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by Travis F.posted on 31.07.2020

Amazon UPC Codes: What are They for and Where Can You Get Them?

When you store and sell as many products as Amazon does, you need a system to keep track of them. This is why Amazon utilizes UPC codes for their American marketplace.

Unfortunately, if you’re selling items on their website the company won’t provide you with UPC codes for your products. You’ll have to acquire these yourself and make sure every item you sell has one.

So, what exactly are UPC codes and how do you get them? Read on to learn everything you need to know.

What are UPC Codes?

Unique Product Codes (UPC) are 12-digit codes that are used to identify retail products. They are usually accompanied by a barcode that can be scanned for quick identification. This is the most common code used in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia.

When a UPC code is scanned retailers are able to see what the item is, the brand name, size, color, and any other important information. This makes it easy to track inventory within a warehouse and greatly speeds up the checkout process.

UPC codes eliminate the need to manually enter product information. This is critical for large retailers like Amazon that regularly hold millions of items in their warehouses.

Most items sold on Amazon.сom are required to have a UPC code (there’s one exception which we’ll explain below). So, once you use AMZScout to find your perfect product follow the steps here to make sure it has a proper code.

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Other Types of Codes

You’ve likely heard about some other types of codes. We’ll list them here and let you know when you need them:

  • EAN: The European Article Number (EAN) code is the European equivalent to the UPC. If you plan to sell any products in one of Amazon’s European marketplaces, or India, you’ll need one of these instead of a UPC. However, if you already have a UPC code you can simply add a zero to the front of it to convert it to an EAN.

  • JAN: The Japan Article Number (JAN) is the Japanese equivalent of an EAN. These codes just start with different numbers than the codes used in Europe to make them unique.

  • GTIN: Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN) are 14-digit codes that can be used worldwide. They are compatible with both UPC and EAN codes. Adding a zero to the front of an EAN converts it into a GTIN.

  • ISBN: International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is used to identify books. Each published book will already be assigned an ISBN. Naturally, you only need to worry about this code if you’re selling books.

Before you start selling on Amazon make sure you have all the codes you’ll need so you don’t run into any issues when listing your items.

To learn more about Amazon Barcodes, check out this video:

Do You Always Need a UPC Code?

All items sold on Amazon.сom need a UPC code, with one exception: if you create your own brand and register it with Amazon through their Brand Registry Program you can apply for a GTIN exemption. This will allow you to add your product without a UPC code.

Also, if your product needs a UPC code it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need to purchase one or label your items with it.

If you’re buying products from a wholesaler, dropshipping, or practicing retail arbitrage, it’s quite likely that your items will already come with a scannable UPC code on their packaging. If this is the case, your products will probably be in Amazon’s system already and you’ll just have to add yours to the existing listing.

Another scenario where things are a little different is if you’re fulfilling your orders yourself and not using Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA). In this case, if your items don’t have a UPC you will need to purchase one to create your listing, but you won’t need to attach the barcode to each of your products (unless you plan on using the barcode yourself).

When Do You Need to Buy a UPC Code for Your Product?

You’ll need to purchase a UPC code for any item that doesn’t already have one. This usually occurs when you’re creating your own private label products and you haven’t registered your brand with Amazon. 

Because it’s a brand new product, a UPC needs to be created and assigned to it. You’ll also need a scannable barcode on the item so it can be tracked. This can either be your UPC code, or an Amazon barcode (ASIN, FNSKU or MSKU).

How to Buy a UPC Code

By this point, you’re probably wondering how to get a UPC code for your product. The process is actually fairly simple.

The best place to buy UPC codes for Amazon is GS1. This is the only supplier Amazon recognizes, and they verify the authenticity of each barcode by using their database. This is why it’s recommended to purchase all of your UPCs from GS1.

To get your UPC code go to GS1’s website. There are four steps involved in getting your code:

  1. Obtain a GS1 Company Prefix: This is the portion of your UPC code that identifies your company. It can be anywhere from 6-10 digits, depending on how many products you need codes for. The more UPCs you need the shorter your company prefix will be to allow for more product numbers.

  2. Generate Product Numbers: These are numbers within your UPC codes that indicate what the item is. The length of this number will depend on the length of your company prefix. For example, if your company prefix is seven digits your product numbers would be four digits (the 12th digit is the check digit).

  3. Decide How You’re Going to Label Your Items: You can either obtain a digital file that you can send to your manufacturers or print them off and apply them to your products yourself.

  4. Get Your Barcodes: This is where you’ll either receive your digital file or print off your barcodes.

Unfortunately, the barcodes aren’t free. The price you’ll pay depends on how many codes you’ll need. If you’re purchasing anywhere from 1 - 10 codes the cost is $250. There’s also an annual renewal fee of $50.

Buying UPC Codes From Third-Party Vendors

If you want to save some money there are third-party vendors that will sell you UPC codes for much cheaper (under $10).

However, be aware that there are some drawbacks and risks involved in doing this:

  • If Amazon determines your UPC codes aren’t legitimate they could suspend your account.

  • Some barcodes you buy may have been previously associated with another company. So every time your product is scanned that company’s name will come up instead of your own.

If you choose to buy your barcodes from a third-party make sure they’re from legitimate GS1 resellers. These companies buy codes in bulk, allowing them to sell the codes at cheap prices compared to what you’d pay if you purchased them from GS1 directly.

Avoid independent sellers offering codes on sites like eBay. These are often not certified and could just be recycled UPCs that will get your account shut down.

Placing Your Barcode on Your Product

Once you have your UPC code the final step is to place it on your items.

If you’re creating your own private label product, and the packaging hasn’t been printed yet, you can send a digital file of your code to your suppliers. They’ll be able to incorporate your code directly into your packaging so you don’t have to worry about labeling your products.

If your packaging is already printed, or you have another type of product that needs a UPC code, you can order adhesive barcode labels and place these on your items. Remember, if you’re selling products in a bundle each item must have its own UPC.

Make sure the code is placed away from the edge of the packaging. It will also need to be printed clearly, sized correctly, and have enough white space around it so it can be scanned.

Conclusion

UPC codes can often be confusing to sellers, but once you understand how they work it’s not that difficult to get codes for your products. The important things to remember are:

  • If you’re selling on Amazon.сom and your brand isn’t registered you’ll need a UPC code.

  • Purchase your UPC code from GS1 or a legitimate GS1 reseller.

  • If you’re using Amazon FBA you’ll need to make sure all of your items are labeled with a UPC code or an Amazon code before you ship them.

  • Ensure your products are labeled properly so they can be scanned.

If you follow all of these steps you shouldn’t have any trouble adhering to Amazon’s rules around UPC codes.

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