New to selling on Amazon and can’t get your head around what’s the deal with the barcodes?
GTIN, FNSKU, UPC, EAN, ISBN – lots of abbreviations.
They sound confusing, I know.
The part where most new sellers stumble is when it comes to FNSKU vs UPC barcodes. And it’s completely understandable.
You start out excited about selling on Amazon until you are required to provide different barcode types and a lot of questions start popping up.
Do you need UPC barcodes?
Do you need to have UPC labels on the products?
When do you need to print FNSKU labels on the packaging?
Where do you get FNSKU codes from?
In this post, I’ll explain what each of them stands for, what is their purpose, where can you get them from, and how you should use them.
Global Trade Item Number in the equivalent of “barcode”. GTIN is a numeric code made out of between 12 and 14 digits. They refer to the scannable barcode any sold item has, anywhere on the globe. Amazon uses these codes to identify the item you’re selling in their database.
GTINs can be either UPCs, EANs, or ISBNs, depending on the location and the nature of the product.
UPC stands for Universal Product Code, mainly used in North America.
The UPC code is required when creating a product listing page as it’s used to track the product in Amazon’s database. Also, it may be used in the Amazon warehouse for their inventory if you don’t provide an FNSKU code (we’ll get to it in a moment).
When you create a listing you’ll be required to grant the product ID, which you’ll change to UPC code.
This will only be required if the product you want to list isn’t already on Amazon. If the product is already sold on Amazon by other merchants, all you need to do is add the ASIN number which you can find on the products’ page in the product details section.
You don’t need a barcode for each item you have, you only need one barcode for a variation of a product. So even if you have, let’s say, 3k units of a product you’ll only need one barcode.
“European Article Number” is the European equivalent of UPC. Most used EAN barcodes are made out of 13 digits (EAN-13), while the 8 digit EAN barcodes (EAN-8) are used less often on small packages.
EAN barcodes are basically UPC codes with an extra number in the beginning which represents the country code. For example, the code for the US is “0”, for Sweden is “7”, and for Cuba is “8”.
International Book Number can be 10 or 13 digits depending on the book’s publishing date. All books that have been published after January 1, 2007, have 13 digit codes.
Like the name suggests, these ISBN barcodes are used in the book industry.
How to get a UPC code?
To get the UPC code the first step is to get in touch with your supplier. In most cases, he will have a UPC code you can use.
Sometimes, it may happen that the supplier doesn’t have a UPC so you’ll have to buy one yourself. For example, you won’t have a UPC code provided by the manufacturer if you sell private label products or bundles.
Where to buy UPC barcodes from?
Legally, you need to buy UPC codes from GS1. The UPC is directly associated with your brand’s name if it’s purchased from GS1. The costs for 10 UPCs are $250 flat and a $50 yearly fee to keep the barcodes registered in your company’s name.
A cheaper option is to get barcodes from Nationwide Barcode for $40/10 barcodes. You’ll see many Amazon sellers recommending this method because they’re successfully using UPCs purchased from Nationwide without having any trouble.
What are the risks with UPC barcodes from outside GS1?
Although you can purchase cheap UPC codes from many places, one example being eBay, it’s not too clever to do so. There are lots of vendors who sell barcodes which are not legitimate and you can’t use them. One way to check a code’s authenticity is to buy one barcode to test, run it through GS1.org and see if it’s clean. But I do not recommend this method.
The problem with barcodes purchased from providers other than GS1 is that Amazon started to double check for a while now if the UPS of one’s listing matches the manufacturer of that listing. They try to push every seller to use GS1 codes.
The safe way is to buy barcodes from GS1. Even if it’s more expensive, you’ll be covered and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
I want to highlight that the GS1 method is to prevent any difficulty in the future. To this day, there’s no known problem with the UPCs purchased from Nationwide in terms of deleted listings. Still, there are sellers who face difficulties with UPCs purchased from other places than GS1 as Amazon won’t let them register those UPCs into the listings.
Whatever method you choose, it’s gonna cost you some money – invest wisely.
The sure thing is, it’s better to be safe and not risk having your listing removed by Amazon because once it’s removed, it’s gone for good. Imagine all the effort you put into listings being washed away within minutes, letting you with no other option than starting all over from scratch.
How can you skip providing a UPC?
Amazon Brand Registry
Another approach is to register your brand with Amazon through their “Amazon Brand Registry” program. If you are eligible to apply for Amazon Brand Registry, this status will give you the option to list your products without a GTIN.
This is true only if you are not selling through the FBA program. If you are an FBA seller, you’ll need the UPC as your products will go into the warehouse.
For this, you’ll need a trademark registered at the US Trademark Office.
This approach is not cost-free, so you have to make some estimations to see if it’s more convenient for you to trademark your brand or to directly buy UPCs.
How to apply for GTIN exemption
You can also apply for a GTIN exemption if you sell private label products or bundles, meaning that you don’t have to provide a UPC code if Amazon accepts your submission.
To be eligible for GTIN exemption you need to meet certain criteria:
- The manufacturer, brand or publisher does not provide a GTIN. This is the case for private label products and hand-made products, for example.
- Products that are non-branded and don’t have a GTIN, like wholesale.
- Parts that don’t have a GTIN, like in case of automotive parts.
- Customized bundles that don’t have a GTIN.
To apply for a GTIN exemption you need:
- A letter from your manufacturer, brand owner or publisher which proves that they don’t provide a GTIN containing: issuer’s name and contact info, your physical address and contact info, must clearly state that the manufacturer doesn’t provide a GTIN for the products you sell, has to be in English.
- Show the products either through your website, or, if you don’t have a website, by uploading the images to an online image service provider.
There are cases when this method can be daunting. For example, if you have bundles made out of 4 items from different brands or manufacturers, then you’ll need a letter from each brand.
Luckily, there is one other method, much easier, you can follow.
Provide Amazon with a list of products
The following are the Amazon’s guidelines to submit for approval:
#1 Underneath the table of content, you can see the option “Request Approval”. Click on it.
#2 It will get you to the page where you have to fill the application.
#3 First, choose what kind of products are you asking an exemption for.
#4 Where it asks you why you don’t have a GTIN just write “I sell private label products” or “I sell bundles” depending on your situation.
#5 The most important part is uploading a list of the products. Your submission must follow one of the templates Amazon provides.
Clicking on ‘these templates” will take you to the previous page (the one with the table of contents) where you can find the templates they require.
#6 The templates are pretty easy to work with. You’ll get all the necessary instruction telling you how to fill in the application.
#7 Once your submission is approved, you’ll get an email letting you know for how long the GTIN exemption is valid and what you have to do next. The exemption is valid between 30 and 90 days. When it exemption expires, you can apply again the same way.
It’s hard to get accepted for GTIN exemption, so the success rate of this method is kinda low. Don’t rely too much on it.
In some cases, it’s better to buy a UPC rather than going around it. This goes for sellers who don’t sell exclusively on Amazon. The GTIN exemption is valid only on Amazon’s platform, so if you have more markets selling your stuff on, you’ll still need to buy a UPC for those.
“Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit” refers to the Amazon’s own barcodes used for labeling your products to track them in their warehouse. FNSKU labels need to be placed on every product unit that goes into the warehouse.
Amazon lets you ship the products to their warehouse with only the UPC code, but it may not be such a great idea because some problems may occur.
Why provide FNSKU labels?
If you send the products with just the UPC code, and your competitor does the same thing, sending his products with just the UPC code, what will happen is that both your cargo and your competitor’s cargo will end up thrown together in the same bin. From there, if you fulfill an order, the responsible person in the warehouse will go to the shelf and pick one random product (because they are all the same, aren’t they?) without knowing if it’s your product or your competitor’s. There’s the risk that your competitor’s products are remakes, counterfeited or in a bad shape.
So it’s better to have an FNSKU code and make sure your products are not mixed up with someone else’s.
How to get the FNSKU barcodes?
- Create the product listing
- You go to your seller central
- You go to inventory
- On the products you’re gonna be sending into Amazon you click on the drop-down button and select “print item labels”
- It will take you to a page where you can print the barcodes
How to place FNSKU labels on products?
In order to place your FNSKU labels onto the products, you have more options:
- If you personally send the items to Amazon’s warehouse, you can place the labels yourself before shipping
- You can pay a fee to Amazon and they will take care of it
- If your items go from the supplier directly into Amazon’s warehouse, you have to email the FNSKU labels to the supplier and have him print the FNSKU barcodes on packaging or place FNSKU labels on the boxes
The FNSKU labels have to be placed above the UPC barcodes (if the UPC codes are on there), covering them like in this example.
- You need a UPC barcode when creating a product’s listing
- You have to buy a UPC barcode if your manufacturer doesn’t provide one or you sell private label products
- You can apply for a GTIN exemption if you got approved for the Amazon Brand Registry
- You can send the items to the Amazon warehouse with just the UPC labels placed on, but it’s better to provide the FNSKU code
- You’ll get the FNSKU barcode in your seller central after creating a product’s listing
I hope this article explained the difference between FNSKU vs UPC barcodes well enough and now you’re ready to start selling on Amazon and keep the money coming.
Do you have any other questions I didn’t answer in this post? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to get back to you.