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Product master data and marketplaces

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Why product master data is a basic requirement for marketplaces

Correct and complete product information is a prerequisite for successful online shopping, because potential buyers cannot touch or try out the products offered on marketplaces. Therefore, it is important for marketplaces to ensure trust in the authenticity and completeness of product information. Comprehensive product information can bring about a confident purchase decision, which can also increase loyalty to the marketplace and the brand purchased.

Due to the challenges of online retailing, it is often difficult to identify goods and correctly assign product information. This is a problem with products such as duplicates, product variants, bundles and remanufactured goods. GS1 standards offer solutions that have proven themselves in bricks-and-mortar retail since the 1970s and play an increasingly important role in the age of online retail.

The Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is an international standard for product identification. It can help both retailers and online marketplaces to capture, structure and display their product data. This article describes the importance of the GTIN for online marketplaces and its benefits.

How is a GTIN structured?

The Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is composed of the company's base number (GS1 Company Prefix, GCP), an item number/reference and a check digit. The base number in turn is composed of the GS1 country prefix - in this case "76" for the numbers assigned by GS1 Switzerland - and the participant number of the company that wants to identify the product. The GCP is assigned to the company by the respective GS1 country organisation and can be between 7 and 10 digits long, depending on how many items the respective company wants to label. For example, if a company wants to identify up to 10,000 items, its GCP will be 8 digits and 4 digits; if it wants to identify up to 100 items, its GCP will be 10 digits and 2 digits, with 2 digits assigned to each item.

The so-called non-reuse rule came into force on 1 January 2019. The rule states that once a GTIN has been used, it may not be reassigned, even if the product originally marked with it no longer exists or is no longer available.

GTIN obligation for online marketplaces

Numerous marketplaces, including e.g. Amazon and eBay, require the recording of unique product identification numbers as part of their sales guidelines. The requirements for recording product characteristics are clearly defined in these guidelines. The guidelines go so far that in the case of incorrect product details and illegally acquired GTINs, the products can no longer be sold via the online marketplaces. The minimum requirements of Galaxus, for the identification of products and the integration of master data, refer to the GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) and/or the manufacturer's article number, whereby the GTIN is expressly preferred due to its uniqueness.

Acquisition of GTINs in Switzerland

In Switzerland, GS1 Switzerland is the official and licensed contact point for the assignment of Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs). Illegal copies of GTINs from existing products or unauthorised sellers can lead to chaos in the market. Therefore, GS1 Switzerland offers tools to both retailers and manufacturers to make online sales successful and transparent. The support includes not only the allocation of article numbers, but also other services for checking and verifying products as well as onboarding aids to make processes more efficient.

Capture and exchange product data

The principle of GTIN assignment is that the brand owner or the distributor of the product assigns the GTIN. For traders who want to sell products in Switzerland via a marketplace, it is advisable to have the products clearly identified with the help of the respective brand owner. This offers advantages along the value chain for both manufacturers and traders, especially since product and manufacturer information can be easily traced. Alternatively, retailers can create GTINs themselves if they are GS1 members. With the help of the GTIN Registry, not only GTINs can be created, but also essential product data can be recorded. The following master data can be created in this process:

  • Delivery type article number
  • Article description
  • Brand name
  • Trademark owner
  • Weights
  • Product dimensions
  • Net quantity
  • Image

Brand owner or "retailer" data comes from a variety of sources, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) or product information management (PIM) systems, distribution and production, and product management. The situation is further complicated by the fact that data users - retailers, online marketplaces, consumers and public authorities - have different requirements for sharing and using this data. From the perspective of retailers and online marketplaces that offer numerous products from different suppliers, this increases the complexity of translating master data. This can lead to uncoordinated and inefficient translations with many different data pools and interfaces.

The "Verified by GS1" solution, which will be available throughout Switzerland from 2022 (see Outlook), will make onboarding on marketplaces more efficient. The Pr product data created with the GTIN register will be transferred to a single master data pool that will be centrally available to both marketplaces and retailers.

"Global Model Number

The Global Model Number (GMN) is a unique identifier for products that enables companies to identify the product model throughout the product lifecycle and leverage product content for a seamless shopping experience across all channels. By simplifying and harmonising the exchange of product data, GS1's Global Model Number increases efficiency for brand owners and retailers, improves accuracy for customers and harmonises global standards for product description. A GMN groups products that come in different styles, different colours or sizes, but are technically identical - as is often the case in the fashion industry, for example.

The earlier brand owners and manufacturers of products integrate Global Manufacturer Identification (GMN) into the innovation and product development process, the more benefits there will be for retailers and marketplaces as well. Currently, GMN is used in the European Union to identify regulated medical devices. Applications in other industries, such as consumer goods, may be added once approved through the GS1 Standardisation Process (GSMP).