Shopify’s New “Standard Product Types” vs “Custom Product Types”

x-posted on r/shopify

It appears that Shopify is rolling out a new product field called "Standard Product Types" and auto-assigning categories. There was a post about it on Shopify Community Forums and a post on this subreddit which didn't get much traction (just my reply so far). Shopify also hasn't released much information about it yet other than adding a section to their Product types documentation. So I thought I'd share some background and insight.

  1. Shopify has historically only had one field for "Product Type" which merchants input ourselves. These product types could be anything you wanted, as they were part of your store's own custom taxonomy system. (ie: You could use them to auto-populate categories, do filtered searches, etc.)

  2. Google has a standard set of "Product Categories" which it uses for Google Shopping & Google Ads. For these, we cannot enter whatever we want. We have to use one of Google's predetermined categories. Here is their full list for your reference.

So for example, Google doesn't have a "Sweater" or "Hoodie" category, so all the sweaters and hoodies that we sell on our website have to fit into one of these two Google categories.

  • 5598 – Apparel & Accessories > Clothing > Outerwear > Coats & Jackets
  • 212 – Apparel & Accessories > Clothing > Shirts & Tops
  1. Google automatically assigns Product Categories if you don't specifically indicate one. And they actually do a pretty good job. I've historically not had to go back and manually assign one. Very occasionally they get it wrong.
  2. A few days ago, Shopify launched "Standard Product Types" and "Custom Product Types" converting all of our previously input Product Types into "Custom Product Types" and automatically generating a "Standard Product Type" (which you are now seeing live on your product listing). You can see that underneath the new Standard Product Type, your old Product Types still exist as Custom.
    Here's a full list of Shopify's Categories — which looks strikingly similar to Google's Categories — but not exactly.

5. So why are your "Socks" now categorized as "Mittens"? Well, it appears that Shopify has auto-generated Standard Product Types for all our products — but they did a bad job. The good news is that those new Standard Product Types won't negatively affect us for the time being. Google is still auto-applying their own categories, and our Custom Product Types are the ones that are auto-populating our Collections.

6. Why is this important? Historically, putting products into Google Categories in bulk has required a 3rd party app. Shopify actually has a column in their CSV Import file for Google Category, but their own Google Channel App doesn't recognize the inputs. So you have to either manually input them in your Shopify backend for each individual product (which is unreasonable for large collections) or use a 3rd party app like Google Feeds.

So I'm speculating that Shopify adding these new Standard Product Types are a step in the right direction towards being able to bulk edit Google Shopping Categories — since the new Standard Product Types would be recognized in the CSV file. Or alternatively these new Standard Product Types could have NOTHING to do with Google Categories and I'm just wishful thinking. Perhaps Shopify has some marketplace plans in the works and this is part of their groundwork…

For now, it seems that the new Standard Product Types have no impact on your Google Product Category for the time being. Meaning, Google is continuing to auto-assign a category based on their algorithm with no influence (yet) from Shopify's new Standard Product Type. And your collections and filtered searches should continue working a normal, as long as you add a "Custom Product Type" to your new products (whereas previously you would just add a "Product Type").

7. Why are there so many Product Type Taxonomies? Your guess is as good as mine. Google, Shopify, Facebook, GS1, and others all have their own proprietary Product Type Taxonomies, and cross-referencing between those taxonomies is a challenge. While there is extensive overlap between the taxonomy systems, they are not at all identical. Their hierarchy and number ID system differ as well.

Earlier today I tweeted:

I move that Google, Shopify Facebook, BigCommerce, Square, Wix, and Mailchimp band together and create a Universal Product Type Taxonomy (UPTT). It will better #ecommerce for all merchants moving forward. Who seconds this motion? RT if you agree.

But I have like 63 followers on Twitter so the tweet has gotten no traction. LOL. However I think it's an important standardization to have and will better the future of e-commerce for both merchants and consumers moving forward. (And developers!)

If you come across any new information about Shopify's new Standard Product Type, please share.

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