Barcodes on Amazon: The Nitty-Gritty of GTIN

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

With the spring sales behind us, we can look forward to a busy summer. But before you start budgeting for new items to list for Prime Day, make sure your Amazon barcodes are in order. Let’s shed some light on GTIN barcodes.

 

 

It’s been nearly three years since we last talked about Amazon UPC requirements. So, it’s high time for a refresher course on GTIN barcodes. Before you rush to list new products and build your reputation for Prime Day, here’s some basic information about barcodes on Amazon.

GTIN Barcodes

Barcodes are a cost-effective, accurate, and effortless way to store, ship, track, and protect your products. Some of the most popular ones are the ISBN (a numeric 1D code), the Plessey code for shelf marking, and the QR code (a 2D code).

To protect their products, retailers and manufacturers across the world use an industry standard known as the GTIN (Global Trade Identification Number). These GTIN codes are issued by an NGO called GS1.

You need a GTIN code to list your product or your bundle on Amazon. More specifically, Amazon wants GTIN-12 (UPC) and GTIN-13 (EAN-13 or JAN-13) codes. But before you list anything on Amazon, check the recent UPC requirements for your venue.  

Buying Your Barcodes

Only a few types of products can be listed on Amazon without a GTIN code. Also, some private label sellers and manufacturers are exempt from these UPC requirements. But they must first they apply for Brand Registry and get a GCID from Amazon.

You’ll need a GTIN code issued by GS1 for anything that’s not exempt, and for every variation (color, size, flavor, etc.). Codes don’t come cheap, either. After GS1 issues a company prefix for you, you can generate your barcodes and use them for a year. But you need to pay an annual renewal fee from then on.

Checking Your Barcodes

When you list your item, Amazon will check the GS1 database to see if you’re using a valid barcode with a consistent company prefix. So, it’s very important to buy your barcodes from GS1.

If you have any unused barcodes, check the official GS1 search tool or use a digital barcode verifier to see if they’re valid. Also, look up the barcodes printed on your item with the check digit calculator or the check digit formula. Here’s what a genuine barcode should look like:

GTIN Barcodes for Amazon

1. EAN-13 / JAN-13

Barcodes come with digits underneath (backup for when scanners don’t work). EAN-13 is the most widely used barcode in Europe, and JAN-13 is its Japanese counterpart. This 13-digit string contains a unique company code. It’s based on a country-specific GS1 prefix. It tells you where the product is registered, not manufactured.

Anatomy of the EAN-13 barcode

Anatomy of the EAN-13 barcode, courtesy of Keyence

2. UPC

Most products belonging to North American companies should have a 12-digit UPC. The barcode is identical to EAN-13, but without the first digit. To convert UPC to EAN-13, simply add a ‘0’ – the ‘country flag’ for North America – at the front.

Anatomy of the UPC

Anatomy of the UPC, courtesy of GTIN and Barcode Graphics

3. ISBN

One of the most recognizable barcodes is the 10-digit ISBN (International Standard Book Number). It came along years before GS1 was founded, so, it’s not a GTIN code. It’s based on the 9-digit SBN. To convert an SBN into a valid ISBN, simply add the prefix ‘0’.

In 2007, it was converted to 13 digits to match the EAN-13. So, it’s made of the old ISBN-10 with the 978- Bookland prefix and a checksum digit at the end. This ‘check digit’ replaces the old ISBN’s 10th digit – a number from 0 to 9 or the roman letter for 10 (‘X’).

So, before you list a book, make sure that the code format matches the year it was published. Then check that it matches the actual product. Finally, use the check digit calculator. Compare the result with the barcode on your book, if you have one.

Anatomy of the ISBN

Anatomy of the ISBN, courtesy of Barcode Graphics

4. ISMN

You’ll find the ISMN code on notated music like tablature and musical scores. It used to come with an ‘M’ followed by 9 digits, which was incompatible with Amazon. But in 2015, there was a convention between GS1 and ISBN. The M was replaced and the 979- Bookland prefix was added to it, turning it into an EAN-13 code.

5. ISSN

The ISSN is not compatible with GTIN. It’s made of 8 digits with a dash in the middle. It’s used for magazines, newspapers, periodicals, journals, and other types of print and electronic media, including CDs, DVDs, and even blogs.

Note: The ISSN is assigned to the publication, not the issue. So, there’s no way to list the April issue of your magazine on Amazon with only the ISSN.

Other Codes Used by Amazon

1. ASIN

ASIN stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number. This is an alpha-numeric string, not a barcode. It always starts with a ‘B’, and it’s generated by Amazon when you list a new item. It’s only used for looking up products on Amazon and filtering out duplicate listings.

Example of ASIN on Amazon Drive

Example of ASIN on Amazon

2. FNSKU

The Fulfilment Network Stock Keeping Unit is a barcode applied to any product stored by Amazon. It’s a 10-digit alphanumeric symbol issued when you sign a product up for FBA. You can print it for free and apply it yourself or send it to your manufacturer, or pay to use the FBA Label Service.

Hint: You may cover the ISBN or other codes completely with the FNSKU to avoid scanning errors.

3. MSKU

This is short for Merchant Stock Keeping Unit. It’s not a barcode. It’s a string of digits and it’s for your reference only. As this article explains, it can be anything, as long as it’s unique. Use it to link products to manufacturers, warehouses, shelves, storage boxes, staff, etc.

Needless to say, there’s much more where that came from. But we won’t bore you with any more Amazon barcode trivia. If there’s one thing we’d like our readers to take away from all this, it’s this: unless you’ve registered your brand, you need valid GTIN barcodes to protect your products on Amazon.  

 

Melanie

 

Melanie takes an active interest in all things Amazon. She keeps an eye on the latest developments and keeps Amazon sellers up to speed.

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.