Demystifying product identifiers
Despite working for several global retailers, until recently I wasn’t aware of how the barcode works and the significance of the number that sits underneath it. The products I’ve worked with just seemed to already had barcodes. But smaller businesses don’t have the advantage of experienced supply chain and IT teams that can manage these for them so I wanted to share the basics with you. Since working for GS1UK I have learnt a lot about what the number enables and the importance of getting it right. Even more so when you decide to start selling cross border.
UPCs, EANs, ISBNs or GTINs – which one do you need…?
They all refer to the number that sits beneath the barcode to identify the product rather than the image itself and GTIN, EAN and UPC are essentially all the same thing, with the exception of ISBN, these are exclusively used for books. UPC is the name commonly used in the USA, EAN is the name used in Europe but GTIN is the collective name since the arrival of the global system.
Think of the number like a passport number – it enables your product to travel wherever it needs to go and is always traceable back to your company.
Who uses this system?
We are a community of over 2 million businesses globally using GS1 standards – this includes a broad range of companies from the most well-known companies such as Tesco, Apple, Nike, Google, Amazon, eBay, Zalando, WHSmith, Sainsburys, Mondelez, Nestle; Walmart to the newer start-ups.
What do the numbers enable you to do and do I need them?
If you are a manufacturer or brand owner producing products then you should be uniquely identifying them to enable you to control your brand identity and having a better visibility of the products through both the supply chain, stores and online. When you decide to make the move to sell your products through other businesses and channels these companies will need to make sure that all the items they sell do not clash at the point of sale. Whether that be at the till or online – a globally managed system of product identifiers is the only way to ensure your customer get the right product at the right price.
Some ways in which they are used are:
- Google requires a GTIN if you are selling through google shopping particularly when more than one seller is listing against the same product.
- Amazon validates new listings against the GS1 database to tackle counterfeiting and reduce duplication of product listings.
- eBay requires GTINs for listing products to enable them to appear in the new mobile focused on-site merchandising and also pull in product reviews from external sites
- Cdiscount (the French marketplace) needs products to have GTINs to be able to take part in merchandising
- La Redoute (the French fashion marketplace and retailer) requires all products to have GTINs to be able to list