GS1 Barcodes for Amazon Sellers
In the fast-paced and highly competitive world of e-commerce, where precision and accuracy are the name of the game, every Amazon seller understands that achieving success depends on one crucial factor: meticulous product identification.
In this dynamic environment, barcodes, especially Universal Product Code (UPC) barcodes, play an indispensable role in powering the engines of online retail, ensuring seamless operations and unparalleled customer experiences.
UPC barcodes serve as the digital fingerprints of your products in the vast Amazon marketplace. They are the unique codes that distinguish your offerings from countless others, facilitating smooth transactions, efficient inventory management, and enhanced visibility. In essence, UPC barcode is a critical element that holds the intricate web of e-commerce together, bridging the gap between your products and the eager shoppers seeking them.
In this blog, we embark on a journey through the intricate world of UPC barcodes, shedding light on their paramount importance for Amazon sellers. Join us as we explore how mastering UPC barcodes can elevate your Amazon business to new heights, making your products more visible and accessible to eager online shoppers. We are glad to have members of the GS1 team to answer the most common questions about barcodes.
What is a GTIN?
The GTIN, or Global Trade Item Number, is a unique identifier that a company will license from GS1 US (if your company is based in the United States). GTINs ensure a product is identifiable in a unique way in the global supply chain, meaning no two products will have the same GTIN. Businesses should assign GTINs to products at the variant level. For example, a shirt should be assigned a unique GTIN in each color and every size it comes in.
Most GTINs are encoded into a UPC barcode which can be scanned at check-out. But GTINs are also used extensively in online product listings, for fulfillment operations, inventory management, traceability and product safety.
What are the benefits of using a GS1 barcode?
You’ll need an authentic way to identify your products to see them on major online marketplaces or in a store. GS1 barcodes are accepted globally at major retailers and online, which is why many businesses come to GS1 when they are starting out. For those businesses that plan to stay online only, Google Merchant Center advises that including a GTIN in your listing will help make your ads and listings richer and easier for customers to find in their searches.
Plus, a membership with GS1 US helps your business grow as you increase your channels and your units sold. There are other uses for the GTIN beyond the barcode. For example, Electronic Data Interchange, or EDI, requires the use of GS1 standards like the GTIN in the exchange of digital documents with retailers.
What is the difference between a UPC and a GTIN?
Technically, UPC (or Universal Product Code) refers to the type of barcode you see on the back of most products at a major retailer. The GTIN refers to the series of numbers you see printed underneath that barcode that is carried within it. That said, many retailers and marketplaces will refer to the number as a UPC also. If you are asked to provide a UPC when setting up a product listing, you are most likely being asked to enter a 12-digit long GTIN.
OK, so can’t I just use my SKUs as my GTINs/UPCs?
No. Marketplaces and retailers use GTINs to identify products because they are unique and verifiable. GS1 organizations around the world manage GTINs to ensure they are all unique and provide a Global Registry to ensure that each GTIN can be linked back to the company that licensed it. Unlike GTINs, your propriety SKUs could overlap with another company’s SKUs since they are not managed as one system.
How do I get a GTIN?
Considering the global importance of the GTIN, getting one is simple. If you are in the US, you can visit the GS1 US website. Before you make a purchase, it’s important to consider how many GTINs you will need. Do you have just a few products or a large assortment in your catalog? The Barcode Estimator tool can help you calculate the right number of GTINs for your business.
While GS1 US offers the option to license single GTINs, most growth-oriented businesses opt to license a GS1 Company Prefix, which allows you to create 10-100,000 GTINs and provides you free access to additional identifiers that may become important as you engage with new retailers and expand your operations. A GS1 Company prefix might be right for a company that has a lot of seasonal variations, is launching new products quickly, or has plans to sell in many different channels. For very small businesses that plan to keep their product line at a handful of items, single GTINs can help you fulfill basic retailer and marketplace requirements.
How long does it normally take to get my first GTIN?
You can license a GTIN in the time it takes to perform a basic ecommerce transaction! Simply visit www.gs1us.org, select the level of membership that suits your business and check out. You will then receive a Welcome email prompting you to log in to the free GS1 US Data Hub tool. In GS1 US Data Hub, you are able to manage your GTINs, assign them to products and create barcodes. Since managing your GTINs requires more know-how than licensing them, there is a dedicated Data Hub Support Center where you can review step-by-step guides on the most frequently used functions. When in doubt, you can always contact a member support agent for personal guidance.
What are the costs involved?
The cost will depend on how many GTINs you need. The cost per GTIN decreases the larger your prefix. This ensures that companies with a lot of product variations and seasonal turnover (i.e. apparel) have access to the GTINs they need. A prefix will require an annual renewal fee to keep your company data active. If you are a business with under 10 products, you can also license a single GTIN for $30 and you will not have an annual renewal fee.
Do I have to buy directly from GS1 or can I use a ‘reseller’?
Marketplaces check GTINs against the GS1 database to ensure a product is specifically listed to the brand owner. GTINs obtained from another source may associate the product with another company, which causes confusion in the supply chain. For example, you may assign a GTIN to your small vanilla-scented candle that has previously been assigned to a party-size bag of chips according to the GS1 database. If you don’t source GTINs from GS1 US, you run the risk of having your product listings hidden or rejected because of a matching error.
I have licensed my GS1 Company Prefix/GS1 US GTIN and now I need to create a barcode. How do I do that?
Any business that comes to GS1 US to license their GTINs has free access to GS1 US Data Hub. This tool will help you manage your GTINs, calculate that tricky check digit and create the foundation of a product catalog that you can share with trading partners. Data Hub also can generate a variety of barcode types.
You can generate the UPC barcode and either print it on labels right out of Data Hub or download the file to send to your packaging designer. You can also generate case-level barcodes that can help better label your cases and pass along critical data to your 3PL. Your initial Welcome email will help get you started.
How do I access my GS1 US certificate?
Your GS1 Certificate helps you provide ownership over the GTINs you licensed from GS1 US. You might need it to set up brand protection with a marketplace or reclaim your listing from a hijacker. You can find a copy of your certificate online in your myGS1US account.
You can also access your myGS1US account through Data Hub by clicking on the Print Identifier Certificate link in the Identifier Tools area. Once on your myGS1 US home page, click on the Identifier Certificates button on the homepage in the Quick Actions section. You can also visit the Print A Certificate page in the GS1 US Data Hub Help Center for a walk-through.
As you navigate the ever-evolving landscape of e-commerce, equipped with the knowledge of UPC barcodes and GS1 services, you're better prepared to streamline your operations, minimize errors, and enhance your brand's credibility.
These tools are pivotal in connecting your products with the vast sea of online shoppers, ensuring your offerings stand out in a competitive marketplace.
Whether you're a seasoned Amazon seller or just starting your e-commerce journey, the mastery of UPC barcodes is a game-changer. It unlocks new possibilities, propels your brand to greater heights, and ensures your products are easily discoverable and trustworthy in the eyes of customers.
So, as you continue your Amazon venture, remember that securing UPC barcodes is a very critical component in your business. It's where precision meets profitability, where the right code can lead to the right customers. Leverage GS1 services today and watch your Amazon business thrive in the digital marketplace.
If you’re interested in learning more about uniquely identifying your brand and products with GS1 US, check out our website.
Megan Baumer is a business development director at GS1 US with a focus on the e-commerce community. She works directly with agencies, platforms, marketplaces, and solution providers who share the common goal of helping brands grow. Her mission is to raise awareness for the critical role that global data standards play in the retail supply chain and to partner with key organizations to make GS1 Standards accessible and understandable. Her previous experience includes private-label product manufacturing and sales, along with extensive experience in the non-profit world.