April 10, 2020

Amazon Barcodes: How Do Barcodes Work on Amazon?

In the pre-ecommerce world, small businesses were often limited to local markets and had few business partners to help make their product launches a success. Today, online marketplaces such as Amazon, offer turnkey services and a global selling platform for more than one million small businesses.

In fact, a recent survey from NetElixir found over 60 percent of small businesses that sell products on marketplaces like Amazon receive more than half their online sales from these sites. In that same survey, 52 percent of sellers said they chose Amazon because of the potential for high sales volume. According to Google, more than 200 million internet users are researching and browsing products online, and nearly 185 million people make purchases. It’s no wonder why small businesses are leveraging online marketplaces to reach their target audiences and sell more goods!

If you are new to the ecommerce world and want to ensure your product launch runs as smoothly as possible, it’s important not to overlook one seemingly small, but critically important Amazon seller requirement — using U.P.C.s (Universal Product Codes) for product listings. When you go to Amazon Seller Central to list your product, you will see the acronym U.P.C. being used. This stands for Universal Product Code. There are several benefits associated with using U.P.C.s to sell online, including improving the overall customer experience leading to more sales opportunities for you.

Amazon Barcodes & The U.P.C.’s Role in Ecommerce

Amazon Barcodes 4 Steps

It might be helpful to understand some basic barcoding terms for starters. The U.P.C. is the most common type of barcode symbol used around the world every day in physical retail at a store’s checkout counter. Most retailers ask suppliers to use U.P.C.s in their product identification processes and Amazon is no different.

If you are a purely ecommerce operation, you might be thinking, “My products never pass through a checkout line so why do I need a U.P.C.?” Just like U.P.C.s help companies track product to stores, those same barcodes are used to track product on its journey from a manufacturer all the way to a consumer’s doorstep. In the Amazon world, some sellers use the term GTIN and U.P.C.s interchangeably. The Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is actually the numbers you find just beneath your product’s U.P.C. barcode, and it uniquely identifies your product.

The most important part of understanding U.P.C.s for entrepreneurs who plan to sell beyond Amazon in the future — maybe by exploring another marketplace like eBay, or even physical retailers — is that U.P.C.s are used universally with all retailers, not just Amazon. That is why it’s important to create and use them properly from the start so that your products are forever linked to your company as you grow.

To create GTINs and U.P.C. barcodes, the first step is to license a GS1 Company Prefix from GS1 US, the not-for-profit information standards organization. The Company Prefix is used to create a GTIN that links your company and brand directly with your products.

Your Company Prefix allows you to create your own GTINs and barcodes. You should create a GTIN for every product variation that you sell. Such variations include different colors, scents, sizes, or flavors. They require their own GTIN to help ensure shoppers get exactly what they expect when they purchase your product.

In fact, Amazon Seller Central contains the following note: “The use of false product identification information, including product IDs, is prohibited and can result in your ASIN creation privileges being removed. Product IDs will be confirmed against the GS1 database. U.P.C.s that do not match the information provided by GS1 will be considered invalid.” In other words, if you opt to purchase U.P.C. barcodes from another source, you could be purchasing another company’s GTIN. You may not be able to link your company to your product within this code if Amazon were to check the code against the GS1 database.

But What Do Amazon Barcodes Do For Me?

With limited resources, small business owners are focused on what needs to get done now, so if the process of barcoding sounds technical or time-consuming, it helps to focus on what you’ll get out of using U.P.Cs. Simply put, Amazon and other marketplaces prefer working with sellers who use U.P.C.s because it makes it easier for them to manage a global pool of brands more efficiently. As a result, they are better positioned to create winning outcomes for both you as the seller and for them as the retailer.

Another benefit is that your product will be included in more search engine results. Most sellers know that the more product information you can give a potential shopper, the better. That’s why sellers provide as many descriptors as possible in their product titles. A “whisper-quiet, auto shut-off, LED display, cool mist humidifier for medium-sized rooms” is more likely to surface in shopper search results than just “cool mist humidifier.”

The U.P.C. serves as a “behind the scenes” layer of product description that feeds into search engines and leads to more sales. In fact, a recent Google study found that products with GTINs in their product feeds boosted sales conversions up to 20 percent and led to up to 40 percent more impressions. This can mean that a consumer searching online doesn’t just find a cool mist humidifier, they find your cool mist humidifier. Google also estimates that the top five search results generate 75 percent of clicks, so adding GTINs means your product is in the right place at the right time for the right audience.

In addition to the sales and search benefits, using UPCs in your product listing makes life simpler for you as the business owner/product manager/fulfillment specialist/inventory manager and whatever other roles you find yourself taking on. Think of a U.P.C. as a tool you can leverage to your advantage to more easily ensure consistency between your physical product, and how it is represented online. While online marketplaces offer fulfillment services, they will run smoother if your products can be uniquely identified and tracked through distribution systems whose programs are familiar with these identification numbers.

Amazon Barcodes GS1 US Infographic

Amazon Barcodes: Helping You Grow

As a small business owner, you spend money to make money and put in countless hours of sweat equity in support of your dream. Proper product identification from the start is a great way to eliminate worry and ensure you are successfully listing your products to grow along with your business.

Note: Interested in learning more about getting started on Amazon? Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Selling on Amazon with Amazon FBA.
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