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What are GS1 numbers, and do you need them to sell on Amazon?



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October 28, 2021 | 6 min read

GTINs, UPCs, EANs, GS1… making sense of these endless acronyms when it comes to barcode requirements for selling on Amazon can be a confusing business

GTINs, UPCs, EANs, GS1… making sense of these endless acronyms when it comes to barcode requirements for selling on Amazon can be a confusing business. Here, Optimizon Amazon Agency makes sense of the product-identifying minefield.

When it comes to retail, the barcodes that you find on the back of a product's box are important.

You can ignore the straight lines. It's the numbers that sit below them that contain, and collect, information that's vital to sellers.

They are global trade item numbers (GTINs), and the digits refer to universal product codes (UPCs) and european article numbers (EANs).

These codes mean you can scan and track your product from warehouse to delivery - and at every recordable stop along the way. However, to begin with, GS1 codes are the only ones you really need to focus on.

GS1 codes

What are GS1 codes? The global standards 1, or GS1, is basically an ID number that's unique to your business. No one else can stock or sell it, and it's traceable back to you.

This means GS1 codes go a step further than GTINs, by linking your product directly to your business.

By becoming a member of GS1 UK, you’ll be assigned unique codes that are specifically for you. No other business can end up with the same codes, so there can be zero confusion.

You'll also be given a GS1 certificate, which acts as proof that you've bought the GS1 barcodes, showing that you are the legal licensee of that prefix.

It's advised that all Amazon sellers use GS1 codes to avoid any problems.

What is GS1?

GS1 is a not-for-profit organization, created by people in the retail industry who came together to "create a system and common standard for the unique identification of products".

Are there benefits to using GS1 codes?

Because your unique prefix (made from your company name, the country your number was licensed to, and the product) guarantees your products' authenticity, it means you're able to sell them anywhere in the world.

These codes create a seamless (or as close as possible) end-to-end delivery process. Basically, your products can be scanned anywhere in the world and recorded at every point of delivery. There will be no confusion with other products containing the same numbers. What's more, no third-party retailer can claim to be the owner of your brand, business or products.

They also conform to Amazon packaging requirements, making selling on Amazon more streamlined. Utilizing services like Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) becomes much easier with a qualified barcode system.

Why do Amazon sellers need GS1 codes?

These codes are all about being transparent. Ensuring every single product can be traced from beginning to end; from warehouse to delivery.

GS1 barcodes ensure buyers can trust the information given by sellers on its platform.

Selling without GS1 can make your life as an Amazon seller more difficult, as you'll be unable to raise cases or alter your product details.

These will be rejected by Amazon as it's not a GS1 certified product.

Amazon itself has said it verifies “the authenticity of product UPCs by checking the GS1 database. UPCs that do not match the information provided by GS1 will be considered invalid."

Amazon adds, “We recommend obtaining your UPCs directly from GS1 (and not from other third parties selling UPC licenses) to ensure the appropriate information”.

Can I sell my products on Amazon without a barcode?

Yes - if you're selling products on Amazon Handmade, or you sell some of the few products that are exempt.

However, for everyone else, you'll need to have a GTIN code, so your items can be tracked and recorded on their journey.

And this is the same whether you're a small retailer selling a handful of goods or a major retailer.

It's a safety net for both you and the buyer, ensuring you've got data that proves the product you distributed is the one that was received.

Since you need these identifying numbers, it’s best to get them from the body that Amazon itself recommends.

How much do GS1 codes cost

First, you’ll need to sign up to become a member of GS1 UK, which you do via its website.

Then, the cost of your membership depends on various factors, such as turnover, and the number of products you sell.

You’re looking at a starter fee of £50 per year (+VAT). For big retailers, selling thousands of products, a standard membership cost is £119 (+VAT).

But this could rise depending on turnover. A business turning over £1bn will pay £3,450 and will be able to obtain up to 100,000 numbers.

What happens after joining GS1?

After you sign up to GS1, you’ll be given access to a member portal within 72 hours of joining GS1 UK, on which you’ll be able to manage all your GS1 numbers.

You can also access your GS1 certificate from the portal too (although it’ll be sent to you initially in the welcome pack).

Main takeaways

All products - bar those that are on the exempt list - need to have a barcode to be sold on Amazon.

GS1 is a not-for-profit organization and is recommended by Amazon for obtaining barcodes.

A GS1 barcode is assigned to your business and your products, so it’s unique to you. This means you can sell your products around the globe, and track and trace them every step of the way.

You’ll need to join GS1 UK, to be assigned your codes, as well as a certificate that is proof that you are the official licensee of those codes.

In a nutshell: although there are a few exceptions, it’s advised that you do have a GS1 numbers to sell on your products on Amazon and control your brand.

As always, Optimizon is here to help with any aspect of selling on Amazon and other online marketplaces. Contact our Amazon experts today if you require any assistance.

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