The list of challenges eCommerce businesses face may be long, but knowing how to label your products with the correct identification numbers and barcodes doesn’t have to be one of them.
As you prepare to sell your products on your website, through major marketplaces, or to retailers, you want to show consumers that you’re a credible brand. You can improve your business by knowing about the Global Trade Item Number or GTIN.
What is a GTIN?
Did you know that every day you encounter GTINs on the retail items you see or buy frequently? The GTIN is the number below the bars and spaces of a barcode. The GTIN uniquely identifies a product when scanned at checkout or listed online.
The GTIN was created more than 50 years ago when the retail industry came together and agreed that every product should have its own unique identification number, linked to the company that created it. This helped the retail industry increase checkout speed and manage price changes.
Today, the GTIN supports retail across all channels, both in-store and online. And before a product arrives in your online shopping cart or is scanned at checkout, the GTIN provides item identification and visibility across all computerized systems, databases, search results and physical locations it passes through before reaching its final destination.
What is the difference between a UPC and a GTIN?
Some websites and marketplace policies refer to both UPCs and GTINs as one and the same. However, they are different.
That UPC, or Universal Product Code, is the actual barcode symbol or the lines and spaces. That GTIN is the identification number encoded in the barcode.
A UPC barcode, along with a product’s GTIN, makes it easier for businesses to track a product and meet the needs of retailers
However, GTINs are increasingly used alone in online product listings to provide a bridge between a product’s physical presence and its digital identity, and to prove the product’s authenticity.
Here are some of the most common GTIN combinations:
- GTIN 12: This is the most common GTIN you assign to your products if you are a brand owner operating from North America. It is a
12 digitsnumber printed under a UPC-Abarcode.
- GTIN 13: This GTIN is most common outside of North America, mainly in Europe. It is a
13 digitsNumber printed under one EAN-13Barcode that stands for European Article Number.
The good news is that both GTIN 12 and GTIN 13 are interoperable and can be listed or scanned on marketplaces
If you run an Ecwid store, you can add product codes, such as UPCs or GTINs, to your product attributes. Watch the video below for a quick guide.
How is a GTIN different from a SKU?
A Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) is a code that a company uses to identify products internally. It is usually composed of letters and numbers and has logic built into the format for easy internal reference, making the format efficient for quick internal reference. Each company creates their own SKUs, even if they sell the same product.
A GTIN is a unique identification number assigned to a product and linked to the licensee’s business, giving it a consistent identity as it moves through the supply chain. They can be shared, scanned and included in platforms used by suppliers, distributors, logistics providers, retailers, marketplaces or other supply chain participants. They index the GTIN and associated product attributes as part of their onboarding and verification process.
If you run an Ecwid store and want to add a GTIN to your product details, first add the GTIN as a product attribute in your store settings. Then you can specify the value in the product details.
Where can I get a GTIN?
GTINs are issued by GS1, the world’s largest organization for identification and supply chain standards.
If you are a company, brand or seller based in the United States, you will normally receive your GTINs from GS1 US.
If you are a…
While GS1 US is known as the administrator of the UPC barcode, the organization maintains and advocates the use of a variety of other data standards that support the supply chain. For example, in addition to standards for identifying products, GS1 US advocates the use of standards to identify locations, synchronize data, and support many regulatory requirements for a number of industries, including healthcare and food.
GS1 US works with a variety of industries to develop best practices for developing adequate supply chains, effective business relationships, and giving consumers access to trusted information about the products they buy.
Organizations that choose to use another GTIN source may not be able to take full advantage of GS1 US membership. Business owners can rest assured that they can capitalize on future business opportunities as many retailers and marketplaces only accept GTINs directly issued by GS1.
You can ensure you have GTINs that link your brand to your product by joining GS1 US in two ways:
- License a GS1 company prefix. A GS1 company prefix is a unique number assigned only to your company and serves as the first digit of your GTINs. Prefixes come in varying capacities and prices depend on how many identification numbers you need to create.
- License a single GS1 US GTIN. If you only need a few GTINs, you can license individual ones. When you license a GS1 US GTIN, your company is uniquely and uniquely identified as the owner of that number. You also get access to other GS1 US member benefits.
How many GTINs do I need?
The most important thing to understand is that every variation of every product you sell requires a unique GTIN. For example, if you sell a range of candles and they come in 3 colors, you would need 3 GTINs. If they also come in 3 sizes, you need 9 GTINs (3×3=9). If they are also available in 3 fragrances, you need 27 GTINs (3x3x3=27).
If you anticipate adding products frequently or changing your assortment seasonally, consider a GS1 company prefix and source a set of GTINs that reflect your current and
However, if you are just starting out, have only a few products and don’t anticipate any product enhancements in the near future, the single GS1 US GTIN is likely to be for you.
You can use the GS1 US Barcode Estimator tool to find out how many GTINs you need to create before deciding which option works best for you.
If I have my GTIN, how can it help sell my products on my website?
When setting up your product catalog for your website listing, having your GTIN as an attribute is not only a good idea, but in some cases required.
Most website platforms provide a field for a GTIN. Although it may be optional on your website platform, including the GTIN on your product page is a best practice. Once your product page is published, various search engines like Google and Bing index this information to make future searches from potential customers more accurate.
Google has been using GTIN information to improve search results since 2015 because each code is unique to the product it represents and works worldwide. For example, a product made in the USA can also be offered to a customer looking in France.
When you add GTIN information to all of your product pages, you make it easy for search engines to show your specific product in customer searches, increasing your sales conversions.
How can a GTIN help sell my product on a marketplace listing?
Marketplaces and large omnichannel retailers use the GTIN to uniquely identify, index and categorize the millions of products they host on their platforms so they can return the right product in response to their customers’ searches. They use the GTIN to present the exact product when customers use their search engine.
Since the GTIN is a unique product identification number, it also allows them to authenticate the company offering the item. This helps these platforms to support the listing of legitimate sellers on their platforms and to identify bad actors or unauthorized sellers.
For example, Amazon will suppress a listing if it contains a GTIN that is not directly linked to the company listing the product. They clearly state in their seller policies that GTINs must be obtained directly from GS1.
To sum up
Ultimately, Global Trade Item Numbers have powered commerce around the world for more than 50 years and remain relevant in today’s e-commerce dominated world. By understanding the appropriate channels to obtain, create and use GTINs, a company is well on its way to leveraging a globally standardized supply chain language that is the foundation of your product and your company’s success.
(In this publication, the letters “UPC” are used only as an abbreviation for the “Universal Product Code,” which is a product identification system. They do not refer to the UPC®, which is a federally registered certification mark of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (‘IAPMO’) to certify compliance with the Uniform Plumbing Code as authorized by IAPMO).