UPCs: The GT-INs and GT-Outs | DMA

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UPCs: The GT-INs and GT-Outs


Google recently accounced that, as of Mid May 2016, they would start to disapprove products that didn’t have the correct GTIN values linked to them in shopping feeds. Understandably this realised a lot of issues for advertisers keen to make sure that their products don’t get disproved as May comes around.

Hopefully this blog should give you all the detail you need to understand whether or not you need these GTIN values and if so, how to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible.

What is a GTIN

A GTIN is a unique product identifier – essentially the number beneath the barcode of a product, which brick and mortar shops (with scanners) use to identify exactly what has been sold. GTINs split down into a few sub categories, EANs (European Article Numbers), UPCs (Universal Product Codes), JANs (Japanese Article Numbers) or ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers). Any of these numbers can be used in the GTIN column.

Great, we all know what a GTIN is now.

Why is Google doing this?

Google, characteristically, hasn’t been super clear on the value of this move; however anecdotally it seems like they are using it as a way to collate the same product in different feeds more easily so that they can show more PLA ad formats like this:

New Right Hand PLAs

Where a single title and image is used for the same product across multiple feeds, as well as using more specific product information that should be helping the would-be customer make the right purchase decision.

Personally I think these new-for-shopping ad formats are great. They get rid of the unnecessary duplication of content for product specific searches and focus on information that is actually important to the user.

Just look at this search for Grand Theft Auto 5. All the titles and images are basically the same – because they are the SAME PRODUCT, so having this level of duplication doesn’t give the user anything.

Old Right Hand PLAs

(Quick side par for a second – this change is likely going to hurt shopping services like eBay the most, where users themselves generate the content of the listing, making it a much more difficult task for eBay as a business to ensure that correct GTINs exist in that user provided data. If the product is defined as “used” in the feed, as most things on eBay would be, then they don’t strictly require GTINs, but not having them can still hurt performance.)

As well as these single product ads having more useful information for a user, Google is also saying that including GTIN data increases shopping clicks for products by about 20%. This is the bottom line here – from Google's point of view they see it as a change to help generate more sales on your website.

Great – but what the f-bomb if I don’t have GTINs, dude?

Okay, so you don’t have GTINs? Chances are that you are actually going to be fine. There is only one very specific circumstance where the products in your feed are going to be disapproved. But to make sure you are paying attention, this specific circumstance is somewhere below. So keep scrollin’!

I sell custom made goods or antiques. Do I need to use GTINs?

No – your items won’t be disapproved without GTINs. Make sure you use the correct Google product categories for these items, and if no MPN exists for these products (which is likely) then set “Identifier exists” to FALSE.

I sell used items. Do I need GTINs?

No, but they are useful. While Google has a specific list of products from certain brands that it will require GTINs for, if you are selling a used version of this product, it will circumvent the requirement of having a GTIN. However, not having a GTIN will also mean you don’t get from any of those sweet GTIN performance benefits. And as more products start showing in that single image, single title format, not providing GTINs may also start to limit your impressions. So GTIN not necessary, but still helpful.

I am a manufacturer and I am the only retailer of my products. Do I need GTINs?

No – Google say that they don’t want any manufactures who don’t have GTINs for their products to have to go out and buy them just for this. The point of this change is to make sure resellers selling products that have GTINs are using them.

I am a reseller of products – do I need GTINs?

Yes – but, only if the manufacturer has GTINs to give you. If they do, you should be insisting that this data is sent to you as standard. If the manufacturer, for whatever reason, doesn’t have GTINs for their products then, based on all you have learned above, calmly explain their value but don’t worry about any product level disapprovals in your shopping feed because of this.

And, as always, where GTINs don’t exist – try to use MPNs and Brand as fall back product identifiers.

Still got questions?

Geez guys, you are inquisitive. Well, you asked for it.

Find Google’s detailed info on GTIN requirements here.

You can learn all sort of exciting things about what to do for products that are part of a bundle, what to do if you have multiple GTINs for the same product, and what to do if you sell drugs or magazine subscriptions (spoiler alert, the answer is re-evaluate your life choices – JK, I love you guys).

To view this blog written by Guy Tonkin on the Periscopix website, please click here.

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