Product identifier barcodes help organize the sell of product globally. These barcode tracking numbers help provide integrity & trust in the supply chain throughout the purchases consumers make via dropshipping and overall in eCommerce; even more so than in off-line traditional retail.
Consumers don’t always know who they are really buying from—or even what they’re buying. Many reports show about 70% or more of all product counterfeits and knockoffs come from China; it’s a serious problem in digital retail.
Despite extremely high vetting standards for third party sellers, not even Amazon is entirely immune from the problem. And eBay as we speak has 1000’s of fake products being sold at auction.
This is one major reason big advertising platforms like Google, eBay and Amazon reward you for making the effort to include these barcodes in your campaign data when launching ads to the end-consumer.
In today’s article we’ll discuss the top 9 unique types of product identifier barcodes that are important for you as a drophip retailer. And we’ll discuss how and why these barcodes can help you sell more.
First, A Short History of the Universal Product Code (UPC)
Product identifier barcodes such as UPC, GTIN, ISBN, EAN, MPN and brand barcodes have existed a long time. The UPC however was invented by Joe Woodland long before the rise of eCommerce; 1974, if you want to be exact about it.
There’s almost no retail exchange that occurs without some form of a bar code, whether it’s a major electronic purchase or a pack of breath mints.
While copyright deterrence is just one extreme example of their usefulness, you may be wondering why there are so many variants of bar codes and UPCs.
UPCs aren’t arbitrary divisions. Each code serves a very distinct and separate purpose. And if you’re serious about understanding the nuts and bolts of eCommerce, you’ll need to understand the difference between them.
What Is A UPC Code And Why Are They Necessary?
If you’ve been selling online for any length of time, you’ll know that a UPC is always a 12-digit number that is used to identify each unique product within the specific regions of the United States and Canada only. It’s also known simply as a GTIN-12.
The other product identifier code called an EAN is used everywhere else around the globe.
And yes, UPC’s are different that SKU’s. More on this below.
You don’t just need to know the quantity of the items you have in stock. You need to know what is driving the sales; and, more frequently what isn’t. UPC’s help track what sells and what does not for stores off-line.
UPC’s are not required to sell product online though, but they do help! More on this later when selling on Google.
The Product Identifier Helps Organize Products
Imagine you’re a national retailer with several thousand locations internationally. Imagine your inventory is regulated by both federal and international standards. And imagine that your inventory doesn’t just consist of a few dozen products, but a few thousand or million;
Any time a retail purchase is made, both the product and the quantity need to be tracked regularly to ensure a sufficient inventory for the retailer as well as an accurate prediction of current and future sales for the manufacturer or distributor in your supply chain.
Without some way to track and organize all that, things would be very messy.
In the USA & Canada, product information is transmitted by a Universal Product Code (UPC), which allows for an accurate reading by being electronically scanned and tracked, helping to ensure efficiency in supply management and forecasting.
UPC’s Are Not Required By Law to Sell Online
While UPC’s are not required to put a product up for sell online, UPC’s are usually required internationally and by large retail stores to ensure both products created and sold comply off-line with regulatory standards of pricing and integrity.
The primary non-profit organization responsible for establishing and authorizing those standards is known as Global Standards 1, or GS1.org, which currently has offices in over 110 countries.
And whether you’re selling on Amazon, eBay or your own eCommerce storefront using Google Adwords or Facebook, GS1 is usually the most popular source for both international and domestic barcodes. They are the pioneer in all things barcodes and have been around since the 1st barcode was invented.
How GTIN’s, UPC’s & MPN’s Boost Your Sales in Google Shopping Campaigns
There’s no doubt that Google owns the vast majority of the market share for search & paid traffic. In fact, some 63 percent of consumers have indicated they’ve intentionally clicked on a Google ad. With more and more consumers turning to eCommerce in record numbers in 2020, it just makes sense to leverage it for your marketing.
Many retailers realize that Google Shopping ads are extremely effective but they’re unaware that Google gives your shopping ads priority, or a boost, when you include UPC’s in your ads. And your Google Shopping ads are determined by the data you include on your data feed you submit to Google through your Google Merchants account.
When you contact legit dropship suppliers directly and become one of their official retailers, they do not always provide you with UPC’s, GTIN’s or MPN’s to enter into the data feed columns inside your Google Merchants account. So what should you do?
One option is to delete those columns and just leave them off altogether which I don’t suggest doing if you want your ads to perform better.
The second, and better, option is to buy UPC’s here at an affordable price for all of your dropship products that are missing UPC’s which can be added into the GTIN and MPN fields on your Google Merchants data feed.
From there simply enter the UPC’s you own directly on your data feed and submit or fetch it inside your merchants account.
Google merchants will then process that data and give your products priority over other products that do not have UPC’s for their products.
You don’t necessarily need a UPC code to advertise products on Google. But again your chances of getting your ads seen more often or given priority by Google is to include UPC codes for as many products as possible.
Not many newbies know that as of around April of 2020 you can also promote your products on Google for free! Google’s newly released organic marketing program is called Google Surfaces.
Here’s what Google says about why its beneficial for you to use GTINs and MPNs:
Google tries to match your product information with the most relevant queries. Strong product identifiers like Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPNs), and brand names help increase Google’s understanding of products in your feed. If you don’t supply these attributes, it’s less likely we’ll be able to match your offers to products, and your products are less likely to be shown for relevant queries.(source)
What is a SKU number?
The Stock Keeping Unit number (SKU) is used for internal purposes for any type of product, not just shippable products.
A SKU number most times is 8 digits, but technically can be created to literally be anything you come up with to identify any product/service you are selling. Just remember SKU numbers are used for just your business. They are used to keep an accurate status of the stock at hand and are numbers your organization will usually recognize.
What is a EAN?
A European Article Number (EAN) fulfills the same function as a UPC code in the U.S., only it adheres to international regulatory standards. It consists of a unique 13-digit number based upon a numerical sequence, a product identifier code, a manufacturer code and a code digit.
Most retail sales, either physical or digital, can be transacted using either code since the software which recognizes each code is universal. But for the sake of convenience, many international sellers tend to use EANs in eCommerce to avoid confusion.
What is a GTIN?
A GTIN is a Global Trade Identification Number
Google tries to match your product information with the most relevant queries. Strong product identifiers like Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPNs), and brand names help increase Google’s understanding of products in your feed.
If you don’t supply these attributes, it’s less likely Google will be able to match your offers to products, and your products are less likely to be shown for relevant queries. (more here)
GTIN’s are required by most online retailers such as eBay, Google, Amazon, Walmart and Alibaba.
What is a MPN?
A Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) is used to distinguish a particular product from similar ones in a manufacturer’s product line. In instances where a GTIN-12 is assigned to an entire product identifier line, an MPN will then be used to target and track the sales of a specific individual product.
What is an ISBN
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a code consisting of 10 – 13 digits used by both retailers and libraries to identify a particular book title.
What is an ASIN
An Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) is exclusively for use in Amazon transactions, and consists of a unique 10 block number automatically generated by Amazon to identify products being sold by both merchants and third party sellers.
What is an ITF-14 Number
An ITF-14 is a specific category of a GTIN consisting of a block of 14 numbers, and is used globally to identify multiple quantities of the same GTIN in a bundle (for example, a 12 count of socks or a 6 pack of soup cans.)
What are GS1 Databars
Formerly known as Reduced Space Symbology, a GS1 Database is used to identify promotional coupons as well as to produce other types of perishable items. It doesn’t follow a numerical sequence, but instead is recognized by both a barcode and an individual QR code for verification.
Two Barcode Generator Services
Barcodes are generated by applying either directly to GS1.org, who will assign you a company prefix number and a unique code per product based on both your merchandise and location, or from an authorized seller of GS1 codes. They’re not generated for free, however.
GS1 will frequently require a minimum purchase of at least 100 codes at a minimum of $750 USD. That’s not counting annual renewal fees.
1- Generating Barcodes from GS1
As of this writing GS1’s pricing chart is below:
As you can see you don’t just pay GS1 an initial fee, but an annual renewal fee.
For most beginner dropship retailers GS1’s pricing is too costly.
2- The Affordable Alternative to GS1 Barcodes for eBay, Amazon & Google
Selling products on eBay without a UPC for the product is possible and not required. However, on Amazon having a UPC is required to list your product. And Google doesn’t require the GTIN/MPN/UPC but you do get better traffic for providing them in your listings.
To solve this problem you can contact approved UPC providers here to secure the number of codes you need for your product listings. Once your purchase is complete you will own the UPC’s 100% without worrying about paying renewal fees.
Just remember that each UPC is one unique product identifiers not many; kind of like your unique thumb print.
The UCC (GS1) Class Action Lawsuit
In 2002 the UCC (now known as GS1) settled a major class action lawsuit, it is because of this that the GTIN’s you can purchase here can be legally owned by you without need for renewal fees and used as you desire.
The product identifiers and types of barcodes we’ve discussed today are an amazing invention that goes unthanked. Now that you know pretty much everything you need to know about UPC’s, GTIN’s and other product identifiers, you’re all set to move forward!
I’ve been helping hundreds of students each year maximize their eCommerce potential for over a decade. I can help you, too. If you’re looking to transform your lifestyle by learning how to create passive income starting with dropshipping let’s talk. Click here to schedule a free 30 minute one-on-one breakthrough session with me and we’ll discuss your questions and help you get on the right track.