GTIN Requirement Deadline for Google Shopping Feeds Right Around the Corner

Updates and overall changes to Google’s data feed policies are quite frequent, and therefore not typically very surprising, particularly in the world of PLAs. While it may create some brief moments of chaos on the marketer’s end, it’s all ultimately for a pretty critical cause– to ensure the shopping experience is as relevant, user-friendly and streamlined as possible. So, while some of these requirements might be a bit of a headache, we share the common goal with Google to create valuable relationships with customers.

In the fall of last year, Google announced that it would begin to require advertisers to include the Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) for products from a select group of 50 brands in their Google Shopping product feeds. This year, Google has let us know that the requirement will expand to all products with GTINs (assigned by their manufacturers) listed in data feeds, and will take effect on May 16th of this year. We’ve already received a few warnings from our Google Merchant Center teams, and so it’s best to get ahead of the curve before strict enforcement begins in May, and Google starts disapproving products.

What are GTINs?

GTINs are required for ads that are targeted in Australia, Brazil, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the US. It’s part of the combination of three identifying attributes that Google uses to not only determine if the data a retailer submits about a product is accurate, but also to quickly locate a product sold from multiple retailers, so that a variety of offerings can be served side by side within Google Shopping. Considering the multitude of brands, sellers and products in the global marketplace, it makes sense that Google would want to ensure the best options are available to consumers. These attributes include:

  1. Brand Name
  2. Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): alpha-numeric codes created by the manufacturer of a product to uniquely identify it among all products by that same manufacturer. These are commonly seen as the Style numbers on clothing sites, or model numbers on electronics.
  3. Global Trade Item Number (GTIN): commonly referred to as UPC’s (or ISBNs for books), it is a unique internationally recognized identifier for a product that helps Google recognize it.

For example, if you were to search for a pair of Nike Roshe One’s, Google would utilize these identifiers to find and serve this particular product from multiple unique sellers.

A GTIN appears near the barcode on the product packaging, and its length will vary depending upon the type of product and where it’s sold. Until recently, the basic requirement was to supply at least two out of the above three identifying attributes, but now all three must be supplied if all exist.

What are the questions you should be asking now?

The first thing you’ll want to consider is whether your products have a GTIN or UPC currently assigned to them by their manufacturer. It’s likely that not all products will have a GTIN, and so you’ll need to allocate ample time to investigate the issue internally. This may involve syncing up with other business units, like purchasing or inventory management, to get the necessary information and to make sure all teams are aligned. If you’re a brand, (not a reseller) this info should be fairly easy to attain. Additionally, if you sell a major brand, it’s probably safe to assume that GTINs exist for the vast majority of these products.

If GTINs/UPCs exist, the next thing you’ll want to ensure is that the data is being served to Google accurately. Keep in mind, there are some products that don’t commonly have GTINs assigned by the manufacturer – like replacement and original equipment manufacturer parts, custom products, antiques, and even some apparel products. Additionally, there may not be GTINs for items with “pre-order” availability or those characterized as “used condition” items. Google is now giving warnings, “Item Requires a GTIN, Resolve by May 16”, in the Diagnostics section of the Merchant Center, so you’ll know if the data isn’t being served correctly. If you don’t see any warnings, take this as indication that you’re in compliance with the new policy (although you still may want to investigate and confirm on your own). If you are seeing warnings, be sure to track down the right data as soon as possible.

An important note: don’t make up GTINs if they don’t exist for your products. Google has mentioned that they are able to sniff out fakes, and will disapprove them. If you’re unsure or need to validate your GTINs, check the GTIN Validation Guide provided by GS1.

The bottom line

If GTINs exist for your products, Google must be able to identify them, or they run the risk of being disapproved by the Google Merchant Center. Keep in mind – this is ultimately a mutually beneficial move for Google, retailers, advertisers and customers alike. Improving the experience on search means having consistent, rich and most importantly, accurate data, so that customers can have the kind of shopping experience they need to make purchase decisions. And that’s exactly what we want!

If you have any questions, please reach out to our teams!

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