Retailers without updated product data—GTINs—risk disappearing from search results on Google Shopping.

Retailers and brands that sell through Google Shopping, which includes the Product Listing Ads on Google search results pages, have until Monday to ensure their products use standard codes known as global trade item numbers, or GTINs. Retailers whose product feeds don’t include those numbers risk having their products not show up on the platform.

“There’s definitely some (retailers) scrambling a little bit to get some of this data,” says Link Walls, vice president of product management at ChannelAdvisor, which helps retailers sell through online marketplaces, search engines and comparison shopping sites. “Some of the bigger retailers are in better shape. Some of the smaller ones are struggling a little bit getting that information from the manufacturer because ultimately that’s who it needs to come from.”  He declined to identify any retailer clients not yet in compliance.

Google in in February announced a May 16 deadline for retailers to include in their product feeds GTINs, which are 12- or 13-digit identification codes assigned by global supply chain standards organization GS1. GS1 standards aim to synchronize product identifiers so that all parties, from suppliers through retailers, use the same product information. The most common format for GTINs in North America is the Universal Product Code (UPC).

The codes will benefit sellers, Google writes in a post in its Merchant Center. “GTINs help us understand exactly what you’re selling,” Google writes. “When we understand what you’re selling, we can help boost your ad performance by adding valuable details about the product and serving the ad in a more relevant way to users. This also means that your ads can serve in more places on Google, YouTube, and our partner sites.”

“Google needs to know they’re comparing apples to apples and they need the GTIN to do that so they can say ‘these are the exact same products and we can show you eight different retailers that have it,’” says Brandon Koppy senior performance manager with search marketing firm Adlucent.


GTINs, generally UPC codes, tend to come from a manufacturer and are required only for brand-name products and items commonly sold by other merchants. According to Google, products with GTINs sell 20% better than those that don’t.

The rule does not apply to private-label goods a retailer may source exclusively from a supplier. In a frequently asked questions section, Google says “store-brand items and other products for which you are the only merchant generally do not have GTINs,” which means retailers won’t face consequences.

“In rare cases where a brand-name product has no unique product identifier (e.g., replacement parts), provide this information explicitly in your feed by specifying the ‘identifier exists’ attribute for that item with a value of ‘FALSE’,” Google writes.

Retailers that don’t update products for which the rule does apply by Monday will lose visibility on Google Shopping, the page consumers see when they click on the Shopping tab at the top of a Google search results page. More importantly, Google uses the same product feeds that populates Google Shopping pages to select items to appear in the Product Listing Ads that appear on the main Google search results page, and which account for a growing number of clicks to retail websits.


“If I’m a retailer and I have 1,000 products out on Google Shopping and I have incomplete or bad data, I won’t be showing up in listings,” says Joleen Wroten, lead analyst at pricing monitoring firm 360pi. “There are actions where Google can start to delist people. Most people in the industry don’t believe Google will do that too soon.”

“If I’m a retailer and 10% of my products don’t comply with this yet, come Monday I may be earning 10% less through Google,” ChannelAdvisor’s Walls says. The company has been advising its retailer clients to focus first on ensuring they have GTINs for their top-performing products. .

Apparel retailers may struggle the most with the new standards because of their product variety.

“They have more products and their products are changing more often, so it’s going to be a little bit harder to keep up,” Koppy says. “When you have a specific item of clothing, styles come and go. Everything changes very rapidly in that sector. You have a specific pair of shoes, you’re going to have eight different color types and 12 sizes and each one of those needs its own UPC, so that’s a lot more data to get.”