If you sell on Amazon, you need to understand what UPC codes are and how to buy them. In fact, every single product listed on Amazon must have a unique UPC code, but this doesn't mean you need to go out and buy UPCs yourself.
Confused yet? Never fear, we're going to get into all the nitty gritty when it comes to Amazon UPC codes.
In this article, you'll learn about Amazon UPC codes, the purpose they serve, and how to buy UPC codes at the best prices.
What Is a UPC?
UPC stands for Universal Product Code. A UPC is a product identifier in the form of a unique barcode and sequence of 12 numbers. The numbers on a UPC are called a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN).
You'll hear UPCs referred to as "UPC number" or "UPC Code" often, but both are somewhat redundant considering the term UPC stands for Universal Product Code. I'll use the term UPC code throughout this article so for that, I apologize!
UPCs were adopted by international non-profit organization GS1 in 1973 as the global standard for unique product identification. UPCs are scannable so they can be used at the point of sale.
In 1974, one lucky cashier by the name of Sharon got to scan the world's first UPC on a pack of Wrigley's gum at a small supermarket in Ohio.
Believe it or not, the pack of gum along with the receipt from the transaction is now on display for all to see at the Smithsonian. Truly, a piece of retail history!
When Do Amazon Sellers Need UPC Codes?
The good news is, not all sellers need to worry about UPC codes. You only need a UPC code if you're bringing a new product to the Amazon marketplace.
This is not the same as creating a listing for a product that you're arbitraging. If you purchased someone else's product and want to list it on Amazon, they will already have their own UPC for the product.
If you purchase items that are already listed on Amazon or already have their own UPCs, you don't need to worry about buying UPC codes at all.
So if you've started a private label business, then you may need UPC codes for your products in order to sell them on Amazon.
You'll need your UPC or EAN when filling out the product ID field when you create your new listing, unless you have a GTIN exemption which we will cover soon.
UPC Codes vs. EAN Codes - What's The Difference?
A UPC is a 12 digit barcode typically used in North America to identify products whereas an EAN is a 13 digit barcode used in other parts of the world. EAN stands for European Article Number. However, it is more commonly referred to as an International Article Number nowadays.
All forms of barcodes endorsed by GS1 are accepted globally, even the 8 digit EAN-8/GTIN-8 which has been developed with only 8 numbers so it can fit on smaller retail items.
Where to Buy Amazon UPC Codes
You likely landed on this page because you wanted to find affordable UPC codes. Now, don't let your natural desire for savings cause you to buy UPC codes for Amazon products that are from sketchy sellers.
eBay is notorious for shady sellers selling bad UPC codes for Amazon products and they should be avoided at all costs.
Amazon verifies the authenticity of all UPCs with the GS1 database, so you really do need to buy yours from a legitimate source, no matter how many UPC codes you are purchasing.
One of the best place to purchase legitimate UPC codes for Amazon is UPCs.com. They are pretty much the only reputable website to buy UPC code for amazon, outside of buying directly from GS1 themselves.
They have legitimate UPC codes that are purchased in bulk from GS1. If for any reason your codes aren't useable, they offer a 100% money-back guarantee.
Now if you don't take this advice and you go ahead and buy dodgy, cheap UPC codes, there's a good chance they are not unique UPC codes. Yep, you just bought yourself recycled codes and your Amazon business is likely to get shut down for fraudulent activity.
Amazon's system will automatically cross-check your UPC with the GS1 database to ensure that it uniquely identifies the product you are listing so whatever you do, don't try and circumvent this process. It's just not worth it.
How Much Does it Cost to Buy UPC Codes for Amazon?
The cost to purchase UPCs varies depending on where you buy them from. If you go with the recommendation above, UPCs.com, they start at $10 per code for one UPC code.
They get cheaper as you buy more. You'll pay $0.90c each if you buy 100, or just $0.35c each if you buy 1,000 barcodes.
With UPCs.com there are no renewal fees either.
Purchasing direct from GS1 will cost you more and you may even need to pay an annual renewal fee. UPCs.com purchased their codes in bulk directly from GS1 so they kindly pass the savings on to us!
How Many UPC Codes do I Need?
Every single UPC is a unique identifier so if you are selling multiple, identical products then you only need one UPC code.
If your product has multiple variations then for every single variant, you will need a new UPC code.
For example, if you are selling t-shirts that have 5 sizes and 5 colors, you will need 25 UPCs.
Getting a GTIN Exemption
If you're selling a product that doesn't already exist on Amazon and it doesn't have a barcode on it, you may be able to apply for a GTIN exemption from Amazon inside Seller Central. There's a few scenarios that will allow you to do this, such as:
- The product you're selling is handmade.
- You're selling a bundle of multiple items.
- You have your own range of products that do not have barcodes, commonly referred to as private label products.
- You're selling parts or accessories, like mobile phone cases for example.
If you think that the product you want to sell might fit this criteria, try your luck with a GTIN exemption. It's a relatively straight-forward process.
Amazon UPC Code FAQs
Here are some of the most common questions regarding Amazon UPCs.
What's the difference between a UPC and GTIN?
The entire barcode is the UPC and the 12-digit number sequence on the UPC is called the GTIN. The terms are often used interchangeably, albeit incorrectly, when referring to the barcode as a whole.
Do I need to put the UPC barcodes on each product?
While some brands like to use adhesive barcode labels to stick the UPC onto their product, you technically do not need to do this.
If you have a private label product that you want to sell in brick and mortar stores one day though, you will need a scannable UPC code on your products. If. you're using a service like UPCs.com then you can actually order adhesive barcode labels.
Do the numbers on a UPC barcode actually mean anything?
Actually, yes. Not only is the 12 -digit GTIN totally unique, the numbers themselves do have meaning.
The first 6 digits are unique to the company, called the company prefix. The next 5 numbers are product specific, called the product number and the final digit is an automatically generated check digit.
Amazon says my GTIN needs to be 13-digits, have I been scammed?
To fix this issue you simply need to add a 0 to the start of the number.
What is a JAN?
JAN stands for Japanese Article Number. This is a 13-digit EAN barcode used in Japan.
What is an ISBN?
An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number. ISBNs are GTINs specifically used for books. If you're publishing a book on Amazon you can still choose to publish without an ISBN, in which case Amazon will allocated you an ASIN.
What is an ASIN?
ASIN stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number and it is Amazon's very own unique identifier, allocated to every single product on the Amazon platform.
The Final Word on Buying UPC Codes for Amazon
I suppose we could have just told you to go ahead an buy your UPC codes from UPCs.com because it is the most trusted resource on the internet for buying barcodes, but it really helps to understand the history behind UPCs and why we use them.
There's always been a lot of confusion around UPCs so hopefully after learning what they are and where to buy them, you feel a little more confident if you need to buy your own Amazon UPC code.