We are all used to scanning and having barcodes scanned for us as when we are visiting our favourite shops. But how do you get a barcode if you are selling something that hasn’t existed before?
The answer is to head over to GS1
But before you do that lets explain a few things about how Amazon expect us to behave if we are selling on their platform. There are a few different references generated for each product and its best to become comfortable with the range of acronyms and abbreviations. Here we explain the most common terms you will come up against and help to explain what you need to know.
Amazon’s Global Catalogue and ASIN creation
Amazon sells all of the items on its site from its catalogue. If items are already in that catalogue you can sell them by simply referring to the specific item - you don’t need to upload a description or title as it is already there. Amazon make that very easy to do – so if you have permission to sell the item and the listing already exists then simply go through the steps to “Sell Your Own”. Amazon explain that process here.
Be careful though. Make sure you can legitimately sell the item on Amazon. Not all brands like to lose control of who is selling their stuff on Amazon. And Amazon themselves can intervene to stop you selling the item, potentially suspending you.
If the item is new to the catalogue you’ll need to have its barcode to hand – and that will come from the supplier of the item, or from GS1 if it is new.
When an item is originally added to the Amazon Catalogue it is given a GCID – a Global Catalogue ID – so every item gets a number associated with it. When a retailer adds an item to the Amazon Catalogue they will normally also provide a Standard Product ID – a barcode. Normally adding a barcode is essential, though in some cases where the product added is manufactured by the company listing it, they may instead choose to simply refer to the part number of the item and avoid the need to create a barcode. However, the Amazon recommendation is to make use of a barcode. If you are adding your own manufactured or licensed products you can find out more on the Amazon Brand Registry pages within your Seller Central account.
When you attempt to add a new product to the catalogue you will be stopped if you do not have permission to add products for the associated brand. As more brands register with Amazon’s Brand Registry so it is becoming harder for independent retailers to list items where they do not own the brand in question.
If you are successful in adding a product you’ll have the option to add the product to other Amazon marketplaces.
When a product is added to the catalogue, not only does the GCID get generated so does an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number). You can find out the requirements around ASIN creation here. And the reasons you may be blocked from creating it.
ASINs and Standard Product Identifiers
Barcodes are everywhere in the retail landscape and a number of international standards exist to manage them. Typically you’ll be able to obtain the correct barcode from the supplier or manufacturer of the items you are selling, failing that you’ll need to register with GS1.
As we know Amazon started as an online bookseller, so it seems appropriate to talk about the ISBN. The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) appears on the rear of books and identifies the country, the publisher and the book. The ISBN numbering system has been extended over the years, but always starts with the letters ISBN.
The ISBN leads us to the ASIN, Amazon Standard Identification Number. To begin with the ASIN was simply the same as the ISBN – remember Amazon started as a bookseller. But when Amazon increased the number of categories it also had to extend the use of the ASIN. Each product within Amazon has an ASIN allocated to it.
We’ve already mentioned one Standard Product ID – the ISBN. So let’s look at the other barcode standards.
The EAN, European Article Number, is widely used across Europe and other parts of the world. Just as with the ISBN it is a highly structured series of digits, the first few indicating the country – for instance 50 represents the UK. The remaining digits define the manufacturer and product in question.
The UPC, Universal Product Code, is an American standard used throughout America and North America. Most barcode readers can read both EAN and UPC barcodes.
In summary: Amazon uses a Global Catalogue ID to manage its extensive catalogue, but each product on the site is allocated an ASIN. Products are further tied down by the use of a barcode – normally in an EAN format, or ISBN format if a book of course.
Now that you are familiar with the importance of EAN and UPC barcodes you may wonder who controls them and where you can acquire barcodes if needed. EAN and UPC barcodes are both examples of what is called a GTIN – Global Trade Item Number. The standard for GTIN’s, is controlled by GS1.org.
We strongly recommend that if you need barcodes you register with GS1. Do not be tempted to buy them elsewhere, you are required to license the barcodes and must renew the license annually. Depending on the number of barcodes you require the costs will vary. Pricing starts at £100 annually.
You can see the GS1 pricing here.
Lastly let’s briefly mention Stock Keeping Units or SKUs. SKUs can take any form and are used by the holder of the stock to assist in tracking and storing the goods. You may elect to invent your own system, use the SKU of the supplier or add additional information to it, there is no standard. It’s simply your preferred way of identifying your stock.