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Are you looking to start your private label store on Amazon? You must have heard about different Amazon barcode numbers, including GTIN, UPC, FNSKU, and EAN. If you plan to launch your product on the Amazon marketplace, it's important you know what these numbers are and how they work.

In this blog, we aim to discuss exactly that!

You’ll learn how GTIN vs UPC, FNSKU and EAN compare, how a GTIN works, what option to choose between a UPC and a GTIN when selling on Amazon, if GTIN is the same as GS1, and much more.

Let’s get started. 

What is a GTIN?

GTIN stands for Global Trade Item Number. Developed by the Uniform Code Council in 1973, the GTIN barcode helps identify a product and product variations. You can find it on almost all items sold on Amazon and other marketplaces. Each GTIN comes with a unique barcode, which makes the product ID easily scannable.

GTINs are extensively used in e-commerce, retail, shipping, and warehousing to accurately and efficiently sort products for storage and transit. 

What does a GTIN look like?

A GTIN consists of a string of numbers, combining multiple codes. Each code in the series serves a different purpose. These numbers are printed at the bottom of black and white bars and can be 8, 12, 13, or 14 characters long

Here's a 13-digit GTIN example:

Note: Image taken from GS1 pdf document and might need to be designed in-house

  • The first two digits, 9 and 5, refer to the Country Code
  • The following five digits refer to the Manufacturer Code
  • The next five digits, from 0 to 4, specify the Product Reference Code
  • The last number is the Check Digit

So, is GTIN basically a barcode?

Well, not really. A barcode is the series of lines you see on a product label. These black and white bars (lines) serve as a graphical representation of the product identifier code, helping scanners read and interpret the code accurately. On the other hand, GTIN refers to the actual identification number below the barcode (see the example earlier). 

What is a UPC?

Universal product code, abbreviated as UPC, is a 12-digit symbol embedded into a barcode to facilitate identifying a particular product or its variation. It's the most used product identifier code in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Here's how the anatomy of a UPC looks:

  • The first six digits refer to the Company Prefix
  • The next five digits specify the Product Code
  • The last number in the UPC is the Check Digit

What's the difference between GTIN and UPC?

There's no difference between a GTIN vs UPC. The latter is just a type of GTIN, consisting of a string of twelve characters. So essentially, all UPC numbers fall under the category of GTIN but not all GTIN codes are classified as UPCs. 

How many types of GTIN are there?

There are mainly four types of GTINs: 8, 12, 13, and 14 digits. All GTINs, irrespective of their length, have an Item Reference Code and a Check Digit. 

  • GTIN-8 - shorter variant of EAN-13 GTIN, only used for small size products
  • GTIN-12 - also called UPC or UPC-A code
  • GTIN-13 - while typically associated with EAN-13 barcodes, they are also used in the ISBN and JAN product identification systems
  • GTIN-14 - used mainly for shipping containers

GTIN-12 is predominantly used on products sold in North America, while GTIN-8 and GTIN-13 numbers are used in other parts of the world. 

GTIN vs EAN

European Article Number, abbreviated as EAN, is an identifier belonging to the GTIN system. It is 13 digits long and is used globally, except in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

GTIN vs ISBN

International Standard Book Number, ISBN in short, is a numeric identifier for uniquely identifying books. Before 2007, ISBNs were 10 digits long, but the ISBN system switched to a 13-digit format. 

Why is GTIN important?

GTINs are a commonplace when selling on Amazon. You must provide a GTIN when creating a new product page, or else Amazon won’t allow you to list your product. The global trade item number allows Amazon to manage and track millions of product references across its supply chain around the globe

In addition to that, GTIN offers the following benefits:

  • Better visibility: Adding GTIN barcodes to your products results in better referencing, which helps your marketplace SEO. Products with GTIN codes typically have a higher click-through rate (CTR) and tend to convert better.
  • Optimize product catalog: GTIN codes give you access to high-quality photos and technical data for products already available on marketplaces. You can leverage this pre-existing product information to optimize your product catalog and improve your listing, especially if you are a reseller.
  • Product recommendation: Using GTIN barcodes helps boost the quality of your product page. You can use these codes to optimize the recommended products section at the bottom of the product page to upsell your products. 

Do all products have a GTIN?

Yes, almost all products have a GTIN. However, there are instances where GTIN is not required when creating a product page on Amazon: 

  1. You want to resell a product for which the brand or manufacturer has not provided a GTIN
  2. You want to sell a private-label or handmade product that doesn’t have a GTIN yet 
  3. You want to sell a bundle. For example, a pack of three t-shirts or a men’s gift set containing a wallet, perfume, and pen.
  4. You want to sell product parts that don’t have a GTIN by default, such as mobile accessories or automotive parts. 

In all these cases, you can apply for a GTIN exemption from Amazon (more on this later).

Can two products have the same GTIN?

No two products can have the same GTIN. Remember, a GTIN is a unique code assigned to a product. Using the same GTIN for two different products would defeat the whole purpose of these codes. 

Is GTIN mandatory to sell on Amazon?

Yes. Amazon’s systems are barcode-driven. The eCommerce giant uses these barcode numbers to identify and track inventory throughout the fulfillment process. So, GTIN is mandatory to sell on Amazon unless the product qualifies for a GTIN exemption as discussed above. 

What is an FNSKU?

Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit, abbreviated as FNSKU, is Amazon's self-generated barcode for labeling products. These unique barcodes are exclusively used for items fulfilled by FBA. Amazon uses FNSKUs to track and manage product inventories in its warehouses. 

Why do you need FNSKU when you have GTIN? 

GTIN vs FNSKU

GTIN allows sellers to identify unique products and product variations. In contrast, FNSKU allows Amazon to identify product ownership, i.e., connect the products to the sellers. 

In many instances, multiple sellers are selling the same product. These products, of course, have the same GTIN. A good example would be Nike Air Force 1 shoes. How would Amazon know which inbound shoes shipment belongs to which seller? What if your competitor is selling a counterfeit version of the original Nike kicks? All of this can create a massive hassle for Amazon. 

This is why the ecom giant uses an alternative product identification system in FNSKU labels, avoiding confusion and ensuring that every product is rightly paired up with its corresponding seller.   

Can I use my UPC as FNSKU?

No, you can’t. In fact, you must place the FNSKU label over the UPC barcode if you are reselling items on Amazon to prevent any confusion. 

Do UPC codes expire?

No, UPC codes don’t have an expiration date. Once a UPC is issued to a product, it stays with that product for life. However, if you decide to launch your product in a new market, you might have to get a new GTIN depending on the market requirements. 

How to get a GTIN for your product

There are multiple ways to purchase a GTIN for your product. For example, you can get a GTIN through third-party websites like BuyaBarcode, Nationwidebarcode, and SpeedyBarCodes. However, the best and recommended option is to purchase GTIN from the official GS1 website. 

What is GS1?

GS1 is a non-governmental, not-for-profit entity that manages the GTIN barcode system. GS1 standards serve as a common foundation for businesses and organizations by helping them uniquely identify and capture accurate details about products, assets, locations, and more. 

The standards issued by GS1 are commonly used around the globe. In addition to GTIN, UPC, and EAN barcodes, GS1 oversees several domains, including GLN, GPC, 2D barcodes, and SSCC. 

Does Amazon require GS1 barcodes?

Yes, Amazon advises sellers to include GS1 barcodes on their products. These barcodes enforce buyers' trust in the information on Amazon's platform and help attribute goods to a verifiable brand. 

Recently, Amazon has started to clamp down on older listings with non-GS1 barcodes. We have seen seller accounts being deactivated or suspended. 

How many GTINs do I need?

You need one GTIN for one product. If your product has different colors, designs, or sizes, each variation will need a separate GTIN too. For example, if you plan to sell denim available in three colors and seven different sizes, you'll need twenty-one GTINs for your store.

How much does a GTIN cost?

The one-time licensing cost of a GS1 US GTIN is $30. If you have an Amazon store with less than ten products, you can start small by purchasing multiple single GS1 US GTINs. 

However, if you have a growing product catalog and plan to scale your business in the near future, you should consider licensing a GS1 Company Prefix. That would allow you to create multiple GTINs for your products. 

The Company Prefixes are available at different pricing levels, so you must determine your required capacity by assessing the number of unique products you plan to sell. They also come with an annual renewal fee. 

Here's the Company Prefix pricing chart from GS1:

The NDC/NHRIC company prefix is recommended for sellers that have products that require approval from FDA, NDC, or NHRIC. You can use it to generate up to 100,000 GTIN barcodes.  

Steps to purchase GTIN from GS1

You can purchase GTIN from GS1 in three simple steps:

  1. Add a GS1 US GTIN or GS1 Company Prefix to your cart
  2. Provide your contact details
  3. Submit online payment using the W-9 form

After completing these steps, you will receive a welcome email from GS1 US containing all the important information you need to get started and access their online member center.

How do I convert a GTIN to UPC?

A UPC is just a 12-digit GTIN code. You can convert your GS1-issued GTIN into a UPC by extracting the two leading zeros from the GTIN code. 

How long does it take to get a GTIN?

If you filled out the application form correctly, it would typically take 24-48 hours for the information to process and get a GTIN for your product(s). GS1 further shares this data with Amazon. The latter takes up to 72 hours to review the information before approving it for use on its marketplace.

What if I don’t want to go through all this hassle and still sell on Amazon without a GTIN?

How to list on Amazon without a GTIN or UPC barcode

As discussed earlier, you can apply for a GTIN exemption and list your product on Amazon without a UPC barcode if you are selling a private label or handmade item that doesn’t have an ID yet. The process is quite simple. 

  1. Log into Seller Central and go to the 'Apply for a GTIN exemption' page
  2. Select the product category
  3. Type your brand name under the Brand/Publisher section
  4. Click the Check Eligibility button. A check mark will appear in the Status column if your product is eligible for exemption
  5. On the Provide Proof page, submit two high-resolution images of your product with your brand logo clearly visible.   You'll be notified within 48 hours about the approval status
  6. Wait for Amazon to process your request. You should receive an email within 48 hours confirming your GTIN exemption status. 

Bear in mind, applying for a GTIN exemption is only a temporary solution. You must not delay purchasing the barcode and get one as soon as possible to avoid any inconveniences down the line.

Frequently asked questions about Amazon barcodes

Is SKU a UPC?

SKU and UPC are not the same. An SKU (stock keeping unit) is the smallest unit of a product and unique for each retailer, used strictly for internal operations.  In contrast, a UPC is consistent across all retailers and is designed for a much broader use.

How do I get a free UPC code for Amazon?

There's no legal way to get a free UPC code for Amazon. Using a fake GTIN number generator is against Amazon's terms and conditions. GS1 provides the easiest and hassle-free way of generating a UPC for Amazon. 

Recap

  • GTINs help identify product and product variations
  • UPC is used primarily in Canada and North America, whereas EAN is used globally. 
  • You must provide a GTIN when creating a product listing on Amazon.
  • You can apply for a GTIN exemption if you meet specific criteria. 
  • FNSKU is Amazon's barcode for labeling products.

Conclusion

We hope this guide helped you learn about different Amazon barcode numbers. It's a good practice to keep up to date with the future policy changes on Amazon to ensure marketplace compliance. 

Here, at ZonGuru, we have assembled one of the best live training programs to get you up to speed with everything Amazon and prepare you for your amazingly successful journey. Register today and learn from the top sellers. See you on the other side!

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