GS1 UK and Amazon team up to answer your barcode questions
Date: August 20, 2020
A few weeks ago, we ran a joint webinar with Amazon where we discussed all things barcode related. It was great session with loads of questions from Amazon sellers, including:
- What is the difference between a UPC, EAN and GTIN?
- When should I assign a new barcode number?
- What are the benefits of using barcode numbers on Amazon?
For those of you who weren’t able to make the live webinar, we've provided the answers to the most commonly asked questions below.
If you still have any questions surrounding your Amazon account or how to allocate barcode numbers to your products, please get in touch with our lovely member support team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling us on 020 7092 3500.
So, here goes…
Universal Product Codes (UPCs) and European Article Numbers (EANs) are the digits that sit underneath the black and white lines you would recognise as a barcode. However, it is the digits, not the lines, that are used by retailers – both online and in store – to uniquely identify your products.
Both UPCs and EANs are types of Global Trade Item Numbers (otherwise known as GTINs), but of different lengths: a UPC is typically 12 digits, where an EAN can be either 8, 13 or 14 digits long.
You only need one GTIN to identify your product, and this code can be used anywhere in the world and by any retailer or marketplace.
Many online sellers do not start by getting their barcode numbers (GTINs) from GS1, they go to third-party providers. However, if you purchase a GTIN from a third-party provider, the GTIN will still belong to that company and is not licenced to you or your brand.
Down the line, this will cause you issues when listing your products on Amazon, because you run the risk of your products being delisted if the number you are using is registered to somebody else.
We have seen many cases where sellers did not know that they were using pre-registered GTINs, and have had to go through the headache of reallocating new numbers and updating their packaging across their entire product range – see example here from Sandows. This can lead to a loss of sales data and reviews connected to your products, as well as a significant monetary hit.
No, you only need one identifier for each product. GTINs are a globally recognised standard and will work on any marketplace and in any country.
Yes, you need to allocate a unique number for every style, colour and size. This is so each of your products can be uniquely identified by search engines, warehouse management tools and point of sale devices, ensuring your customer received the correct item.
For example, if I sell a white t-shirt in three sizes (small, medium and large), I will need three GTINs for each of the three sizes. If I decided I want to diversify, and sell my t-shirts in a range of other colours, such as red, green and blue, in all three size, I would need a total of 12 GTINs – one for each variation.
GTINs are used to identify products – anything you can price, order and sell. And a new product will always require a new GTIN. But you will also often have to allocate a new GTIN when you have made changes to a product, for example, if the ingredients have changed significantly, or its size or colour.
Three guiding principles should be considered by any brand owner when introducing changes to an existing product:
- Is a consumer and/or trading partner expected to distinguish the changed product from previous/current product – you should consider this particularly when selling online, since a customer might not receive what they think they are purchasing if an incorrect GTIN has been allocated
- Is there a regulatory/liability disclosure requirement to a consumer and/or trading partner?
- Is there a substantial impact to the supply chain (i.e. how the product is shipped, stored, received)?
Find out more about GTIN management here.
If the products in question are branded by your company, you will need to register your brand using the Brand Registry tool in Amazon Seller Central (search for this in the help bar in Seller Central). Once you have registered your own brand, you will be able to then create new product listings under that brand with your own GTINs/barcodes.
This can only be done with the help of Amazon, as they will need to change over the allocated product identifier. Your best bet is to contact help at Seller Central and explain the situation.
However, if they are not able to help without suggesting you delete your old product listing and create a new product listing with a GS1 barcode, please get in touch with email@example.com
As of 1 January 2019, you can no longer reuse GTINs. This is because e-commerce has changed the way products exist. Even if a product is no longer in production in the physical world, in the digital world it may still be searchable and could cause a clash if the GTIN has been reallocated to a new product.
You can find out more about the end of GTIN reuse here.
GS1 numbers should be used to uniquely identify products at source, so you will need to ask your supplier to do this. Relabelling later can cause errors and confusion for customers.
Yes, if you enter your GS1 GTIN in the brand registry and log the number in the GTIN field. This will help you to manage your distribution channels.
You are not required to allocate GTINs to products sold on Amazon Handmade.
Please contact GS1 UK if you need additional numbers, and we will issue you with an additional company prefix.
You can contact us on Monday–Friday from 9:00am–5:00pm, by calling 020 7092 3500 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yes, you can transfer your numbers, but you will need to contact GS1 to update the database to ensure the new ownership is reflected correctly. Otherwise, there will be a discrepancy, which can cause listing issues in the future.
Yes, you can.
GS1 UK is a membership organisation and your membership is calculated based on your annual turnover and the number of GTINs your require i.e. the number of unique products in your catalogue/range.
You can find out more about GS1 UK membership here.