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If you want to sell on Amazon, each one of your products needs to have a UPC code.

But what is a UPC barcode, and what does it represent? Why is it so important?

Most importantly, how can you buy your UPC codes?

Let’s answer all these questions one by one:

What are UPC Codes?

UPC codes are product barcodes that represent a product’s unique identification number.

This identification number is actually the GTIN, a number that identifies individual products. Each variation of a product is assigned a globally unique GTIN.

A GTIN is made up of

  • a Company Prefix (issued by the world’s only legitimate UPC producer Global Standard 1), followed by
  • a unique product code assigned by the seller and lastly,
  • a check digit that ensures that the GTIN is correct.

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Basically, GS1 issues unique prefixes to brand owners, which they use to create GTINs for each of their individual product units. These GTINs are then encoded into barcodes called UPC codes.

Amazon ensures the authenticity of sellers on their marketplace by matching the UPC codes assigned to various ASINs against the GS1 database.

So, if a seller uses a fake GTIN or UPC code for his product, he immediately puts himself at the risk of getting suspended.

GTINs and UPC barcodes can be used anywhere around the world.

Another variation of barcodes is the EAN. It also represents a product’s GTIN. UPC barcodes are most commonly used within the USA and Canada, and while other countries can also scan and read UPC codes, most of them use EANs.

What’s Wrong with Replicated UPC Codes? - Buy your own UPC Code

To be able to sell on Amazon, you must have a GTIN and a UPC code for each of your product listings.

When it comes to getting a UPC code for your product, there are two ways you can go about it: you can either register a legitimized UPC code directly with GS1, or you can buy a UPC code from a reseller.

There are many third party websites where resellers sell replicated UPC codes to new sellers for cheaper prices. This option may cost a bit less than investing in a legit UPC code, but it is not the right option for your brand. Here’s why:

A UPC code always represents the company it was first issued to, regardless of who it is resold to or how many times it is resold. So, if you use a resold UPC code even for your brand new product, it would still represent its actual company of registration.

This may not be an issue in the initial stages of your Amazon business, but it can cause a lot of harm in the long run. Imagine having a successfully booming business, but under the name of another company.

Trust me, no one wants that.

Moreover, Amazon has also hinted at enforcing a policy in the near future that will remove listings with replicated UPC codes (another reason to not go to resellers!).

To help you with the registration of your own UPC code, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide:

How to Buy a UPC Code for your Amazon product?

The entire process of buying a UPC code takes only 5 simple steps. Let’s go through each step one by one:

1. Apply for a GS1 Company Prefix

Like we discussed earlier, the first thing a GTIN has to have is a company prefix.

This 6-9 digit unique number represents the product’s manufacturer. All of your products from this manufacturer will have this same company prefix, followed by different product codes for each product.

Take a look at this example to get a clearer understanding:

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Let’s talk about buying a company prefix for your business.

Sellers often forge their company prefix or even fall for a fraudulent company claiming to sell unique UPC codes.

Remember, there is NO other legitimate company that sells UPC codes other than GS1. Buying your UPC code from elsewhere can not only impact the legitimacy of your business, but can also raise several legal issues as well.

First of all, you have to pay an initial setup fee that ranges between $250 to $10,000 depending upon the number of products you intend on selling. After that, you have to pay an annual renewal fee to maintain your prefix, ranging from $50 to $3000.

When I first looked at these numbers, I was also tempted to go to a third party barcode seller or some other cheaper website to buy my UPC code instead of going directly to GS1.

However, this changed immediately once I realized that I could potentially lose much more by buying illegitimate UPC codes!

Take a look at this pretty straightforward outline about how to get your company prefix on GS1 website.

2. Assign a Unique Product Number

Once you have your company prefix from GS1, it’s time to assign unique product code to each one of your codes.

Every seller is given a set of numbers by GS1. Using these numbers, sellers can come up with their own product codes.

They can use any numbering system or combination strategy as long as they don’t use any number other than the ones in their assigned set.

This set of numbers depends upon the number of products you intend to sell.

One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t just have to create product codes for each one of your listings. In fact, if a product has multiple variations, each of it would require its own product code.

For example, if you sell a t-shirt on Amazon that comes in 3 colors, you would have to assign three different product codes to each color.

Yes, they would all have the same SKU on Amazon but they would still be considered different products and would need their own unique product code.

Once you have your company prefix and your product codes, the only thing you’ll need to complete your UPC code would be one final “check digit”. This is the last and 12th digit of your barcode which is determined by the GS1 on the basis of the previous 11 digits.

3. Select a Barcode Display for your Product

Once your barcodes are complete, it’s time to include them in your products’ packagings.

If you have already packaged and labeled your products, you can simply order adhesive barcode labels and paste them onto your packaging or directly on your product.

On the other hand, if you haven’t yet labeled your products, you can get digital barcode files from GS1 and include the barcodes in your labels. This saves you from having to stick barcodes on each one of your products.

Whichever method you opt for, just make sure that your barcodes are accurate and clearly visible.

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4. Order your Barcodes

This is the step where you finally get your barcodes. You can use various websites for this purpose that specialize in printing barcode labels.

In fact, you can even use Solution Partner, a program by GS1 US, to find a reliable barcoding company to order your barcodes:

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These certified companies are very well familiar with GS1 standards, so it’s always safe to order your barcodes from them.

5. Place Barcodes

The last step is to finally place your barcodes on your products.

Remember, these barcodes must be placed where they remain easily visible and thus scannable at all times.

Amazon has very specific guidelines about UPC barcodes placement. The reason behind this is that they don’t manually check your barcodes, they use robots instead.

Your task is to make the job as easy as you can for the machines so that they can approve your products as soon as possible and you can get to selling them right away!

A Quick Recap

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In a nutshell, a UPC barcode represents a product’s unique identification number (GTIN). This number is assigned by GS1, a non-profit organization and the only legitimate issuer of UPC codes.

A product’s UPC code can track back to its seller so it’s very important to invest in legitimized UPC codes instead of going for cheaper, but far riskier options.

Once you’ve got your UPC codes, you’re all set to start your Amazon business!


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