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As consumers shift from in-store shopping to online shopping, e-commerce has experienced an incredible surge in 2020. By the end of this year, 74% of consumers believe that most of the future consumer shopping will be done online, compared with 69% a few months ago. This and other trends indicate that 2021 has great potential for e-commerce entrepreneurs.
In order to provide all the information sellers need to succeed with their Amazon ventures—from launch, to first sale, to growth and scaling—we’ve updated our content for 2021.
You want to start an ecommerce business? In our guide to selling on Amazon, you will learn everything you need to know.
Barcodes are important to all Amazon sellers because barcodes are often used to track the inventory of products when they enter and exit FBA warehouses.
For sellers who are just starting out on Amazon (or for experienced sellers), barcodes can be a confusing and frustrating topic. Do you need a barcode on your product? If so, what kind of it and where did you get it? UPC, GTIN, FNSKU-how many abbreviations do you need to know?
First, some definitions.
What is a GTIN?
The “Global Trade Item Number” (GTIN) is a unique numeric string used to identify the individual product under the barcode, not the actual barcode.
Many other codes, including UPCs and ISBNs, are types of GTINs.
Types of GTINs:
- UPC: A Universal Product Code or UPC (also known as GTIN-12) is a unique 12-digit product numeric identifier, most commonly used in the United States and Canada. This is the most common type of barcode in the world and can be found in most physical products in retail stores. It consists of a barcode with GTIN-12 numbers below.
- EAN: A European Article Number or EAN (also known as GTIN-13) is a unique 13-digit product identifier specifically used for products on the European market. It consists of a barcode with GTIN-13 numbers below
- JAN: A Japanese Article Number or JAN is a product identifier, specifically for products in the Japanese market.
- ISBN: An International Standard Book Number or ISBN is a product identifier specifically used for books. The number of ISBNs is 10 or 13 digits, depending on the date of publication.
- GTIN-14: Shipping container code.
Do I need a UPC or barcode to sell on Amazon?
UPC is the most common type of GTIN used for selling on Amazon.com, so does every seller need one?
The shortest answer is no. UPC is very common, but not every product sold requires UPC.
The long answer is that it depends on the brand you want to sell or the category you want to sell.
If you sell a private label or handmade product, you may be eligible for a GTIN exemption, which means you don’t need a UPC to list the product on Amazon. (We will get to this point soon.)
Otherwise, Amazon now requires all listed products that are not exempt from Amazon GTIN to have GS1 registered barcodes. GS1 stands for Global Standard 1 and is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and maintenance of global business communication standards.
Simply put, GS1 is the only legal place to purchase UPC codes to be used on Amazon.
If you do not have a UPC associated with your product or brand, Amazon requires that Amazon barcodes or FNSKU be affixed on the product packaging when using FBA. (FNSKU or “Fulfillment Network Inventory Keeping Unit” is an Amazon-specific code used to track inventory.)
I will introduce it in detail later.
How do you get a UPC?
There is a lot of conflicting information about how to obtain a UPC barcode for your Amazon products.
A few years ago, you could buy UPC (simple list of numbers) from eBay sellers or other third-party vendors for as little as a few dollars per barcode.
The problem with this is that many UPCs have been resold and were actually previously associated with different brands. This leads to product mismatches, listing errors or creating duplicate listings.
For example, you are selling “sports and outdoor” products, and the UPC you buy matches a toy brand.
That will not be on par with Amazon. Amazon began to standardize codes used to ensure that each product is unique, which helps sellers by using codes that exactly match their brand and reduce shoppers’ confusion.
If you continue to use the incorrect UPC, Amazon may prohibit you from listing products or even suspend your seller account.
In short, they can be purchased through GS1.
Amazon’s terms of service regarding valid UPC:
“We verify the authenticity of the product UPC by checking the GS1 database. UPC that does not match the information provided by GS1 will be considered invalid. We recommend obtaining your UPC directly from GS1 (rather than from other third parties that sell UPC licenses) UPC to ensure that the appropriate information is reflected in the GS1 database.
All invalid product UPC lists will be deleted, and may cause your ASIN creation or sales privileges to be temporarily or permanently deleted. “
The cost of purchasing barcodes through GS1 is $250 for 1-10 barcodes, and the annual renewal fee is $50. As the purchase volume increases, the price of each barcode will decrease, but for people who are just starting out, this may be a big expense.
Applying for an Amazon GTIN exemption is a good short-term solution to make your products do not have the barcodes listed on Amazon. If you want to establish a long-term brand in the future, such as listing in other markets or selling to physical stores, it is recommended that you directly purchase GS1 barcodes.
Requirements for an Amazon GTIN exemption
Here are some options where you can apply for a GTIN exemption:
1. You want to sell products for which the brand, the manufacturer or the publisher does not provide a GTIN.
2. You want to sell a product that you are a manufacturer, brand, or publisher, and there is no barcode on the product. For example, private label products or handmade products.
3. You want to sell product parts without GTIN. For example, car parts or mobile accessories.
4. You want to sell more than one product in a bundle. For example, a bag with a belt and a purse in a bag, or a bag with two shirts.
5. You want to sell a generic product without a brand name.
You can also download the list of brands required to own UPC provided by Amazon here. According to Amazon, any product belonging to any of these brands without a GTIN will be banned.
How to request an Amazon GTIN exemption
- Apply for GTIN exemption
After logging in to the seller account, it will take you to this page.
As stated by Amazon, once you apply for an exemption from a brand, you do not need to apply again when adding new products under that brand.
For example, your brand name is BC Sports. After Amazon approves the GTIN exemption for BC Sports, you can list any number of products under the BC Sports brand name in the sports category.
2. Choose your product category
You can also apply for multiple categories and brands at the same time by clicking “+Add more categories”.
3. Add the Brand / Publisher
You will see in the text box that Amazon states ‘For unbranded items or bundles enter “Generic”‘. This means on your product listings, it will say ‘By Generic’ underneath the title
4. Click ‘Check for eligibility’
When you select “Generic”, it may automatically show approval for that “brand”. If not, you will need to add a product image that shows no UPC or brand name.
Now I can add products using the brand name “Generic” in the sports category without having to enter the UPC code.
But let me show the steps when entering the actual brand name.
In the previous example, I entered BC Sports as the brand name. If the brand name is eligible for the Amazon GTIN exemption, a green check mark will appear under the status and you can continue to submit evidence.
You need to provide proof that the product does not have a UPC or GTIN. The first question is: “Did you receive a letter of support from the brand owner, manufacturer or publisher?”
If it is your own brand or handmade product, please select “No”.
Next, you need to enter the product name and at least 2 images of the product and packaging.
Make sure to include all angles of products and packaging that do not have a UPC code. Your image should also include the brand name on the packaging or somewhere on the product.
5. Submit request
It can take up to 48 hours to receive a response from Amazon (although it usually only takes a few hours).
You can check the status of the request in the “Case Log”. After Amazon reviews your case, you will receive an email notification with approval or rejection.
How to create your new listing once approved
Have you been approved? Congratulations! Now you can list your products without purchasing a UPC code.
Amazon recommends that you wait 24 hours before adding products after obtaining the UPC exemption. This is to ensure that the allowance has been updated in its system.
In order for your GTIN exemption to be valid, you must enter the category and brand that are exactly the same as the approved category and brand. If you use different uppercase or lowercase letters, please add other spaces or characters, and the system will not recognize your exemption.
Manage Inventory > Add a product
From here, click “I want to add an unsold product on Amazon.
” Since I was approved as the “Sports” category, I will choose “Sports and Outdoors” as the main category. You need to dig deeper into the subcategories to find the subcategory that best matches your product.
After selecting the category, it will take you to a section to enter your product information.
Enter your product name (which will be the title in the list), manufacturer (you can enter the same name as the brand name), and the name exactly the same as the brand name submitted for the GTIN exemption. Since I was approved by BC Sports, I have entered BC Sports.
Note that there is no asterisk next to the product ID field. Since your exemption is approved, you will no longer need to enter UPC or EAN for the brand!
Under the “Offer” tab, make sure you choose FBA as the fulfillment channel-of course, if you use FBA
After completing the other required fields, you can click “Save and Finish”. After about 15 minutes, your product will be listed under your managed inventory.
After clicking “Save and Finish”, it will take you to the “Select Barcode Type” page. Since you don’t have the manufacturer’s barcode (UPC or EAN), you will choose the Amazon barcode, which is FNSKU.
After clicking “Save and Continue”, it will take you to the FBA shipping plan.
Using the Amazon barcode (FNSKU)
Even if you have been approved for the GTIN exemption, you still need to affix the FNSKU label (aka Amazon barcode) on each unit. In this way, Amazon can track your inventory after receiving the goods at the FBA warehouse. If you are selling through FBM (executed by the merchant), you can skip this step.
How to find your FNSKU barcode
When continuing with your shipping plan, you can choose to have Amazon label the products for you (for a fee), or you can print and label each product yourself.
In the “Label Products” section, you will be able to print the required number of labels. When you download the label PDF, you can also provide the exact barcode to the packaging designer so that they can add the Amazon barcode to your packaging.
This way, you don’t need to manually label each product or pay Amazon.
What if you’re not eligible for an Amazon GTIN exemption?
If the product or category you want to list does not meet the GTIN exemption conditions, you need to purchase a UPC code or obtain a UPC code from the manufacturer.
Similarly, we recommend that you purchase from a legitimate source (such as GS1).
If you want to build products and brands outside of Amazon in the future (such as selling in physical stores), you need to have UPC or EAN anyway.