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UPC: A pivotal barcode required for selling on Amazon

Versha Kamwal
May 15, 2021
6
mins read

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The online business magnate, Amazon, is home to millions of products, over 7 lac sellers, and more than 100 million registered users in India.

As an ecommerce seller, if you want to have a successful online business on Amazon, you need to manage your inventory efficiently apart from increasing your sales. For this, Amazon has defined a barcode system to track inventory throughout the fulfilment process through a unique identifier—a UPC.

In this blog, you'll learn about UPCs, why UPCs are important for selling on Amazon, how to buy UPCs in order to sell your products on Amazon, and the best practices for UPCs.

What are UPCs?

A UPC (Universal Product Code) is a unique 12-digit barcode assigned to every product to help categorise items on Amazon, so they can be identified and tracked easily.

An organisation called GS1 develops and maintains global standards for barcodes, i.e. symbols printed on products that can be scanned electronically. These standards are applicable in India as well. In order to sell on Amazon, you need to follow the GS1 specifications; otherwise, you will violate Amazon’s terms of service.

UPC

A UPC may look like a jumble of numbers, but each UPC digit entails meaningful sequences representing a specific company and product.

The first 6 to 10 digits identify the company prefix or the GTIN (Global Trade Item Number). Then 1 to 5 digits are called the reference number, and the last digit is known as the check digit, meaning that the barcode is correctly composed.

Why do you need UPCs to sell on Amazon?

Amazon systems are barcode-driven; you require a UPC so that your products are easily identified and tracked throughout the fulfilment process. Moreover, you need a UPC to fill out the product ID field while listing a new product to sell.

Amazon uses the Manufacturer barcode to track inventory throughout the fulfilment process unless you change your barcode setting in the seller panel. But it's essential to have a unique identification number to differentiate every product, that's where UPC comes into play.

Let's take an example, two Amazon sellers source their products from the same supplier. This means both the products will have the same manufacturer barcode on their products. Thus, it will be very difficult to track and differentiate their inventory unless they have a UPC on the products.

Also, if more than one Amazon seller has inventory with the same manufacturer barcode, then Amazon fulfils orders with inventory that is closest to the customer to facilitate faster delivery.

For example, when a customer places an order, Amazon looks for a seller with the same manufacturer barcode and has inventory closest to the customer. Amazon then ships the product and gives you the credit for the sale even though the product was not from your inventory. To compensate for this, Amazon ships the same product from your inventory to the other seller. In such scenarios, UPCs make the identification of your products easy.

How to buy UPCs for Amazon?

When you’re buying UPCs, there are three scenarios you need to consider:

  1. You manufacture your own products
  2. You source your products from a supplier and have manufacturer codes
  3. You source your products from a supplier but don’t have manufacturer codes

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these scenarios:

1. You manufacture your own products

If you manufacture your own products, you will find multiple sites that sell UPCs. It will be advisable to buy UPCs from the GS1 India website or one of the GS1 organisations. There are ten steps to buying your own UPC:

 ten steps to buying your own UPC

2. You have a manufacturer code

If you order your products from a supplier to sell on Amazon and the supplier provides a manufacturer's UPC, you can use them to create product listings. When you are creating your seller account on Amazon, its default setting uses the manufacturer code to track your inventory for FBA purposes. However, you can also change this setting at any time if you are looking for an alternative to FBA, i.e. want to fulfil your orders on your own or outsource fulfilment to a 3PL provider.

3. You don't have a manufacturer code

There can be instances when your supplier might not provide a manufacturer's UPC. In such situations, you can use an Amazon barcode — Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN). Moreover, you also need ASINs for the products that are not tracked with a manufacturer's UPC, such as products with expiration dates (cosmetics, food and beverages) and products that don't have a barcode printed on them.

Lastly, when it comes to printing and applying Amazon barcodes to your products, you need to consider the following scenarios:

  • If you are fulfilling your Amazon orders on your own or outsourced it to a 3PL, you can print Amazon barcodes from your seller account and apply them yourself.
  • If you are using FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon), you can either print and apply barcodes yourself or avail FBA label service for a per-item fee. But make sure that your products have a UPC before sending them to Amazon's fulfilment centres else you have to pay unplanned prep service fee.

Note: Amazon performs regular checks of the barcodes that you add to your product listings against GS1 India’s database to ensure authenticity.

How to add your UPC to Amazon?

Once you have your UPC, you can create your product listing on Amazon. On the listing-creation page, there is a field called “Product ID,” you need to enter your UPC there. As long as the rest of your listing follows Amazon’s listing guidelines, your listing will appear on the Amazon marketplace. Else, as stated above, your listing would be removed.

adding  UPC to Amazon

Best practices for UPCs on Amazon

Now that you know why you need UPCs and how to get them, there are a few guidelines you need to remember:

  • Buy UPC from reputable websites

As you know, many sites sell UPCs, but there are chances that these codes might be used and may result in your Amazon listing getting removed. The best option is to buy UPC from the GS1 India website even if they cost more than the other websites which try to distract with low price tags.

  • Create unique UPC for every product

Every product variation that you sell needs a unique code. For example, you sell T-shirts having three sizes, three colour options, and three styles. Then you'll need twenty-seven unique UPCs.

UPC calculation

  • Use the manufacturer UPC, if you are reselling products on Amazon

If you are sourcing your products from a supplier and they have provided a manufacture's UPC, then you don't need to create a new UPC. If you do, it might result in your account being shut down. In case a UPC isn't available, you can also apply for a GS1 exemption from Amazon.

Wrapping up

When it comes to selling on Amazon, there are many things you need to do and comply with. UPCs are one of the many things which can help you easily identify and track your inventory. Initially, it might seem like one of those extra things as there are quite a few steps you must take in order to buy UPCs, but it's totally worth it—as you don't want your listings to be removed from the Amazon marketplace! Just take one step at a time, and you'll be able to create accurate products listings that follow Amazon's guidelines, and you'll be all set to sell on Amazon.

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