POV: Google Updates Its Product Feed

As of May 16, 2016, if you sell a product that has a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN, also known as a digital barcode) on Google, it will be compulsory to include it in your feed, or else those items will be disapproved.

Details & Implications

Many manufacturers make multiple products that are extremely similar when looked at within the product page of a website. The difficulty in confidently identifying products is what makes product comparison sites difficult to build. Despite the fact Google has created relatively robust face recognition software, the company hasn’t replicated this with products, so Google has decided to progress by forcing merchants to tell it exactly what each product is.

Merchants must now use a standardized identifier to make sure Google can compare Golden Delicious apples to Golden Delicious apples. The introduction of GTIN uniquely identifies any product that arrives in any kind of packaging – barcodes are usually digital versions of a GTIN. The GTIN is as familiar to logistics people as GRPs are to media people. They act as a common language between warehouses and companies to ensure that large companies are able to efficiently transport goods from one business to another, without needing someone to key in the actual order details each time.

Google’s change ensures that it’s getting access to this consistent data and can thus innovate on top of the existing infrastructure, instead of creating its own framework from scratch. If merchants don’t comply with Google’s decision, their product listing ads will simply stop working and their products won’t appear within Google shopping. This will obviously impact volumes for merchants, so there will be a push on their side to include the GTIN.


Once they start receiving the updated product listing feeds, Google will have an interesting new data source – the exact products on sale from a range of merchants and the ability to compare them. Therefore, Google can start ranking these merchants on how quickly they stock new products, how successfully they can keep items in stock, and how broad or unique of a range they sell. Even more interestingly, they can compare the prices that these merchants offer, so as to give a guide as to how competitively merchants price. Google can now also start looking at extending quality scores to include metrics based on what retailers sell. Furthermore, other companies will start making these standardized identifiers available on the internet, making it potentially easier for the next Kelkoo to emerge.

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