IndustryGoogle Product Search Insights: The Impact of UPCs on Customer Conversions

Google Product Search Insights: The Impact of UPCs on Customer Conversions

Google Product Search has released new Unique Product Identifier (UPI) requirements and data feed requirements. The requirements are an attempt by Google to self-regulate their recently imposed Panda update and reduce duplicate product listings.

Google Product Search LogoGoogle Product Search has recently released new Unique Product Identifier (UPI) requirements in June and new data feed requirements as of July 11. The new requirements are an attempt by Google to self-regulate their recently imposed Panda update and reduce the number of duplicate product listings.

Google’s push for data normalization is positive for consumers, but negative for merchants with limited data and resources. The goal of this article is to help online retailers gain a better understanding of the requirements and how to implement them effectively.

Google’s New UPI Requirements

Creating UPI requirements for retailers does two things:

  • Forces retailers in certain categories to SKU up on product comparison pages
  • Encourages retailers on product comparison pages to compete by price and reviews

Below we address the new UPI requirements in plain English, two UPC case studies that measure the impact of UPCs on customer conversions, and an analysis of the future of product data requirements.

New UPI Requirements in Plain English:

Retailers that list products outside of the apparel and custom category items need two of the following three identifiers:

  • UPC, EAN, or JAN
  • Brand
  • MPN

Media products need one of the three: UPC, EAN, or JAN

Books need an ISBN (Either ISBN-10 or ISBN-13. Exceptions apply for books published before 1970).

If for some reason you are outside of the apparel and custom category items but cannot secure the required UPIs for your products you can request exemption from Google here

Case Study: The Impact of Adding UPCs to Google Shopping Feeds

Merchant A:

UPCs added to 34.45 percent of products (their most popular products)

  • Week over week traffic up 125 percent
  • Revenue up 176 percent
  • Order volume up 190 percent
  • Conversion rate up 28.5 percent (up over 2 percentage points from 7.4 to 9.6 percent)

Merchant B:

UPCs added to 18.98 percent of products (their most popular products)

  • Week over week traffic up 145 percent
  • Revenue up 265 percent
  • Order volume up 342 percent
  • Conversion rate up 35.7 percent (up over 1 percentage point)

UPC Case Study Conclusion

The change to traffic, revenue, order volume, and conversion rates before and after the addition of UPCs is pretty straightforward. Adding them has the ability to increase revenue, conversions, traffic, and order volume substantially. Unfortunately these results aren’t directly correlated.

The impact of adding UPCs to your shopping feed depends on whether you’re price competitive, your number of products, and how Google currently organizes your products in product search results.

Regardless, etailers should abide to Google’s UPI requirements. If you’re missing UPCs for some of your products, here an easy but time consuming way to find them:

  • Perform a somewhat generic search for one of your products on Google Product Search
  • Click the Compare Prices button for the item that corresponds to the item you’re looking for
  • Confirm that this is the product you want the UPC for
  • Scroll down to the Details section where you’ll find the UPC, Brand and Part Number
  • Add UPCs to the GTIN column in your Google Shopping feed and you’re all set

Google’s New Product Feed Requirements

On July 11 Google unveiled some lengthy new requirements that merchants must adhere to by September 22. Apparel merchants were hit hardest by the new string of requirements, with Google requiring a product listing and image for each variant apparel item, whether that be by age group, pattern, color, or size. 

If you’re a merchant that has an issue with the new requirements we encourage you to post a constructive comment below. Google may not change the requirements but they are known to listen to the first impression of merchants and make concessions to things like the new requirement enforcement date. 

Below is my attempt at translating Google’s tech-heavy, though thorough schematics, into a reader-friendly guide.

  • Google Product Category: Google now has separated merchant and Google categorization. The Google Product Category is where you use Google’s categorization. Merchants that have more specific categories will not only receive more qualified traffic, but more of it, because they are able to leverage additional keywords at the long tail of the category string. Google’s categories can be found here
  • Product Type: The product_type attribute is now for each merchant’s internal categorization taxonomy. You used to be able to use your own categorization or Google’s. With Google’s addition of the Google Product Category, the Product_Type attribute is now for internal categorization only.
  • Additional Image Link: Google now allows up to 10 additional images for each product by creating multiple columns with the attribute. The additional_image_link will help Google display additional views of products to consumers. But with Google’s push to have items SKU up on comparison pages, it will be interesting to see how Google uses and weighs the additional pictures in their algorithm. You wouldn’t want your competitors benefiting from additional images that you upload. 

    The additional_image_link will most likely be most beneficial to soft goods merchants that don’t SKU up. Apparel merchants are now required to include the color and size of their products as well, which adds to the data that these retailers must compile and organize. 

  • Product variations: Google now wants the parent SKU of a group of items to be included with each child SKU. This means that all child products must have a value for the “item group id” attribute, which will be the parent SKU id. 

New Required Attributes for Apparel Merchants

Google now requires the attributes below from apparel merchants. Starting on September 22, products that do not list the attributes below or that do not define the appropriate apparel category for the new Google Product Category will not be recognized as apparel and will be subject to the new unique product identifier rules listed at the top of this article.  

  • Gender
  • Age Group: The age group that each item targets (either Adult or Kids)
  • Color
  • Size: For example “16/37 Tall” for a men’s dress shirt
  • Material
  • Pattern

New Product Feed Requirement Conclusion

To some, these may come across as harsh and tedious, especially to merchants with limited resources. To others, it’s an advantage to now start leveraging this data that they have on file but were unable to organize in Google’s product feed. 

It will certainly help the organization of Google Product Search and soft good items, but it could be counter-intuitive to Google’s main goal, which is to provide a comprehensive shopping engine for consumers. Smaller merchants who are unable to abide by the new requirements will lower the amount of unique offers consumers can search for, limiting Google’s product library and possibly pushing some consumers away.

Again we encourage you to post your opinion about how the new Google Product Search feed requirements affect your business and why. Also if you have any follow up questions please post them in the comments and I will answer them.


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