From listing requirements to packing compliances and shipping prerequisites, you have to take care of a lot of things at once. With so many things already on the plate, some details can get confusing.
Case in point: all the product identifiers you come across while selling on Amazon, including SKUs.
If you wonder why there is the need for SKU amid all the other product identifiers, keep reading.
This post will try to clear this confusion for you. Here, we'll discuss and dissect what seller SKU is on Amazon and how you should go about them.
Without any further delay, let’s start our discussion.
In general, Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) is an alphanumeric product identifier. You can see it as a scannable barcode on retail products. As the full form of this acronym suggests, SKU helps in keeping track of inventory.
At Amazon, the meaning of SKU slightly changes. It specifically becomes a merchant’s product identifier. Amazon asks sellers to assign an SKU to all their products and variations and put them in the vital information section of corresponding listings.
Amazon utilizes these merchant-assigned product identifiers to associate items mentioned in the inventory file to relevant product detail pages in its catalog. SKUs just appear on the Seller Central of the seller they belong to. It is not mentioned on the product page and thus not visible to other sellers and customers.
Seller SKU can be a string of alphanumeric characters. You can separate the characters by hyphens (dashes) to represent different product details. The length of an SKU should not be more than 40 characters, including the hyphens.
Moreover, Amazon hasn’t standardized a particular format or template to create SKUs. It is sellers’ discretion to create SKUs in whichever format they deem suitable. An SKU can be as brief as AA-001 to as lengthy and ABC-001-R-M-0921-N. The length of the SKU depends on how much information (product details and attributes) you want to wrap in it.
It is imperative to understand the wide-ranging purpose of seller SKU before you know how to create them.
With the help of an SKU, you can enclose a long description of your product into a string of numbers and alphabets. These shorthand identifiers come in quite handy when your inventory consists of multiple products with various variations. It is convenient to represent a product with a short, single code instead of long product titles.
For instance, HNB-DS50W is an easy way to identify and represent a Home N Bliss White Door Draft Stopper 50mm Wide product.
The use of SKU across all the spreadsheets will keep your data tidy and easy to read. Also, if you are using an inventory management system to streamline your supply chain, you will find SKUs a godsend. Those software applications are developed to perform better with shorter, code-like inputs. Using the example mentioned above, it will be easier for you to use codes such as HNB-DS50W in your inventory management system rather than full product title.
SKUs also make it easy for you to communicate with vendors and suppliers. If you have worked out the SKUs of your products along with vendors, you can have your correspondences short and easy. You won’t have to mention the complete product name with all its attributes in every email, message, and invoice. You can use SKU instead and keep your communications concise and time-efficient.
There is a reason why seller SKU is not just an option but an obligation. Amazon uses them to tie your product with relevant product detail pages on its catalog. Therefore, even if you don’t assign an SKU to any of your listed items, Amazon gives it an arbitrary SKU to have that product-product detail match.
It is a simple illustration of how SKU ties a product to its relevant detail page from Amazon's catalog.
These are the essential Amazon seller SKU rules you should know.
Creating seller SKUs on Amazon is as easy as it gets. You don’t need any specific application or software to create SKUs. Nor do any expert knowledge is required to craft these seller-oriented product identifiers. If you have enough information about the given product and a notepad, you can create SKUs.
As mentioned earlier, there is no particular format to follow when it comes to SKU creation. As long as your SKU remains below 40 characters, you can opt for any format you think is easy to remember and use.
Therefore, we are not advocating any particular SKU format here. Instead, we will give you a broader view of how you can create your own SKUs that can help you streamline your product and inventory management.
These are some of the information pieces you may want to encapsulate in your SKUs.
You can use different alphanumeric combinations/identifiers to denote these bits of information. Moreover, you are not bound to use only these product details. If your product has any attribute you consider essential for your inventory management, cost analysis, etc, you can include it in the SKU.
As mentioned earlier, you can have as much customization as you want while creating SKUs. Here, we will share one of the many approaches you can use to create an SKU.
Start the SKUs of a product by mentioning the supplier/source by assigning two or three-character codes to them. For instance, if you are sourcing products from Alibaba or Thomasnet, you can use AB or TN, respectively.
The benefit of mentioning supplier/source at the start of the SKU is that you don’t have to look at your invoices to find out which product has been sourced from which supplier. The list of SKUs will tell you that.
If you are selling across multiple product categories, you may want to use a category identifier to keep things easy on the Seller Central and elsewhere. For example, if you deal in formal and casual apparel, you can differentiate it with identifiers such as FW (Formal Wear) and CW (Casual Wear). For shirts, pants, trousers, ties listed from that category, you can again use a double-character identifier e.g. SH for shirts, PT for paints, TR for trousers, TI for ties, etc.
Mention the color, size, material, and condition of the product. You can use two letters to indicate colors, one letter for size, one for the condition, and two letters for the material.
RD-M-N-LT will be a red medium-sized new leather product.
Many sellers don’t mention the cost of the product in their SKUs. We think stating the price there can help you instantly find out your profit margins and whether you should provide a discount on a product sitting on the shelf for long. You can use 3-4 characters to state the price e.g. 15D to say 15 dollars.
Suppose you come across an SKU created by the method we’ve just discussed.
It is a 18-character SKU and seems to contain a lot of information. Let’s unpack all that information while using the approach and sequence discussed above.
The given SKU suggests that the product is sourced from Alibaba. It is a shirt for casual wear. Moreover, it is a new medium-sized green piece that cost the seller seven dollars.
You can see that an SKU lets you contract product descriptions of several hundred characters to a 18-character alphanumeric string. If you think you don’t need such a long SKU, you can shorten it as per your requirements. Let’s look at some of the variations of this SKU.
Before concluding, let’s answer some of the frequently asked questions around Amazon seller SKUs.
No, SKU is not the same as the barcode. The barcode you get from the Seller Central and affix on relevant products contains FNSKU and ASIN. Or, you get barcodes (UPC, EAN) from GS1. On the other hand, SKU is primarily a code for internal correspondence and coordination that you submit to Amazon and is mentioned in product entries on the inventory management tab.
No, you can’t change an existing seller SKU. You will need to delete the listing and create it again if you want to change its SKU.
Yes, SKU is an obligation to sell on Amazon. If you don't assign an SKU to your product, Amazon will do it at random.
As mentioned multiple times, Amazon randomly generates and assigns SKUs. Those SKUs will be of use to Amazon only. You won’t be able to use those Amazon-generated SKUs for all the intents and purposes discussed in this article.
Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) is a unique code generated by Amazon to identify products listed on its different marketplaces. One ASIN (product) can have multiple SKUs (product variations). Moreover, ASIN is visible to everyone on the listing page, unlike SKU.
Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit (FNSKU) is a barcode generated by Amazon to track inventory through its fulfillment chain. It doesn’t have an alphanumeric structure of an SKU. Nor is it a barcode equivalent of the relevant SKU.
Universal Product Codes (UPCs) are usually barcodes that global standard organizations assign to retail products. Thus, for a single product, they universally remain the same. In contrast, SKU is a custom alphanumeric code primarily generated for internal inventory management.
A good SKU regimen will streamline your inventory management. For example, it will become easier to scan through products on the Seller Central with well-thought-out SKUs. Similarly, using data and management software and applications becomes easier when you use SKUs instead of product names and titles.
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