What Are Amazon UPC Codes and How to Buy Them
Have you ever wondered how the selling process runs so seamlessly on Amazon? If you’re a seller on Amazon or looking to be one, this is a question you should know the answer to. The UPC is a vital component of the Amazon process- tying the entire process together efficiently and seamlessly. UPCs for Amazon can be confusing for those new to the platform. In this article, we'll walk through everything you need to know, including how to buy a UPC code for Amazon products.
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What Are UPC Codes?
So what does UPC mean? UPC simply stands for Universal Product Code. It consists of a 12-digit number that uniquely identifies each product. The number is represented as a unique black and white barcode. It works similar to barcodes on your everyday supermarket products. A simple scan of the code can tell customers what the product is and give them other relevant information.
UPCs allow you to sell your products on retail platforms like Amazon and eBay. Amazon is the ecommerce giant of our generation. The company sells over 12 million products daily- and if you include third-party sellers, that number rises to an astounding 353 million products every day. How does the retail giant differentiate between millions of similar products for shipping and logistics? The answer is—UPCs.
UPCs for Amazon are simply individual, unique codes assigned to every product on the Amazon marketplace. Customers can search and find products by UPC on the platform. As a seller, you must fill in the code in the “Product ID” section when creating a new listing to sell. There are many other codes in the marketplace, such as ASIN, EAN, and GTIN, but UPC is the most commonly used and widely accepted product identification method.
Who Can Create UPC Codes?
You cannot simply create your own random UPC code- it needs to be purchased from GS1. The GS1 is a non-profit organization that takes care of things like setting up business communication standards and identifying retail products worldwide. Think of the organization as the mama and papa bear of retail business! There are over a hundred GS1 locations worldwide, each catering to different geographies. For the U.S., it's the GS1 US.
GS1 is responsible for issuing unique prefixes to businesses and brand owners. The prefixes are then used to create a unique Global Trade Item Number- or GTIN. GTINs are then encoded into two main types of barcodes- UPCs and EANs. Technically, there is no difference between GTIN and UPC.To better understand GTIN, think of it as an inherent part of the UPC code- with the pattern of black and white stripes being the unique identifying UPC and the GTIN as the number that complements it.
What Are the Types of UPC codes?
UPC-E and UPC-A are the two major types of UPCs in use today. Both are almost identical, the only difference being that no 0s are included in the UPC-E. This means that no 0s will be seen within the barcode- only within the corresponding GTIN. Canada and the U.S. use UPC barcodes, while most other countries employ EANs.
Difference between UPC and EANs
The European Article Number, or the EAN, is also referred to as the International Article Number (IANs). They are also barcodes issued by GS1 and include company prefixes at the beginning of the GTIN number. Here are some essential things to remember:
- GS1 is the only official provider of all GTINs, UPC and EAN barcodes
- A UPC along with a GTIN can be used across the globe
- UPC codes and EANs don't necessarily identify the country of manufacture
- Both UPCs and EANs depends on factors such as product category and distribution channels
The difference between EAN and UPC is minimal- the EAN is mainly used outside the U.S and Canada and consist of 12-13 digits. Amazon sellers prefer two forms of EANs- the EAN-13, which encodes GTIN13, and the EAN-8, which incorporates the GTIN-8.
Do You Need a UPC to Sell on Amazon?
Amazon requires all sellers who want to list products on their platform to provide a UPC code before they can list their products for sale. These codes help both buyers and sellers easily identify and catalog products. Moreover, they are an essential component of the Amazon supply chain.
For example, UPCs streamline inventory management and tracking for the retailer. Amazon employees use UPCs to track products while in transit or in warehouses. Their quality assurance team uses the codes while vetting products and ensuring specific standards for quality control are met.
In addition, UPC codes helps prevent scammers from selling counterfeit items on the platform. As a seller, if you find someone copying your product images and logos, you can complain to Amazon. Copyright infringement complaints require you to submit the affected product’s ASIN and UPC so that prompt action can be taken.
Amazon’s UPC Code Requirements
Amazon checks each UPC against the GS1 database to confirm authenticity. In case of a mismatch, the listing will not be accepted/removed. Action may also be taken against the seller that provides an invalid UPC.
How and Where to Buy UPC Codes?
Before understanding the process of how to get a bar code for a product, it is essential to understand where these codes originate. As mentioned above, the GS1 is the only legitimate resource for GTINs and UPC codes. There are plenty of third-party sellers who buy prefixes in bulk and resell them. Buying from such sellers can impact the legitimacy of your brand- especially when Amazon runs a match with the GS1 database.
How to Generate an Amazon UPC Code for Your Product?
You'll need to register with GS1 for a GTIN to get a UPC code. The GS1 has an online portal where you can sign up for free. Once registered, you can apply for a UPC through its system- instructions on how to do this will be provided, but here are the essentials:
Get a GS1 Company Prefix
It is a six digit code that identifies your business to companies around the world. You can obtain the prefix once you become a member of GS1 US and list your business's location as the United States. The company prefix automatically gets added to any new barcodes that you generate.
Get Your GTIN
GS1 adds another five-digit number to your company prefix to uniquely identify your product. A check digit is then added to the now 11digit number for verification. You now have a 12 digit unique number that is the GTIN for your product.
Generate your UPC Barcode
The GS1 US website has a tool that helps you create your scannable UPC barcode from your GTIN. You can also use the tool to verify that the number is unique and valid. You can also create a custom barcode using any other software as long as it complies with GS1 standards.
How to List a Product Without UPC on Amazon?
There is a way to have your product listed on Amazon without having a UPC code. If you can obtain a "GTIN Exemption," Amazon will let you add your product without any codes. For example, you may want to apply for GTIN exemption if:
- Your product manufacturer or brand does not provide a GTIN.
- You sell hand-made or private-label products in very small quantities that does not warrant a GTIN.
- You sell product parts, like automotive or mobile accessories, that don’t have GTIN.
- You sell bundled packs, like pencils and erasers or book sets.
- You sell generic, unbranded products
To apply for exemption, you need to go to Seller Central and fill an online form. You have to submit some preliminary details of your product and Amazon will check for eligibility. If eligible, you will be asked to submit product photos as proof. You will then receive the final decision via email within 48 hours.
Amazon UPC Codes are a great way to improve your product listings. They make it easier for customers to find your products and help with SEO. Plus, they allow you to use the FBA program so that you don't have to worry about shipping products yourself. Ensure you buy UPCs from GS1- the only valid authority to adhere to Amazon’s stringent policies- and make being a seller infinitely easier.
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People Also Ask
If I am reselling a product on Amazon, do I need a UPC code?
The answer is yes. Whether you are a seller, reseller or importer of products, you need to have a UPC code for each product. If you are looking to sell a product on Amazon and do not have a UPC, Amazon will not allow you to list your product unless you have GTIN Exemption.
Do I need a UPC code for every variation of the product I am selling?
Yes. Amazon requires that you have a UPC code for each of your products. Variations of the same product are inherently different in size, color, or other features and are thus considered unique. Amazon requires each unique product to have a UPC. For example, if you sell a pair of pants in eight different colors, you need eight unique UPCs.
Do I need UPC if my products are already listed on Amazon?
Yes. Amazon requires that you have a UPC code for each of your products, even if they are already listed on Amazon or are being sold by another seller.
Does my UPC barcode need to be printed on my product packaging?
The answer to this is both yes and no. Amazon requires a UPC- or other product identifiers- when creating a listing. It uses the UPC to generate your unique FNSKU barcode. When sending your products to a FBA fulfillment center, each of your products must be labeled with the FNSKU barcode.
How much do the UPC codes cost?
The costs of UPCs are dependent on your requirements. GS1 US offers a single GTIN or UPC of $30 for small business owners. This has no renwal fee. If you have many individual products, the cost will be higher.
The table below illustrates this.
Have you generated your UPC codes but are still unsure about proceeding with your ecommerce venture? See our pros and cons of selling on Amazon for small business owners.