Why? Amazon and other marketplaces require you to buy product barcodes from GS1 in order to sell on their platforms. So any change that makes those barcodes more attainable is welcomed!
GS1, the worldwide barcode authority, reached out to us at Just One Dime because we created the most comprehensive UPC barcode tutorial to date.
Their news: They created a new offering that can save small business owners and Amazon sellers a ton of money on GS1 barcodes.
Today, I will answer the 9 most important questions about the changes at GS1 and show you exactly how to get your own UPC code for only $30.
Why is this new GS1 barcode policy important?
GS1, a non-profit organization, is the recognized authority on International Standard barcodes.
When you create a new product listing, Amazon and other platforms require you to buy a globally recognized barcode from GS1. And this was a pain point for small time sellers.
The problem: when you paid for new barcodes at GS1, you had to buy 10 or more at a time and pay to renew them every year. You could not buy and own them forever. So when companies like Amazon automatically check GS1’s database to see if the barcode is legitimate, sellers are obligated to buy from GS1 despite the cost.
To get around this, some online sellers started to buy used GS1 barcodes from other companies. Before GS1 switched to the subscription model in 2002, you did not have to pay to renew barcodes. All GS1 barcodes made before 2002 still work and do not have to be renewed.
But buying old barcodes wasn’t a great solution either. Since these barcodes had been used, they still had old, not-for-sale products associated with them. One of our Just One Dime Amazon FBA Mastery students bought a used barcode. She sold dildos. But one day out of the blue, Amazon moved her product to the automotive category. Why? Because the barcode had previously been used for an automotive part. She was unable to change her product's barcode with Amazon and was forced start all over and make a new Amazon listing.
Sellers who buy barcodes from companies other than GS1 often end up having to spend more money to fix the problems that come with old barcodes than if they had just got their barcode from GS1.
Now that you can once again buy and own single GS1 barcodes, this change can save you a ton of money.
How much money does this change at GS1 save you on barcodes?
Before this change, if you needed a single barcode, the cheapest option was to buy a bundle of 10 barcodes. This would cost you $250 for the first year. After 365 days, you would have to pay $50 a year every year to renew and keep your barcodes.
Now, you can buy a $30 barcode with no renewal fee.
This means you can save $220 in the first year alone before renewal fees!
That is money you can further invest into your business.
What kind of barcodes do you need from GS1 to sell on Amazon?
You need Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) from GS1. GTINs are product identification numbers—up to 14 digits—encoded into barcodes. There are many types of GTINs including Universal Product Codes (UPCs), European Article Numbers (EANs), International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), and more.
These product identifiers are ubiquitous. Whenever you checkout products at a retail store, 99% of the time, the barcode is an encoded GTIN.
The most common type of GTIN in the United States and Canada is the 12 digit UPC-A. The rest of the world uses a 13 digit GTIN called an EAN-13.
When you go to create your Amazon listing, Amazon will ask for the product identifier. You will have the option to select "GTIN", "UPC", "EAN", and more. Once you select the type of product identifier, you will type in the digits of your barcode. If you select UPC, you will enter 12 digits. If you select EAN, you will enter 13 digits. If you select GTIN, you will enter 14 digits.
Some companies use in-network barcodes that are created internally and are not from GS1. Most companies that do this will usually use both GS1 barcodes and their in-network barcodes.
For example, Amazon uses their own barcodes to track products stored in their fulfillment centers called Fulfillment Stock Keeping Units (FNSKUs). You need an FNSKU barcode if you opt for Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) service. These barcodes need to be affixed to your product if you sell FBA.
If you decide you want Amazon to fulfill orders for you, then you need both a GTIN/UPC and an FNSKU.
You generally need a GTIN/UPC to sell on Amazon whether you want Amazon to fulfill orders for you or not. These barcodes typically only go on your product when you sell in a brick and mortar store.
You get FNSKUs from Amazon. You get GTINs from GS1.
The changes at GS1 are specific to the US branch. So, these GTINs will be UPCs
When do you need to get multiple GTIN barcodes?
You need one GTIN barcode for every product and product variation.
It counts as a variation if your product:
- Comes in different colors
- Comes in different sizes
- Comes in different flavors
- Is sold in different quantities
- Is sold in a different way or in any other form
For example, if you sell one backpack in black and another in blue, then you sell two varieties and need two GTINs. If you sell a black backpack and a blue backpack, and they each come in two different sizes (small and large), then you sell four varieties of backpacks—large black, small black, large blue, and small blue.
Additionally, if you sell backpacks one at a time and also in a bundle of two, then that creates another degree of variety. Therefore, you would need eight GTINs.
Use GS1’s barcode estimator to determine exactly how many barcodes you need.
Should you choose to buy a single UPC barcode or a bundle of 10 or more?
You will save money if you have eight or fewer product varieties when you buy one-time cost $30 UPCs instead of bundles.
If you don’t see yourself selling more than eight products and product varieties, then opt for $30 single UPCs.
If you sell more than eight product variations, consider purchasing a prefix bundle.
The “prefix” is a set of numbers that appear on all of your barcodes. This prefix will be unique to you. The numbers that follow the prefix are unique to each GTIN code.
However, you have to renew your barcodes when you purchase a prefix bundle. So, if you only need nine barcodes, is it worth it to get a bundle of 10 prefixes that you have to renew versus nine $30 single barcodes that you don’t have to renew? Only you can make that determination. But you may want to consider buying a set of prefixes if you:
- Plan on expanding your product line
- Plan to sell in retail stores
- Sell products that require additional identifiers such as batch numbers and expiration dates
- Want to sell on multiple trading platforms
How do you get your single UPC barcode from GS1?
Go to GS1us.org. Be aware that GS1 refers to the UPC-12 barcode you are buying as a GTIN or “US GTIN” most of the time.
Click Need a few barcodes?
Enter your brand name. Your brand name is what your customers see—which is different from your company’s legal identity. Your brand name does not have to bear any resemblance to your company name.
For example, your company’s legal name could be “Cat Backpacks Unlimited LLC”, and your brand name could be “Tigeona.”
If you have not decided on your brand name yet, click here and come back once you have your brand name.
Enter your product description. According to GS1, your product description should contain your:
- Brand name
- Type of product
- Product variation
- Net contents
If you have no alternate variations of your product, describe your product as you would if you did have variations. For example, let’s say you sold a cat backpack carrier, but you don’t sell them in different colors, with additional features, or sizes. You could write, “Tigeona, cat backpack carrier, white, non-expandable, 60 cm tall."
Click Add to Cart.
If you already have a GS1 US account, sign in.
If you are a new GS1 US customer, click Continue as New. I will show you what you need to do to create your GS1 US account.
Under Company name, type in your company name if you have registered your business as a corporation, partnership, or LLC. If you have not registered a company name with the government and file your business income taxes as your personal income taxes, then you are a sole proprietor. This is the default business type when you sell products online.
If you are a sole proprietor, enter your brand name—also known as a “doing business as” name or “DBA.” In this case, type the same brand name you entered on the previous webpage.
Type in your company phone number. This may be your personal phone number, but I recommend you get a separate phone number for your business if it’s within your budget.
Leave your My company is tax exempt toggle at No.
Enter your company address. I recommend you set up a PO box. Amazon makes seller addresses publically available in order to discourage counterfeiters. You can keep your personal address private by setting your company address as the full street address version of your PO box address. You can learn how to do this here.
Fill out your order contact information.
Fill out your payment information and click Submit Order.
Congratulations! You have purchased your $30 GTIN/UPC. Your GTIN/UPC info will appear in your web browser.
What happens after you buy your UPC from GS1?
You will receive a series of three emails.
Order Summary Email
This is your receipt.
This email will include the twelve digits of your UPC barcode. This is what you need to enter into your Product ID box when you list your product on Amazon.
On Amazon, type in these twelve digits when you select “UPC” as your product ID type.
If you select “GTIN” instead of "UPC", Amazon will ask for fourteen digits instead of twelve. If you choose to do this, first type two zeros followed by your twelve digit number.
This email will also direct you to the GS1 portal to download your GTIN certificate.
You only need your GTIN certificate if you plan on listing your product within the next three days.
It takes three days for newly registered GS1 GTINs to get validated in Amazon’s system. So, if you plan on listing your product in more than three days, you do not need your certificate.
GS1 Customer Portal Email
This third email will ask you to register for a free account in the GS1 customer portal.
How do you get an image of your barcode?
Your GTIN, UPC-12 barcode generally does not need to be on your retail packaging unless you sell your product in brick and mortar retail stores.
If you are an Amazon seller, only your FNSKU should be on your product packaging. In fact, if you sell your product at brick and mortar locations in addition to Amazon—and therefore want your UPC barcode printed on the product packaging—cover up the UPC barcode on the products that you send to Amazon’s fulfillment centers.
The easiest and fastest way to get a printable image of your GTIN/UPC barcode is to use a free online barcode generator such as scandit. When you type in your twelve digit UPC-A, enter two zeroes before your code.
To get your barcode image through GS1, go to the GS1 Data Hub.
Navigate to the Product tab.
Click + Add New.
Type in your product detail information.
Click Auto Assign GTIN.
Under Status, click the dropdown and change from PreMarket to In Use.
Navigate to the product barcode tab.
Click Preview Barcode.
Depending on your web browser settings, your barcode image file will either download automatically, or you will be prompted to choose a location on your computer to download your file.
Do you have any more questions about barcodes? Check out the complete guide of everything you need to know about barcodes here.