Before Amazon allows you to sell on their website, they validate the authenticity of your UPC barcodes with the Verified By GS1 database. Like other retailers, Amazon requires suppliers to only use UPC barcodes that are licensed to the supplier’s name. They will not accept UPCs purchased online from third parties. Despite the misinformation on many of their websites, circumventing this process is a problem.
Watch the short video to better understand why.
In order to sell on major online marketplaces, you’ll need an authentic way to identify your products. GS1 is the global authority for the unique identification of products and companies, which serve as the building blocks for barcodes. While a barcode is not scanned during online checkout like you would at a cash register, Amazon will still use the UPC number sequence under the barcode (also known as a GTIN) that uniquely identifies the product.
A UPC barcode is a 12-digit identifier and is represented by a barcode symbol, so there are two steps in the application process. The initial step begins below by selecting the number of required UPC barcodes and establishing your GTIN.cloud® account. You will then be immediately directed to license your UPC Company Prefix and receive your assignable block of UPC barcodes at one time.
For companies with only a few products that need barcodes, GS1 offers individual GTINs as great option enabling sellers to quickly list their products for sale. Like a UPC Company Prefix, single GTIN barcodes are licensed to your brand and enable you to sell your products globally. Companies who initially obtain GS1 GTIN barcodes can add additional GTINs as well as license a Company Prefix as they grow. There is no annual renewal fee for a GS1 GTIN barcode(s) and lifetime access to GTIN.cloud® is provided.
Amazon’s Seller Central is the portal sellers use to manage their accounts and list their products. Every Amazon requirement, including barcode identification, is referenced on the website. The type of barcode identifier required is dependent on both the specific Amazon fulfillment channel and the product category. The acronyms used can be overwhelming, so the explanation below will shed some light on what each stands for and when they are applicable.
The UPC (Universal Product Code) is the most recognized barcode on the planet. The UPC is part of the GS1 global identification standards. The actual data consists of 12 numeric digits that uniquely represent a company/brand and a specific item. This 12-digit identifier is a type of GTIN (Global Trade Item Number). A GTIN is an umbrella term used to refer to a GS1 item identifier up to 14 total digits.
There are three components to the 12-digit GTIN string. The initial data consists of a company prefix that ties the product to a particular company or brand. The prefix can be variable in length, depending on how many assignments are required. The next set of data is the specific item number. Lastly, the 12th digit is a calculated number based on the previous 11 digits. The check digit ensures that the data was correctly deciphered by a scanner and prevents incorrect reads.
When Jeff Bezos originally launched Amazon in 1994 as an online marketplace for books, his programming team created a 10-digit alphanumeric as an internal identifier that would be assigned to every product. At that time, the 10-digit number actually corresponded to the 10-digit ISBN assigned to books. An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is used to identify book products and is globally administered by the ISBN Agency. Today every item entered into the Amazon catalog is assigned its own ASIN, which stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number.
Amazon was focused on hyper-growth and looked internally to formulate its own identification system rather than embracing the existing global ISBN and UPC/EAN standards for product identification. Unfortunately, the original Amazon barcode guidelines did not address the ramifications of using 3rd party (reseller) barcodes and the associated problems of incorrectly licensed UPCs. Aside from incorrect product to brand association, the 3rd party UPC resellers were non-regulated so many sellers obtained UPC numbers that were simply fabricated.
In order to correct the mistakes in the past, Amazon clarified its UPC barcode requirements in 2016. Quite simply, Amazon requires sellers to obtain UPC (GTIN) barcodes with UPC Company Prefixes licensed directly from the standards agency. From Amazon’s requirements:
Yes, Amazon will allow you to list without a GTIN/UPC if you successfully apply for GTIN exemption.
If the product is not already in the Amazon catalog and does not already have a GTIN, Amazon allows sellers to apply for an exemption. This can be a handmade product, wholesale product, your own private label, or a new bundle you have created. If granted, the exemption will apply to a particular Amazon category and be open for between 30 – 90 days. If this lapses before you list your product, you will simply need to reapply.
A letter from the brand owner or manufacturer to confirm that the products do not have a GTIN. Or supply a list of sample products Amazon can review.
Either a link to a website showing the products or you can upload a photo of the product.
If you are ever planning on selling outside of the Amazon platform, then we recommend you get a GS1 barcode. Even if you start on Amazon, if your product is successful, then you may want to sell on eBay or other platforms, different websites, or even in retail stores.
If you only have an FNSKU, you are locked into Amazon. Also, not all categories are eligible for exemption.
There are resellers of valid GS1 codes that are, in effect, "recycled" codes. These include companies such as "Nationwide Barcode", "BarcodesTalk" or "Speedy Barcodes".
Many Amazon sellers and (even those teaching courses about how to sell on Amazon!) make the mistake of buying these cheap UPC codes which have been recycled. These UPC codes, from resellers such as "Speedy Barcodes", are GS1 registered, but the problem is that they are NOT linked to your brand or company.
When you apply for Brand Registry for your FBA product, you will probably be rejected due to the fact that the code owner does not match your seller name. This could also create problems with Amazon. They might close your listing down because of invalid GS1 codes, which is why we do not recommend doing it this way.
Warning – Proceed with caution and understand the risks involved in your business if you decide to purchase a cheap resold or recycled GS1 code from a third party!
Access to GTIN.cloud® enables members to completely manage their GTIN assignments, create high-resolution barcodes, and control their associated product data.
More importantly, an assigned personal GS1 Barcode consultant will not only assist with any and all questions but will validate information BEFORE publishing.