Google Changes GTIN Requirement Product Listing Ads

Retailer all over the world will be delighted to hear that Google has decided it is no longer a necessity to have GTINs for each and every product for its Product Listing Ad (PLA) product.

GTINs are essentially a unique product code that can be used to identify one single product. It is a globally unique 14-digit number used to identify trade items, products, or services. GTIN is also an umbrella term that refers to the entire family of UCC.EAN data structures. The entire family of data structures within the GTIN is: GTIN-12 (UPC)

In essence, they help the user by making sure that the products compared in Google Shopping are identical. As a consumer, you do not have to worry about comparing apples with oranges. GTINs (or EANs) combine products that are essentially the same, into one unique product on Google Shopping. 

Are you in the market for the latest iPhone Xr? Search for iPhone Xr and you will be shown one single product (with the same GTIN), and the respective prices (in this case more than 20 shops) for that particular product. 

Certified Pre-Owned

Whereas this works wonderfully well for commodities and standard products, it gets more tricky with (certified) pre-owned products, such as watches. In the image below, you can see that the “same” watch, is shown three times on Google Shopping, now.

That was not (always) the case in the last year. If this watch make (year, type, style) would have one GTIN, these watches would have been combined into one product. The user needed to click on the product to see the various shops that offer the watch and the different price points. 

Screenshot Rolex Submariner Product Search on Google Switzerland AUG 2019

Why not all retailer use GTINs

Furthermore, and possibly the largest issue with GTINs is that not all brands provide retailer with GTINs in the first place. Brands that only work with smaller collections and private labels especially, do not always have GTINs.

The main reason being, GTINs need to be purchased in bulk. They do not necessarily cost a lot, but they need to be registered in the ERP-systems and they are a bit of a hassle. 

What adds to the complexity, EAN-numbers are country-specific. If your brand is active in a large number of markets, it can quickly get complex. Some brands outright refused to work with any form of unique product identification.

Whereas others “overdid it,” handing out new GTINs for each and every season, whereas the product essentially remained identical. The main issue here being how to deal with stock from various seasonal drops (deliveries).

A thing of the past? 

This is not the end of the story, though. EANs will remain an important factor in whether or not a product is shown. Google reportedly said, PLA that have GTIN will be preferred over those that do not. 

However, it does enable us to show more products on Google Shopping once again. Generally a positive thing for the consumer when it comes to second-hand goods and products with very different specifications. 

Here is another blogpost from a well respected agency we work with on the subject of UPIs for one of our clients (Tourneau)

Facebook to remove „red dots“ – icon badges to lower our anxiety levels

Facebook is one of the most influencial companies in the world; when they raise a point, and they do not do so very often, maybe it is a good time to listen. This time around, a small product improve gives us some insight into the “social” direction Facebook is thinking of going.

We spend an awefull amount of time online. Facebook and it’s tools (Instagram and WhatsApp), keep us busy for a large part of the day. We spend countless hours browsing through our feeds and looking for the latest news/social updates.

When you are an active Facebook user, I am sure you will know the little “angry red dots” on your app-icons that indicate you’ve missed something. Facebook are looking to remove/change these little demons, or at least, let the user decide whether or not they’d like to see them for certain types of information.

The fact that Facebook looks to give the user more control over its notifications is not that interesting, yet the reason why is.

Mental wellbeing is in focus

The larger tech companies have slowly started to realize, that they need to focus on the long term impact of the tools they have created. Most importantly, it is said that the constant need for attention and social affirmation determine our mental wellbeing considerably.

Hence, Apple recently introduced a “screen time” feature, allowing users to spend a certain amount of time on each app per day. Both Google and Apple have added “night shift” features that filter out blue tones on our phones, mostly so we can sleep better at night.

Facebook has not changed it’s core product much in recent years, though. A few small tweaks to the general layout of the site and apps were done (some color changes – which gives Facebook a cleaner look), but with regards to digital- and mental wellbeing Zuckerberg and his team have not (actively) communicated what they have done.

Removing the red badges might be the first sign of social responsibility of Facebook with regard to our state of mind.

A powerful tool, nonetheless

UX-design is very important for digital products. Design features around notifications and call to actions, the ones that digital marketeers use to communicate with the consumer, are at the core of each and every online product.

Everyone who has a smartphone, intrinsically understands the importance of “the little red dots” that indicate: “There is a message waiting for your.” I have personally turned off as many of these notifications as possible; I know that I’ll check my messages, whenever I want – and I do so far too often, anyway.

Yet, we need these triggers to tell the consumer, he’s missed something. We need communication tools to get their attention. The red badges draw the user’s attention and are critically important to our click through rates and how we trigger users to visit certain parts of our apps and sites.

Are they really looking out for us

Facebook decides to move away from this approach and focus on less interaction, more “billboard style” marketing. This has proven to be very successful for Instagram. On Insta, the user is hardly triggered by badges.

Maybe, Facebook have learned that users leave their product whenever they are done reading all notifications. Quite possibly, exploration keeps the user engaged and interested. Hence, getting rid of the notifications might not actually be just for our mental wellbeing, but a “time on site” optimization.

Our user behavior does not change quickly. We as consumers, get used to the tools we use on a daily basis at some point, but muscle memory takes a long time to build up. Instagram was a game changer for Facebook. The way users interact with Insta is significantly different from the traditional Facebook site and apps.

Maybe, Facebook have learned a thing or two here. Maybe, they are not really looking out for us, but merely for themselves. Or just maybe, this was actually a positive, social move – far more significant than we’d ever give them credit for.

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Millennials need structure and a place to sit

Flexible working hours, open spaced offices with cool sofas, beanie bags and playstations everywhere. Google was the “first” to pull it off and offer its employees an office space where its employees would actually love to spend (more) time.

Yet, the more time I have spend in co-working spaces and flexible open-spaced offices, the more I appreciate a bit of peace and quiet.

We communicate a lot, and I am thankful for it. Communicating with others, picking their brains and learning, together, is what makes my profession worthwhile. However, I feel a need for a place to retreat, ponder over my new insights and consolidate the learnings.

What I know for sure, a “game room” is not the best place to do just that.

Millennials at work

Interestingly enough, I had thought a new group of workers would appreciate this type of environment, most. The generation that was born 5-10 years after me, has a different perception of work/living/career paths.

This new workforce, is more attracted and perceptive to experiences over assets. They want to do something meaningful with their lives and “live it” to the fullest.

Millennials at work

Millennials have a sense of entitlement, more than any other age group before them. They believe to have certain rights, primary rights, that others worked hard to get. Hence, employers have started to plan their office spaces, opening hours and working conditions to suit the preferences of this group of workers more and more.

At GANDT Ventures we have a good mix of Millennial team members and seasoned digital industry specialist. A few years ago, I feel the difference between these two groups of workers was more distinct. However, it seems as though they are learning from one another.

The Millennials are on the look out for more structure, whereas the 35-50 year olds, want more autonomy – essentially plan their own working days and hours more and work from home.

One big difference between Millennials and the generations before them, is that they work because they want to and not because (they feel) they have to. Hence, we need to provide them with incentives to keep them happy.

The right “incentives”

Getting the incentives right for Millennials is very hard. They do not have problem to speak about their emotions, but their preferences change – rapidly.

It is exactly because of these constant changes, that I believe these youngsters feel more attracted to a semi-structured way of working. I think there are toddlers amongst Millennials (still), but they have also started to grow up (a little).

In job interviews with students and post-graduates, I’ve received a good number of questions regarding a fixed, personal place to sit and work. Of course, due to their sense of entitlement – they feel as though we must provide them with the optimal working conditions and a personal place to work.

However, I think it is more than that. Millennials are looking for a sense of belonging, a place they can call home and identify with. It is not about monetary incentives or perks – these are forgotten and taken for granted within mere minutes – it is about creating a sense of belonging; a bit of structure in their lives.

Lots of exceptions – trial and error

It goes without saying, that these are merely my own personal observations. I guess my own personal preferences play a big part in what I feel my team needs, too. I want to tailor the workplace to the personal preferences of the team as much as I can. Make each and every one feel comfortable and work as effectively as they can.

Large open office spaces are a real challenge

We always look for people and employees that share common values and believes with us. Hopefully do not have the same opinion on everything, but at least would harmonize well when working together. They need to feel comfortable in the space we can provide, together. You need to learn what makes your team most comfortable.

Seating arrangement: I know I’ve made one huge mistake in the past by sitting the IT-Service, in a “quiet” corner next to the copy-machine.

I’ll never forget the uproar a few weeks later, as the IT-guys and girls had been utterly annoyed by the constant printer noise and the unplanned drop-in of various employees. The solution: I brought the team leads together in one room and let them decide on a more logical seating arrangement.

Open spaced offices are tricky and you need dividers to make it work, but I know for a fact now that I am not the best indoor architect.

At the end of the day, a lot of trial and error is involved to find the right setup. What works for one person, might not work at all for somebody else. Yet, I think it helps to create and share your thoughts on structure and infrastructure with your team(s). I will certainly be sure to show upcoming millennials around when they apply for a job at GANDT Ventures – and plan ahead on a dedicated desks.

Why short term potential should not be called quick wins

There is one term I have never truly understood, “quick wins”. It is a term I hear far too often when meeting (new) clients. Middle managers want and need to show results, quickly. Speed is of the essence and it’s all about showing traction. Hence the term quick wins appeals to them.

However, whenever a manager drops the terms “short term,” “fixes,” and “quick wins,” I know there is a bigger problem we need to address. Most times, organizational inefficiencies, poor character judgement (wrong hiring decisions), and a lack of understanding of the business’ challenges lead to the need for hectic improvements.

Besides, I believe “quick wins” and short term gains can only sensibly be made when they are part of a longer term plan of action.

Digital assets serve various purposes

In the mid 2000s (when I started my digital endeavors), brand marketeers and influencer marketing had not been established. Digital marketing was said to have zero to no impact on (product and company) branding. The core task of a performance marketeer was to facilitate a transaction.

The tools that are at our disposal to work with our digital assets, has changed and evolved since then. This has led to new “types” of marketing manager to join the online game. Websites and apps serve far more purposes than a mere transaction. Yet, the mindset of C-Level executives, who have little or no personal digital marketing experience, is that online drives sales.

This leads to most customer requests to focus first and foremost on marketing “inefficiencies” with regards to digital sales. Yet, what most manager fail to understand is the complexity of what the end-consumer expects from a companies digital assets.

What they fail to understand: the customer expects far more from an online service. Communication, Service Requests, Information as well as a simple Checkout process and Online Returns Handling are to name but a few things the customer expects. It is highly important to understand that each and ever one of these areas contributes positively to the success of your business. Quick wins, should not just focus on the last mile, but we need to take a customer centric approach to solving his problems.

Marketing inefficiencies usually not quick wins

Some inefficiencies in marketing spend can be “fixed” in a relatively short period of time. However, most quick wins merely patch an open wound. The wound itself needs to heal and putting a bandaid on it will simply hide the fact that it is there. The bandaid does not stop the same problem from occurring over and over again.

Let’s say the online marketing budget was not allocated correctly; the best performing search campaigns did not receive enough budget (had substantial missed ad impressions) and the poorest performing campaigns simply waste money. An obvious quick win would be to re-allocate the budget to the best performing campaigns and un-cap the potential.

Yet, we need to understand how this happened in the first place. Why did the responsible account manager not spot these obvious problems? Was he focused on other parts of the business, or did he not understand the implications of his actions?

We tend to forget and neglect the root causes of our “undesirable effects.” I love working with UDEs (Undesirable Effects) because they pinpoint the topics that annoy us; UDEs make our problems tangible. We need to get to the bottom of the problem to solve it, though. The root cause – often caused by a lack of knowledge, the wrong midterm incentives and organizational structure. However, none of these things can be solved in the short term as quick wins.

Kick-off

In essence, fixing a short term UDE does not solve organizational problems. We need to develop a mid- to long term plan of action to tackle the root causes.

There is nothing wrong with working on quick wins, but they should be used to <prove> that the approach is paying off. By that I mean, prove that you are on the right track to solve your root cause-problems.

It is easy to end up in a constant search for quick gains and short term solutions. Hence it is imperative that you as a manager focus your attention on the long term big picture. I personally think it helps to get experts to do the deep dives and find short term gains. But you should use them to develop a long term game plan, too.

Communicate your steps and long term vision

Communication is key in this respect; not just within your team(s), but towards senior management and other important stakeholder, too. The key players in your company need to understand that you have a long term game plan on how you can create the highest possible customer benefit through your digital assets, website and apps.

Explain to them the importance of online, stress the consumer’s expectations and use your quick wins to show them the direction you would like to go to. Choose the areas you would like to “score” your quick wins in carefully and deliberately and make sure they support the overall user journey as well as improve the customer experience with your product or brand.

And once you’ve done that, you can start to ask your agencies and consultancies for their vision and the first initial steps – instead of quick wins.

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