provide Product Identifiers called GTINs on all new in-stock products by May 16th.

In today’s guest column, Joleen Wroten, Senior Retail Strategist at 360pi, explains what the requirements mean for online sellers, why Google is doing it, and explains what sellers of handmade and fully custom products need to know.

Google Requires Product Identifiers by May 16

By Joleen Wroten

In early 2016, Google announced that they were upping the ante for all sellers by requiring unique identifiers, known as Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN’s), for all new in-stock products by May 16th. GTIN is a family of global product identifiers that includes European Article Numbers (EAN’s) and Universal Product Codes (UPC’s) that can vary from country to country. For North American retailers, GTIN is synonymous with UPC.

While Google has always encouraged sellers to include robust product data, the enforcement of GTIN information was previously limited to 50 brands. Early last fall, a survey by BloomReach highlighted that 44% of shoppers turn to Amazon first when looking for a product, so it comes as little surprise that Google would up the ante for its retail and brand partners. These newly added GTIN requirements further supplement Google’s relevancy and search dominance in the market.

The inclusion of GTIN data aids Google in pinpointing exactly what retailers and brands are selling. The underlying premise being that this then helps Google boost ad performance by adding valuable details about the product and showcasing the ad in increasingly relevant ways to shoppers – for example, on YouTube and other partner sites.

Quite simply, more relevant results means more exposure, more clicks and, hopefully, more sales. Recently, Google claimed that merchants who have added the correct GTIN’s/UPC’s to their product data have seen their conversion rates increase up to 20%.

Early indicators from Google show that approximately 10% of products are already receiving GTIN non-compliance warnings. As well, Google has posited that up to 50% of products could be excluded from Google Shopping for non-compliance when they start enforcing this requirement in mid-May. As well, post May 16th, retailers need to meet the GTIN requirements to continue serving ads.

Initially, there was speculation that retailers could possibly invent false GTIN information for products to circumvent this new requirement. However, Google has made it clear that they intend to monitor for this behavior and that those caught may have their Google account suspended.

Multi-seller environments, such as Amazon’s marketplace and eBay, have already taken measures to ensure product listings are not adversely affected by sellers with less than complete or inaccurate product data. Retailers offering a marketplace environment should consider meeting or exceeding Google’s requirements to ensure that product data is not compromised based on various seller inputs or exclusions.

While Google recommends that sellers offering refurbished or compatible products include accurate GTIN information, listings for handmade or fully custom products do not need to fulfill the requirement.

Additionally, for retailers promoting private label and/or off-brand products, the GTIN requirement is waived. However, sellers are encouraged to provide as much detailed information as possible, including, but not limited to Brand, Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPN) and other unique identifier information.

The Google Merchant Center and Global Standards (GS1), the non-profit organization which provides GTIN’s, offer more information on Google Shopping’s new GTIN requirements.

Retailers and brands experiencing gaps in their product data can reach out to product and pricing intelligence providers, like 360pi, to get an assessment of how they can leverage world-class matching algorithms to easily fill in the blanks.

About the Guest Columnist:

In her role as the Senior Retail Strategist at 360pi, Joleen Wroten engages with enterprise retailers and brands empowering them to activate and capitalize on competitive pricing and product intelligence. 360pi helps retailers and brands successfully navigate the multi-channel landscape with real-time insight into who is selling what, where, when, and for how much. Ultimately, 360pi customers make smarter decisions faster to drive increased revenues and margins across all channels.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.