Ultimate guide to GTINs, EANs and UPCs for Amazon, eBay & Google

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GTINOnline sellers are being required to add product identifiers to their listings on Amazon, or Google Shopping. These usually take the form of a Brand, Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) or an EAN (European Article Number) or UPC (Universal Product Code). This is a new requirement for online sellers – and it can be a tedious task for them to update all of their listings.

Product identification forms a vital part of any businesses supply chain. We think it’s important for you to understand the basics of why this is happening, so DaytodayeBay have created these FAQs in collaboration with GS1 UK. GS1 are the not-for-profit organisation that represents the UK in administering and maintaining the global GS1 system of supply chain standards– which includes the numbering system we’re now required to use for identifying products online.

What is a barcode?

A barcode is the image you’ll recognise from most products that you see every day. The pattern of light and dark areas is a form of data carrier that allows for a machine to read a number, which identifies the product, automatically.

What is a GTIN?

Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) –The name given to the number that uniquely identifies a product. Is 12 digits in North America, but it’s usually 13 digits long in the rest of the world, or occasionally 8 digits (for very small products).

EAN BarcodeWhat is an EAN?

European Article Number (EAN) – The name given to the standard barcode image that represents the 13 digit GTIN on most products you buy in shops in the UK and globally, except for North America.

UPC BarcodeWhat is a UPC?

Universal Product Code (UPC) – The name given to the standard barcode image of a 12 digit GTIN that is commonly used in North America.

What is the difference between an EAN and a UPC?

A UPC is usually a 12-digit barcode used in North America to identify most products. The rest of the world uses 13-digit EAN barcodes to identify products. However, both types of numbers and barcodes are part of the GS1 System of international standards, so both are accepted globally.

If I already have a UPC do I need to get an EAN?

No. A UPC barcode and 12 digit GTIN does the same job as an EAN barcode and 13 digit GTIN. The UPC originated in the US, but is part of the global GS1 System. So if you licence UPCs from a GS1 organisation, you’ll have no problems using them globally. When a 13 digit number is required you can add a zero to the front of your 12 digit GTIN.

How do product identifiers work?

A product identifier is simply a number that allows you to uniquely identify your product.
The GS1 System of product identification ensures that the number you have given your product is unique. Retailers have been using GS1 product identifiers – GTINs – to manage their inventories for over 40 years.

Today, with 100s of millions of products now listed online on websites and marketplaces this is more vital than ever. Marketplaces use product identifiers to manage their product catalogues, so if your product is mis-numbered and has the same identifier as another product it causes a data conflict.

Do I need a product identifier?

Yes. If you’re trading online on a marketplace such as Amazon, eBay or Google Shopping. They all now require you to input a product identifier when you list your product.

Why do I need a product identifier to sell my product online?

As marketplaces develop their websites, they need more information about what’s listed in their catalogues. As with traditional retail, knowing what’s available to buy in their catalogues is essential to keeping shoppers happy – and buying your products.

Why are product identifiers becoming important for online sellers including eBay and Amazon?

Product identifiers will help you to grow your business. They’re a great way to improve traffic to your listings. This is because search engines such as Google and Bing are also using product identifiers as a way of tying together the information about your product in a structured way – this makes it easier for them to return your listings for relevant search queries.

Uniquely identified products also allow the marketplaces to better understand what’s in their catalogue. Marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay are using product identifiers to structure product data on their websites so that they can improve a shopper’s experience. Product identifiers are used to drive features such as product reviews and to create smarter offers for shoppers.

Do I need either an EAN or a UPC product identifier?

It doesn’t matter. If you’re a GS1 UK member you’ll get a company prefix that enables you to create 13 digit identifiers – GTINs – that are used in EAN barcodes. But 12 digit GTINs and 13 digit GTINs, which are represented by UPC and EAN barcodes, are both part of the global GS1 System so both will be suitable for your products.

I am a fashion retailer. Do I need product identifiers to sell on Amazon, eBay or Google Shopping?

Amazon requires GTINs for the entire fashion category – clothing, footwear and accessories.

Google Shopping requires GTINs for shoes, sunglasses, handbags and watches. And in all categories Google states that “Whenever GTINs are available, we strongly recommend providing them in the ‘GTIN’ attribute.”

For eBay, GTINs are required for all single and multivariate listings for new, relisted, revised and Good ‘Til Cancelled listings of new and manufacturer-refurbished items. There are some exceptions for the clothing, footwear and accessories category.

Will my product identifiers work with Amazon?

Yes, if it’s from a GS1 organisation. Amazon accept GS1 GTINs in all of their forms, so if you have a GTIN-13 (or EAN number) or GTIN-12 (or UPC number), when you’re listing a new product you’ll most likely be asked to provide one. There are some exceptions and exemptions for some products.

Are product identifiers issued by an official body?

GS1 UK LogoGS1 is the not-for-profit organisation that administers and maintains the GS1 System of supply chain standards globally. These standards include product identifiers such as GTINs, as well as EAN and UPC barcode specifications. GS1 work with over 2 million members worldwide to ensure our standards support industries as they develop and grow.

Are GS1 product identifiers permitted for use globally?

GS1 GTINs, EAN and UPC barcodes are used in the UK and all over the world. Over 150 countries use the GS1 System – with over 6 billion GS1 barcodes scanned every day!

Will my product identifiers ever expire?

When you join a GS1 organisation you’re allocated a unique company prefix that allows you to generate your GTINs. This prefix is licensed to you on an annual basis. Similar to your TV license, as long as you need to identify your products you need to renew your license.

Do I have to pay renewal fees?

As your company prefix is licensed from GS1, this means there is an annual license fee for your membership.

Will my product identifiers be unique to me?

All GS1 members are licensed a unique company prefix which enables them to give each of their products a unique GTIN – so as long as you assign the numbers correctly you won’t have any problems.

Will my product identifiers work in a country other than the UK?

Yes. The GS1 System is used in over 150 countries worldwide. There are millions of trading partners all over the globe using our standards for product identification and barcodes.

Is there anything that I need to do after I receive my product identifiers from GS1?

A GS1 membership leaves the best person in charge to manage your product data – you. So they won’t send you each identifier individually. You’ll get a unique company prefix and from this you can assign up to 100,000 GTINs – so you can be sure you’ll never run out

You can manage all your numbers online using their secure online service, My Numberbank. You’ll find this in the member’s area of the GS1 website.

When will I receive my product identifiers – how long does it take?

You can register at gs1uk.org and you’ll receive your company prefix in a matter of minutes – which means you can start assigning GTINs immediately.

Online Seller UK can help you with these changes on eBay or Google Shopping. They say that they “have already helped UK eBay sellers to update thousands of listings in matter of days at a very reasonable cost and if you need help on this please get in touch“.

11 Responses

  1. I’d like to know how and where the other barcode resellers fit in.
    Companies such as BarcodesTalk.co.uk

    Do such companies “buy” / “purchase” / “license” barcodes from GS1 and resell them?

    In the past I’ve paid for small runs of barcodes from webistes other than GS1 and I don’t pay an annual license fee.
    What am I letting myself in for?
    Anything? Will my barcodes not be unique? Could they be re-assigned to someone else? Are they just made-up?
    Or have I got away with paying less for my barcodes than I would have if I had got them from GS1?

    I genuinely don’t know and having seen so much confusion about this on an eBay Facebook group I would like to know the differences from an expert.
    If I’ve made a mistake already, I don’t want to make it again.


  2. Does anybody know if it has an effect on ebay search placement when you select the ‘Does not apply’ option instead of an EAN number for products that do not have any number? Is it worth purchasing EAN numbers for these?

  3. What happens when a “licensee” fails to renew their license? If their company prefix is subsequently licensed to another company, how can they be sure that any new GTINs produced are not already in circulation on the old company’s products?

    If a prefix can’t be licensed to a second company (which is the only way to stop this happening) what is the point of anyone continuing to pay an annual license fee?

  4. We are planning to implement barcode scanning in our warehouse for inventory control of medical supplies, but we have to link the GTIN numbers with our item codes in order for our system to be able to identify the item.
    I need to know how can we get the GTIN numbers of the medical supplies that already they are members in GS1?


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