Understanding UPC, GTIN, EAN and FNSKU Amazon Barcodes

I was very confused over what those codes are and why must I understand them to do Amazon FBA.

But, fret not! I have gone through that hurdle to understand this in depth so you can just read what you need to send your products to Amazon FBA fulfillment centers. No complicated fluff which wasted so much of my time.

What are GTIN, UPC and EAN?

That’s a EAN-13 code, but we all refer this to a product barcode

In layman terms, its the product barcode which the cashier scans whenever we buy a product at a shop.

The difference in use of GTIN, UPC and EAN are purely geographical only. They all function the same way, helping the shop manage their inventory and pricing.

  • GTIN stands for Global Trade Item Number and you will need to use this if you are outside of USA, Canada and Europe. (GTIN comes in 12 to 14 numbers and is used globally, even within USA/Europe)
  • UPC stands for Universal Product Code and you will use it if your business operates within USA and Canada. (UPC are the same as EAN, but the country code for USA and Canada are zero, which would be omitted in the barcode)
  • EAN stands for European Article Number and you guessed it, for businesses in European countries including UK. (13 digit with country code at the front)

So depending on where your business is registered in, your code will grouped accordingly to where your registered business is.

Buying GTIN, UPC or EAN Barcodes

Amazon have a zero-tolerance policy for sellers using any other barcode except from GS1 (A non-profit organisation that provides an international standard for these codes)

So I do not recommend you buy your codes from anywhere else except GS1. Sellers have had their listing deleted and even accounts banned due to this violation.

You will need to register your company under GS1’s registry which Amazon can use to check. One of the many steps which Amazon takes to tackle counterfeits.

A quick tip before you go and purchase your barcode from your country’s GS1 website.

Barcode fees comparison between GS1 US and GS1 UK

It is far more value for money to get your barcodes from GS1 UK as they charge £ 119 per year for 1000 barcodes as opposed to US$300 with US$50 annual renewal fee for just 10 barcodes from GS1 USA.

Tip: GS1 Estonia or Netherlands provides lower quantities barcodes for low cost (10 codes for € 55) which you can consider too.

Once you have purchased your GS1 barcodes, you will have access to your barcode management system to assign your product information to each barcode. This information should match with what you are selling on Amazon as Amazon does check this.

You too can check your own unique GS1 barcode right here.

Do note that once you have registered on GS1 and used a barcode, it will take about 3 days to 1 week for the data to propagate throughout GS1’s servers.

FNSKU Amazon Barcode

How an Amazon’s FNSKU Label looks like.

Not to be confused with GTIN, UPC or EAN, Amazon also use its own proprietary barcode called Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit (FNSKU).

When creating a listing, you will be prompted to key in your GTIN, UPC or EAN code before it can be active. The FNSKU is only applicable to sellers interested to send their products to Amazon to sell via FBA. (This can be obtained as you go through the FBA setup on your Amazon Seller Central)

Wait a minute, why cannot Amazon use the global standard of GTIN, UPC or EAN barcodes?

The answer comes if you put yourself in Amazon’s shoe where Amazon handles hundreds of millions of product in their fulfillment centers. They need a way to track every single product to the respective seller that sends them in.

This FNSKU code contains information such as product UPC, GTIN or EAN number, product information, unique seller ID, fulfillment centers location and inventory level.

You can call this a barcode on beast mode making inventory management very efficient for Amazon.

Amazon’s FNSKU are printed on Amazon Product Label which you would stick onto the outside of your packaging for Amazon to scan when it reaches their fulfillment centers. You will be able to save your Amazon Product Label when setting up your shipping plan. (This must be the only visible barcode on your product packaging, so NO UPC, GTIN or EAN barcode displaying here.)

Getting Products Ready for FBA

Put yourself in Amazon’s shoes again and imagine this. Receiving millions of products from 3rd party sellers everyday.

Scanning a UPC, GTIN or EAN code and then trying to identify which of the hundreds of sellers does this Nike Shoe belongs to.

What a logistical nightmare it is to sort out the items and figure out which item belongs to which seller.

Which is why Amazon requires that you display the FNSKU label ONLY. Do not paste a UPC, GTIN or EAN barcode on the product packaging. (For new listings such as bundles, private label or new product)

This eliminates the chances of Amazon scanning a UPC barcode which would create a delay in sorting your product. A small issue like this can create a mess and your product will be pushed to a “problem” pile which takes weeks to process.

You don’t want to end up getting your products delayed because of this. So follow Amazon’s requirement closely!

There are 2 main category which you will fall into for using FBA.

Category 1: (Products already listed on Amazon)

  1. Paste FNSKU product label on every item we send to Amazon by covering up any other UPC, GTIN or EAN barcode so that only Amazon’s FNSKU is viable and scannable
  2. Leave the UPC, GTIN or EAN barcode exposed and choose for Amazon’s labeling service which would cost US$0.20 per label
  3. Opting to commingle or mix your stock with other seller’s product of the same UPC, GTIN or EAN. This means your items do not have FNSKU applied.

Category 2: (New Listing such as bundle, private label or new product)

  1. Enter your GTIN/UPC/EAN number for each new listing. This is the only time you will use this GTIN/UPC/EAN number for Amazon’s case
  2. Apply for GTIN exemption – rarely you will use this, but you can find out more here.

So that’s really all you need to know about UPC, GTIN, EAN and FNSKU Amazon Barcodes for your FBA business.

I hope that clears the air about what each code is and how you should use them.

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