5th May // 2016
On 16th May 2016 Google will require GTIN product identifiers to be included for products in Merchant Center product feeds. If you don't start including GTINs for branded products sold my multiple retailers then you risk products being disapproved after the May 16th deadline, something that could seriously harm business!
For the uninitiated, a GTIN is a Global Item Trade Number, which you'll more commonly recognise as the number found below barcodes on most products. There are various types of GTIN including UPC and EAN,most of which are interchangeable in to different formats by using a number of leading zeros. Google accepts GTINs in GTIN-12 (UPC), GTIN-13 (EAN or JAN) and ISBN format, meaning you're covered no matter what products you sell and where in the world they originate.
The simplest way to discover the GTIN of a product is to look on the packaging! Most products will feature a barcode somewhere on the packaging and, while this can be a time consuming process, it is the most reliable. Worried about data entry errors? Don't be! The last digit in a GTIN is a “check digit” which is determined by performing a set of sums on the preceding numbers. This system is designed to weed out any human transcription errors so you will most likely get an error in your Google Merchant Center feed if you enter the GTIN incorrectly.
If you have a large product catalogue then it's a good idea to contact your suppliers who issue GTIN numbers for the products you sell. Most should be able to provide a list of product IDs (MPN in Google Shopping) and GTINs which you can incorporate in to your shopping feeds.
Last year it was announced that Google was to require Merchant Center users to provide GTINs for products from 50 popular brands. At the time this seemed like a sensible move, considering the included brands were mostly international brands with GTIN references for all of their products. This recent move to provide GTINs for all branded products (expect own-brand) is a bold one, considering many brands are better than others at providing this kind of information to retailers in bulk.
We recommend you contact the company who look after your shopping feeds (if you have one) or contact us as soon as possible to arrange adding in GTIN information to your feed. If you have limited resource and not enough time to collate this information before 16th May then take a look at your high-performing products using Merchant Center or Google Analytics. From this you'll be able to prioritise brands or products that you should be focusing on first to minimise shopping feed losses.
Don't worry, there's a workaround! If you're the only seller of the product you can still submit your products to the feed if you include “brand” and “mpn” attributes. Some products are noted to not have an obvious brand, for example books, films and recordings. In this case you don't need to include “brand”.
If you're in the sticky situation where a product you're selling doesn't have a GTIN and doesn't have an MPN you can set the “identifier exists” attribute to “FALSE”, telling Google that you don't have an identifier for the product. We only recommend doing this in situations where you genuinely can't provide product identifiers. If you use this method incorrectly your products can be disapproved by Google.
Don't worry, we can help! Contact us here and we'll happily talk to you about including GTIN and other attributes in your shopping feed.