As we discussed in previous lessons, Amazon is one of the biggest online markets worldwide. So naturally there are quite a lot of product categories that make up the bulk of the website’s offering.
A big aspect of this is tracking your inventory online when you’re operating most of your business remotely. We do this using a 12-digit code called UPC (universal product code). Each code is unique and attached to a product, keeping you notified right when it is sold so you can update your inventory. They work pretty much the same way a barcode works in a retail store.
You need a UPC code to keep track of your sales and inventory when you publish listings on Amazon. It’s the code number you fill out in the listing’s Product ID section and should be GS1 (Global Standard 1), a well-known producer of globally accepted product codes. This isn’t something you can create on you own, which is why we’ll be taking you through the process of buying one, in the following section:
What are UPC codes?
UPCs are also known as GTIN-12, a product code that comes with 12 digits comprising a company prefix, a reference code, and a check digit.
The main purpose behind a UPC is that it helps Amazon identify where the product is coming from based on a few digits. It additionally helps FBA sellers track their products and find out where they are being sold. You’ll be able to know which marketplaces are receptive to the product by simply keeping track of where units end up.
Another added benefit is that it helps you keep track of other sellers who are closer to your customers and might be receiving your products to compensate for their inventory.
For instance, let’s say you sell a certain brand of shoes and a customer has ordered one to be delivered to a location that’s far off from the FBA location. If there is another seller who sells the same product, Amazon might forward the shoe product from their inventory and replace their stock with a unit from yours. This is how a lot of the delivery is expedited.
UPCs help Amazon and sellers find other retailers who deal in the same products and have businesses located close to different customers. This makes transferring inventory a seamless process where all parties can partake and benefit from.
What is GS1?
In a nutshell, they are a global organization that manufactures universal product codes and are the only acceptable standard for Amazon. An example of this is GS1 US which is based in the United States. There are similar GS1 companies all over the world that offer retailers and brand owners a legitimate prefix that they can use when they need to create their product’s unique code.
UPC’s are more than just a random set of numbers. They are 12 digits arranged in a set sequence which indicate the company and product category.
The first 6-10 digits are the prefix that you purchase from the GS1 site and indicate the company. If your prefix is 6 digits long, then the next 5 numbers are a reference number for the product (If the prefix is 10 digits, then the reference number would be 1 digit). All this is followed by another number called the check digit.
Before you look for UPCs:
There are a few things you need to bear in mind before you get ready to buy your UPC from a GS1 company.
- Take stock of how many UPC’s you will be needing. Sometimes, the organization might offer you a discount if you’re buying in bulk above a set threshold. So get a proper reading on what your requirements are. All said, you need a universal product code for individual products as well as bundled categories. When you start counting, make sure you add them up separately.
- Determine your pricing plan based on your requirements. This should take into account how widespread and huge your product line is. Let’s say you’re a well-established company with several product categories (more than a dozen), then it’s best to go with the traditional model, also known as the GS1 Company prefix. It is most apt for brands that aspire to scale up over time. It’s currently priced at $250 (starting up fee) with an annual renewal charge of $50. The pricing is tripled when you escalate to a UPC plan that allows up to 100 codes.
- When it comes to online and offline sales, your needs may differ. You only need a single GTIN code if your products are sold online or at a physical retail shop. However, if you’re also running your products through a storage house or distribution centre, then you’ll require separate codes.
- If you’re running a small business with one or two product lines, then its worth noting that a single UPC doesn’t require you to pay any renewal fee. It also only costs up to $30.
How to buy and use UPC codes for Amazon
Visit the GS1 website.
Apply for a company prefix (6-10 digits). As we discussed earlier, these give your company a unique ID by which your products can be traced and identified back to their original manufacturer-you. It is the initial code on every UPC. Simply browse through the pricing plans and decide how many you’ll need. If you’re buying more than one, then it might also come with an annual renewal fee which you have to consider.
Use an online tool to create barcodes or product numbers for each unit or package you’re shipping out. GS1 US data hub is useful when it comes to crafting your own barcodes. Once you’re finished, all you need to do is physically attach them to the product package before you ship them out so that Amazon can scan them if it’s necessary.
There are three possible scenarios where you need to provide UPCs under Amazon’s Product ID field.
Let’s say you manufacture your own products and need to buy a UPC. Instead of trying to get a discounted deal with shady websites or dealers where you run the risk of obtaining invalid codes or ones that are used already, go the legitimate way.
Apply and buy the required number of UPCs from a trusted, official GS1 website. After all, you might only need one or two of them to cover your product categories since you don’t have to account for every individual unit.
Reselling products manufactured by someone else
Let’s say you’re simply reselling someone else’s product and have their UPCs. You can just add them in the Product ID field when you create a listing and you’ll be good to go.
When The Manufacturer’s Code Is Unavailable
Sometimes you might be dealing in products where the manufacturer doesn’t provide you with a UPC. In such cases, you can resort to the ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number). This is a barcode that Amazon provides.
Breaking down the two options
Let’s break down the two main ways you can acquire a UPC:
- If you want a UPC registered under your name or the name of your company, you definitely need to purchase from GS1 dealers. Simply go to the official website and submit your application. You’ll find a list of pricing depending on your requirement.
- If you’re not particular about the prefix code being registered in your name, then you could visit a website like www.singleupc.com where the codes are available at a much lesser price, especially when you’re buying more than one.
snapupc.com is another great place to buy UPCs that are verified and affordably priced. You can get them at as low a price as $5 for one, with plenty more discounts when you are buying in bulk.
Do bear in mind that Amazon and other eCommerce sites require you to have UPC s that are listed under your name. They are very particular about that.
What if you are a really small business?
For medium to large-size businesses, UPCS is a necessity they are willing to pay for so that they can expand into other online markets.
But if you’re an upcoming seller running a very small-scale business, then your budget might not cover something as expensive. For the time being, you might have to undertake a bit of risk by resorting to a website like speedybarcodes.com, where it’s likely that some of the codes don’t check out. The worst thing that could happen is you lose a hundred bucks on invalid codes. This is something you’ll have to assess on your own. For some sellers, the risk is worth it only if it’s a temporary solution until they’re able to afford the expensive codes. Do note that Amazon is very strict about using GS1 codes.
Be cautious of purchasing fraudulent UPCs from the online black market. A lot of them might simply be recycled codes which can get you in trouble with Amazon. It is important to go the legitimate way and buy from verified GS1 sellers, without putting your business at risk.
It’s important to note that any vendor that sells you a UPC other than GS1 is simply reselling codes that list someone else or some other company as the manufacturer.
There is plenty to be cautious about when you buy online from unknown parties. Be extra careful if the price they are quoting is too good to be true. Some of these codes are invalid or ubscannable. Just because someone got legit codes from an online dealer doesn’t mean you’ll have the same experience. It is also hard to track them down and demand refunds.
Breaking down some common terms:
The following are some of the common terms used for different types of UPC variants.
The Amazon Standard Identification Number is basically a 10 character mix of alphabets and digits that is assigned to the seller’s product after the listing is published.
Once you complete the product listing with your respective UPC, Amazon assigns AN ASIN to keep track of your products and distinguish them from other similar product listings.
The GCID is a special identification number assigned to private label sellers who are approved into Amazon’s brand registry. These sellers won’t have to purchase a UPC since they’re already registered as sellers on Amazon.
GTIN is an umbrella term for product codes to which UPC belongs.
A GTIN is a mix of the UPC GS1 Company Prefix and a uniquely assigned product number. A combination of the two, helps eCommerce platforms identify individual products.
It’s viewed as a serial number you assign to each product unit so that you and other ecommerce platforms can track it.
GTINs give your product Global credibility, just like UPCs. This helps you and Amazon keep track of your products, right down to each unit, as it enters a market.
How many UPC codes do I need to list one item on Amazon?
The UPC is for the product listing not for each individual unit. For instance, you only need once UPC for a Buttoned-up Shirt listing regardless of how many shirts you have in stock.
You’ll find the UPC option in the drop-down menu when you click on the Product ID section. Simply select UPC and fill out your listing’s code number.
Are UPC codes the same for the same product?
You don’t need a new UPC if you’re reselling the same product that’s already listed on the Amazon website. Simply use the same product’s existing ASIN code for the Product ID.
Amazon provides a unique identifier code for each unit of the product you sell. The UPC, on the other hand, is for the entire listing.
Once you own a UPC prefix, you can attach it to your Amazon products, after you copy and print them out.
Downloading And Attaching UPC To The Product
So what’s the next step once you complete the purchase of UPCs? Now you need to label them to your products, either in a physically printed form, digitally or sometimes both.
When you need to attach them onto your product digitally, simply download the code as a .jpeg image along with the numbers. In your Amazon product listing, specify the type of code you’re using from the dropdown menu that’s listed in the Product ID section. Then enter your UPC.
FBA sellers who send their products to an Amazon distribution centre will have to physically place the UPC label onto each unit. This is easily manageable. All you need is an adhesive label where you can attach the UPC image and place the label in an easily visible spot when you ship the products out. Make it easy for it to be scanned by placing it in full-view at the front or back of the unit.
Invalid UPCs: What to do?
Sometimes, you might end up buying a UPC only to realize you could’ve gotten it at a better price. Or maybe Amazon informed you that the UPC isn’t good.
If you get tricked into buying an already existing UPC that belongs to someone else, your first option would be to sell it to the appropriate product holders. In some cases, the UPC you possess doesn’t match the listing information you provided so you’ll have to delete it and replace it with the correct one.
UPC Code and Amazon’s Policy?
Amazon’s terms of service require sellers to use a UPC for each product they sell. You need to fill this out in the Product ID section so that you can keep track of each unit in your inventory as it is sold. It is basically a way of keeping track of every product using serialized code numbers.
If you’re simply reselling a product then it might already have a UPC which you can use in the Product ID section.
Multi-packaging and Product-bundling
When it comes to product bundling and multi-packing, here’s what you need to remember :
You need a different UPC for when you pack multiple products in one unit. Also specify the quantity of items.
The same applies for product bundles where you include different product variations in a single package. This also requires a separate UPC since it counts as a variant.
UPCs are a requirement only when you’re selling products as a private label, under your own brand or as a self-established company. You don’t need to acquire codes for reselling products since they come with their own barcodes. Further, you don’t need to purchase a separate code for every single unit under a product category. One will suffice regardless of how many individual units you plan to sell.