Amazon Barcodes Explained

Amazon uses barcodes to identify and track inventory throughout the fulfilment process. Every item sent to an Amazon fulfilment centre requires a barcode.

When a seller is first exposed to Amazon barcodes, the different acronyms (UPC, EAN, GCID, FNSKU, ASIN) can be a little overwhelming. Fortunately, when broken down and explained they are quite easy to understand.

They can be separated into two main groups.  Manufacturer Barcodes (GTINs) and Amazon Barcodes.

Manufacturer Barcodes (GTIN’s – Global Trade Item Numbers)

GTIN is a numeric code created from between 12 and 14 digits and basically an umbrella term for UPC, EAN, JAN and ISBN barcodes. These item numbers or barcodes are applied to every unique retail product sold anywhere in the world. Amazon uses these barcodes to identify specific items sold in their database.

Examples of GTINs include:

  • UPC – Universal Product Code
  • EAN – European Article Number
  • JAN – Japanese Article Number
  • ISBN – International Standard Book Number

UPCs are used in North America and a basically just a barcode used to identify a specific item and its manufacturer. They are sold and maintained in a global database by a company named GS1.

Sellers are required to provide a unique UPC barcode for every product they sell AND any variations to that product they sell (i.e. colour, size, weight, etc).

A UPC is mandatory. Amazon will not let a seller list an item without a valid UPC code.

Examples of of GTIN’s can be seen below:

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GTIN Exemption

Private Label sellers can apply for a GTIN exemptions on their products or bundles.

In order to do this, sellers must apply for Amazons Brand Registry Program. If approved for an exemption, sellers do not need to provide UPCs and instead are given a Global Catalogue Identifier (GCID) by Amazon.

This can save time and money as it eliminates the need to purchase UPC codes for their products.

However, there are no guarantees that a GTIN exemption will be granted, so a seller should never rely on it.

Remember: The GTIN exemption is only valid on Amazon’s platform and is usually only suited to those who sell exclusively on Amazon. For those who sell across multiple platforms, purchasing a UPC will still be required.

To be eligible for a GTIN exemption, sellers need to meet certain criteria:

  • If the brand, manufacturer, or publisher does not provide a GTIN for the products (E.G. private-label products or handmade products)
  • For non-branded products that do not have GTINs (E.G. wholesale products)
  • If the parts do not have a GTIN (E.G. some automotive parts)
  • For bundles that do not have a GTIN
  • Are not on Amazon’s list of brands 

For clear instructions of how to apply for GTIN exemptions, watch below:

Amazon Barcodes

Amazon barcodes are required for all products that are not tracked using manufacturer barcodes and products that are expiry-dated.

They are also required for consumable and topical products, such as skin creams, shampoos and cosmetics.

Amazon codes/barcodes include:

ASINAmazon Standard Identification Number. A 10 character code that identifies a product in the Amazon catalogue. This number is listed on an item’s product information page.

For books, the ASIN is the same as the ISBN number. For all other products, a new ASIN is created when the item is uploaded to the Amazon catalogue.

SKU / MSKU – Stock Keeping Unit / Merchant Stock Keeping Unit.  A unique barcode created for every product listed by a seller. Used to track inventory levels, pricing and other sales metrics.

FNSKU –  Fulfilment Network Stock Keeping Unit. Similar to SKU, this is an barcode  used by Amazon specifically to track Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) inventory. Unlike merchant SKU though, this number is assigned by Amazon not the seller.

This FNSKU barcode is Amazon’s “UPC barcode”. It is their way of tracking products inside their warehouses and used to match a sellers products to their sellers listing ID.

The FNSKU barcode can be printed in seller central after creating a product’s listing. For the steps to print go here.

Amazon offers an FBA Label Service to apply the FNSKU labels on behalf of the seller. This service costs 20 cents per label.

Important: Amazon requires that only ONE barcode be visible on each product item received by them. If there is also a UPC barcode on the packaging, the FNSKU barcode label needs to be affixed OVER the top so that it is covered entirely.

If FNSKU labels are not affixed, Amazon will use the UPC barcodes to sort the inventory. This will result in commingling of inventory with other suppliers selling the same product.

See an example of an FNSKU label below

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