If you’re tackling the idea of starting your own Amazon business, the first thing to find out is how to buy UPC codes for Amazon. Chances are you don’t know yet what they are. Or perhaps all that UPC, SKU, and EAN codes got you confused.
In this guide, we aim to shed some light on the matter and tell you all you need to know to buy UPC codes for Amazon like a pro.
Part 2: How to Buy UPC Codes for Amazon: A Step by Step Guide?
Part 3: 4 Ways to Buy Cheap UPC Codes for Amazon
Part 4: Tips to Buy UPC Codes for Amazon
Part 5: In Conclusion
We know; it’s hard to buy UPC codes if you don’t know what they are and where to source them from. Let’s start off with learning why you need them and what’s the difference between the various codes Amazon utilizes.
What are UPC Codes?
UPC, redundantly called UPC code, stands for Universal Product Code. It is a barcode widely used throughout the world for the easier tracking of the trade items in-store, and Amazon utilizes these codes for the same purpose.
Alongside their related EAN codes, the UPC is the most scanned barcode at the point of sale (aka, in stores).
There are various types of UPC codes, but most people refer to the UPC-A when not specifying the type.
These barcodes are compliant with the GS1 specifications and consist of 12 numeric digits that for a unique code for each item.
Besides the numeric digits, each UPC-A barcode also consists of black strips that can be scanned and white spaces. The unique number is printed under each black bar, and they can be used for the so-called “manual” reading of the barcode.
Besides UPC-A, there are also other types of UPC codes named UPC-B, UPC-C, UPC-D, and UPC-E, as well as UPC-2 and UPC-5 used for magazines, periodicals, or books.
The –B, -C, and –E UPC types are not in common use; however, UPC-E is often employed on smaller packages on which a full 12-digit UPC code might not fit.
The main difference between A and E types is the shorter length of the latter, which only consists of 6 digits.
When preparing your products for Amazon, therefore, you must buy a unique UPC code for each item you plan to sell.
Before buying them, though, perhaps you’d like to find out what is the difference between EAN, SKU, and UPC codes, to understand why you should pick the latter.
EAN vs. UPC
The biggest confusion among new retailers is caused by the EAN vs. UPC barcode systems. This confusion was generated by GS1, the organization responsible for the generation of barcodes worldwide.
The first type of barcode on the market was the UPC. These codes, as mentioned above, consist of a string of 12 digits codified by a succession of black stripes and white spaces which constitutes the barcode.
With the worldwide growth of retail, GS1 started issuing region-specific barcodes that have 13 digits instead of 12.
While North America is coded 0 and benefits from the use of UPC codes, EAN stands for European Article Numbers. Because EAN codes are currently used all over the world, they’ve been started to be called International Article Numbers and can be used in the USA and Canada too.
However, apart from the first digit that designates the geographical region (which is 0 for the USA and Canada), the two barcodes are identical. Indeed, if you plan to sell the same item using both EAN and UPC codes, the black strips and white spaces would overlap perfectly.
The main difference between the two, apart from what said above, is the position of the digits under the barcode. Nevertheless, the digits – with the exception of the first –are also identical.
With this in mind, which one should you use?
Well, if you’re selling on the international market, an EAN code would be your best bet. However, most retailers in the USA and Canada still use UPC codes exclusively. Some retailers don’t even have an option to manually enter 13-digit codes into their systems, as these systems have been developed for the 12-digit EAN codes.
Therefore, if you mainly address the Northern American market, an UPC code is undoubtedly a better choice.
SKU vs. UPC
Another deal of confusion is generated by the difference between the SKU and UPC codes. Amazon often asks for both, but what is SKU, and why does it matter to you?
SKU stands for stock-keeping unit and is a customizable code store use to differentiate between different products at store level. Each store is free to assign whatever SKU number they want to each product, which means they are only applicable to your store or products.
For retailers, SKU codes mean an easier way to manage your inventory or organize the product catalog.
Unlike UPC codes, SKU codes can’t be scanned by other retailers and don’t consist of digits alone. Indeed, these codes usually consist of an alpha-numeric combination established by the company, and not by the Global Standard Organization.
In other words, you can label your products with SKU codes for easier inventory tracking, but you’ll still need to label your inventory with UPC codes too.
Now that you know why UPC codes are important, it’s time to find out how to buy your codes.
There are basically two ways; you could order your barcodes from GS1 or purchase them from a reseller.
Resellers are often cheaper than GS1, but you should never follow that route. Because the only organization that can issue UPC and EAN codes is GS1, you can only get replicated UPC barcodes from a third party.
This means the codes won’t be specific to your company, which could result in Amazon refusing your items.
The traditional route may be lengthier and costlier, but at the end of the day, you’ll get authentic UPC codes to use on your products.
Here is a step-by-step guide to getting your codes:
Step 1 – Apply for a company prefix
If you didn’t know it by now, the first six to nine digits on your product’s barcode are your company prefix. This prefix can only be assigned by the GS1, and you’ll have to send them an application to get it.
Depending on how many different products you want to sell, the initial cost can vary widely from about $250 to over $10,000. Apart from this cost, you’ll also have to pay an annual renewal fee to maintain your company prefix. This fee can vary from about $50 to $3,000.
At this stage, it might be tempting to just get replicated UPC codes. Remember, though, that the legal costs you might have to pay if Amazon or someone else discovers that you’re using illegal codes is much higher than just ordering your own codes.
Step 2 – Assign your product numbers
Once the GS1 has generated your company prefix, they will give you a set number of digits you can use to assign a unique product number to each item you sell.
Remember that each item or item variation must have a unique product number. For instance, if you’re selling blue and red tees, the blue shirts must have one product number and the red variety another.
You can use whatever digit combination you want, as long as each product number – thus each UPC barcode – is unique.
At this stage, your UPC has 11 digits. The twelfth is an error digit assigned by GS1 based on the digits you have used until now.
Step 3 – Choose how to display the barcodes
Now that you have the UPC codes, it’s time to decide how to display them. Basically, you have two options. You can either print the barcodes on the packaging or order adhesive barcodes if you have already packaged and labeled your products.
If you decided to print the barcode on your packaging, the GS1 could issue a digital barcode file, you can incorporate directly into the packaging design. The process is not complicated at all, and you can simply ask the packaging projection team to incorporate the file into the design.
Alternatively, you can order the adhesive barcodes which you will have to stick manually onto each package.
While GS1 doesn’t provide adhesive labels, you can choose one of their partners to order your barcodes. Just make sure to order them from a certified barcoding company familiar with the GS1 standards.
Once you’ve got the labels, make sure to apply one to each packaging. Keep in mind that the barcode must be easily visible and scannable.
Because Amazon has specific requirements regarding the barcode placement, make sure to consult their guidelines before labeling your products.
Keeping all the above in mind, you’d probably love to know where to get cheap UPC codes for Amazon. Here are a few reliable providers you can use.
Speedy Barcodes is a company specialized in selling unique UPC barcodes that have been issued by the GS1 prior to August 28, 2002. As such, you won’t have to pay any renewal fee for these codes. The company claims you can assign the barcodes to whatever products you like. However, these barcodes won’t use your unique company, prefix.
On the bright side, the barcodes are really cheap, and you will get both UPC and EANs included in the purchase.
Prices: Start from $5
2. Snap UPC
Snap UPC is another trustworthy UPC barcodes reseller. This means you’ll get replicated UPC codes and will have to face all risks associated with this practice. The good part is that this website checks if its barcodes are accepted by Amazon.
It also sells separate codes for Amazon, eBay, and other marketplaces, keeping your risks at a minimum.
Because the barcodes already exist, it only takes a few minutes to actually get in their possession.
Prices: Start from $5
Similar to Speedy Barcodes, Nationwide Barcode sells authentic GS1 barcodes issued before 2002. They are guaranteed to work for most companies, although new sellers may have some issues. Before using your barcodes, it’s wise to go check if the specific UPC exists on Amazon already. If it does, chances are you won’t be able to use it for your products.
While their price per unit tends to drop considerably if you plan to buy 10,000 codes or more, they are more expensive than the other two services listed above.
Prices: Start from $12
Another website where you can get cheap barcodes is Bar Codes Talk. It utilizes the same strategy as the other three sites mentioned above, and you can purchase EAN and UPC barcodes or printed labels.
Following the same principle as the other sites, prices per unit drop if you order more units.
Prices: Start from $5
To buy or not to buy? This is the question. Here are a few tips and trick to buying UPC Codes for Amazon.
- You don’t have to buy UPC codes for Amazon if you’re selling someone else’s products. If you’re not selling under a private label – for instance, if you’re doing retail arbitrage – you must use the barcodes provided by the product’s manufacturer. Which means lower costs for you.
- You could list your private label products without a UPC. In certain categories, you could apply for an exemption. In this case, Amazon will assign you a Global Catalog Identifier number which you could use instead of a UPC.
- Use bundle UPCs. Another trick to reduce the costs is to sell your products in bundles. In this case, you only need one UPC for each bundle of products, and not for each separate product.
If you’re planning to sell private label products on Amazon, you must use a unique UPC barcode for each item in your catalog. There are many sites from where you can buy cheap UPC codes, but keep in mind that these purchases come with associated risks.
The only way to get proper UPC codes is by purchasing them directly from GS1.
Ultimately, whether you want to risk or not is down to you. We hope this guide has helped you find the best solution for you and that you now know how to buy UPC codes for Amazon.