University - Information About Products

UPC (Universal Product Code)

woman scanning a UPC code

Unique Product Codes (UPCs) aren’t new, in fact, they have been used since 1974 by retailers to track trade items.

Every product has its own unique string of digits called a Unique Product Code or UPC on Amazon and other major retailers. Using these codes, items can be classified on Amazon so that they can be easily searched for and sold to consumers.

Table of Contents:

Read on to learn the basics of UPCs, including purchasing, avoiding expiration, and using UPC codes effectively on Amazon.

What Are Amazon UPC Codes?

UPC codes are a unique 12-digit code assigned to every product, even if it is sold by multiple retailers, in the form of a scannable barcode.

The barcode houses information by tying itself to a specific company and product, which helps buyers find the product on Amazon and on other online retailers. The UPC also lets Amazon sellers know how much tax to pay for their products.

UPCs are administered by GS1, formerly known as the Uniform Code Council. You may also need an International Article Number (IAN) or European Article Number (EAN), though neither of those codes work in the US if you sell products internationally.

The Difference Between UPCs and SKUs

Stock keeping units (SKUs) are the internal product inventory codes that a particular company uses. If two companies sell the same product, they will use different SKUs for the same exact product. Amazon has its own internal product codes through an assigned unique 10-digital SKU for each product it sells, called Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASINs). ASINs are different from the manufacturer model numbers and SKU numbers used by other sellers on Amazon.

Universal product codes (UPCs) are the external product tracking codes standardized across companies. UPCs are the universal product identification tool tied to each unique product but are the same across any stores that sell the product.

Further Reading: Review the Locating Product Identifiers page for more information about finding specific codes and unique identifiers and for items that are missing the UPC identifier.

Amazon requires a UPC barcode number for almost all products you plan to sell

Why Do You Need UPC Codes For Amazon?

Amazon requires a UPC barcode number for almost all products you plan to sell on their website. If you are using Amazon FBA, you will also need the barcode graphic.

Amazon sellers need to buy UPC codes for their products if they want them to appear in search results and be eligible for UPC exemptions, including tax exemptions. To be a successful Amazon seller, you need to categorize your products correctly and have a UPC for each product.

Having the right UPC codes for a product enables you to:

  • Search for products faster
  • Track an order’s progress
  • Place a return directly from an account.
  • Plus, they are highly compatible with Amazon’s Alexa service – allowing you to have voice-controlled shopping across a range of digital devices.
The easiest way to get your UPC for Amazon is to visit the GS1 US store and make your purchase.

How To Generate An Amazon UPC Code For Your Product?

GS1 determines how UPCs are used, collects the codes in their database, and is the legitimate global producer of UPC codes. There are also GS1 organizations that you can use to generate or purchase a UPC. UPCs are reasonably affordable on GS1, but you can also source UPCs from other reputable sources.

Amazon itself uses the GS1 database to make sure your UPCs match the products you are selling. There are several ways to generate codes for your products, but a third-party UPC code coupon is the most reliable method to get a good code for your Amazon product.

The easiest way to get your UPC for Amazon is to visit the GS1 US store and make your purchase. After you purchase your code, they will give you a unique GS1 prefix just for your company, and that series of digits will start off every barcode you have. Afterward, you can attach those GS1 codes to your Amazon products.

GS1 even has a portal where you can manage your barcodes and copy or print them to make your own labels.

When Do You Not Need to Purchase UPC Codes for Amazon?

1. When Selling Books (Some Exclusions May Apply)

One major expectation of the UPC rule is for books. Books generally require an ISBN if a UPC is not needed.

2. When Reselling Products with an Up-to-Date UPC Code

Resale products typically already have a UPC code assigned to them that you can find on the packaging or the item.

3. Dropshipping Items with an Up-to-Date UPC Code

If you don’t have items you are selling easily accessible to you or in your physical possession, like dropshipping, contact the supplier or manufacturer of the product and ask for the UPC.

In many cases, you can also find the UPC by finding the same product in-store or online. To be confident it is the same product, we recommend contacting the supplier or manufacturer to verify the code accurately.

Making sure your UPC code is up to date is an essential part of code management on Amazon.

Best Practices For UPC Codes On Amazon

1. Calculate UPC Prices

If you need new UPC codes, be sure to calculate the number of UPCs you need to buy in bulk. Keep in mind that each individual product needs its own UPC.

2. Buy the Right UPC Code

Make sure you are investing in the right UPC, primarily if you sell both online and offline. GS1 can sometimes make distinctions if you have a brick-and-mortar shop with the same items.

3. Attach the UPC Codes to your Amazon Listings

After you purchase a UPC, you need to attach them to your products (both digitally and physically).

On Amazon, go to the product listing and add the code to your “Product ID” field.

If you use Amazon FBA, you will need to add your UPC codes to the products themselves physically.

4. Keep Up to Date Codes & Track Expiration Dates

Making sure your UPC code is up to date is an essential part of code management on Amazon. Keep careful track of any expiration dates assigned to codes – failing to take these into account can result in products not being able to be sold on the site

5. Collect New UPC Codes for Each Product

Make sure to get a new Amazon UPC code for each product you create or alter, as codes older than a certain number of months may become disabled and no longer work on Amazon.

Final Thoughts

One thing is true across all online marketplaces, including Amazon, you need to have UPCs for each unique product. Unfortunately, keeping your UPC isn’t the only thing you have to worry about when selling on Amazon.

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