If you are new to selling on Amazon, then no doubt you are scratching your head about Amazon UPC Codes, FNKSU Codes, ASINS, and all those other weird sounding acronyms floating around!
Don’t worry, you’re not alone! All these different codes can even trip up experienced Amazon sellers. With Amazon constantly changing the rules around barcodes we recommend all sellers should read this article for the latest information. This will help you remain compliant and prevent your Amazon selling account being suspended.
What does it all mean?
-Do I need a UPC code to sell an item on Amazon?
-Where do I buy Amazon compliant barcodes for Private Label?
-What is an FNSKU code and what’s the difference between FNSKU and a regular SKU?
-What does the ASIN mean?
-Do I need the UPC code printed on my product package?
This short guide is going to break it all down for you so you will feel confident to move forward with selling on Amazon without all the confusion!
Firstly let’s be clear about all the different type of codes you will have to deal with.
A GTIN is the ‘Global Trade Item Number’ and is also referred to as a ‘Barcode’. It is the umbrella term for UPCs and EANs and is usually a numerical code between 12 and 14 digits. Each unique product should have its own unique GTIN.
A UPC barcode number is a 12 digit Universal Product Code predominantly used in North America.
When you register for a UPC number, you typically receive a scannable barcode.
You need a UPC barcode number so you can list a product on Amazon! This is mandatory. Amazon will not let you list an item without a valid Amazon UPC code (unless you successfully apply for GTIN exemption – please see below)!
The EAN code is a 12 or 13 digit European Article Number
It’s basically the European equivalent of the UPC code. Similarly, with the UPC codes, we strongly recommend you only obtain an EAN through the official GS1 authority for issuing EAN codes – GS1 UK website: www.gs1uk.org
The ISBN Code is the ‘International Standard Book Number’ and is either 10 or 13 digits in length depending on when the book was published. All books published after January 1, 2007 have 13 digit ISBN codes.
Amazon FNSKU Codes
This is AMAZON’s own “UPC barcode” – the ‘Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit’. They are Amazon’s way of tracking your products inside their warehouses and this is what they scan and match to your listing ID. This is what you will ultimately print out on labels and will want to apply to each product unit. If your product also has a scannable UPC barcode, you will need to affix the FNSKU barcode label OVER the UPC barcode so that it is covered entirely.
The FNSKU is unique to you as a seller and will always remain the same for a particular ASIN. So you can print excess FNSKU labels for inventory not yet sent to Amazon and they will remain valid until you delete the SKU from your inventory.
Amazon ASIN codes
This is AMAZON’s internal catalog number. Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASINs) are unique blocks of 10 letters and/or numbers that identify items. You can find the ASIN on the item’s product information page on Amazon and the URL.
For books, the ASIN is the same as the ISBN number, but for all other products, a new ASIN is created when the item is uploaded to the Amazon catalog.
You will find an item’s ASIN on the product detail page alongside further details relating to the item, which may include information such as size, number of pages (if it’s a book) or number of discs (if it’s a CD).
For example, the ASIN for Hasbro’s “Monopoly” game is B00005N5PF.
Amazon ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number)
Barcode Options for Amazon Private Label sellers
With the changes made to the Amazon Terms of Service and the introduction of Brand Registry 2.0, we strongly recommend that you obtain an official GS1 code. You need to purchase directly from the US GS1 authority website here: www.gs1us.org or the UK GS1 site here: www.gs1uk.org
This will ensure that your brand name and company are directly associated with the UPC code purchased for your product.
Registering a GS1 code through GS1 is a cost of doing business. If you are not prepared to purchase a valid GS1 code for your branded products, consider NOT selling FBA Private Label until you can.
Caveat: There are other resellers of valid GS1 codes that are in effect, “recycled” codes from companies such as ‘Nationwidebarcode’ or ‘speedybarcodes’.
Many Amazon sellers and (even those teaching courses about how to sell on Amazon!) have used these and continue to list products using these barcodes.
Here is what Amazon themselves say;
“We verify the authenticity of product UPCs by checking the GS1 database. UPCs that do not match the information provided by GS1 will be considered invalid. We recommend obtaining your UPCs directly from GS1 (and not from other third parties selling UPC licenses) to ensure the appropriate information is reflected in the GS1 database.
Important: All invalid product UPC listings will be removed and may result in your ASIN creation or selling privileges being temporarily or permanently removed. For more information on licensing UPCs from GS1, see the GSI standard website.”
These codes are GS1 registered, but the problem is that they are NOT linked to your brand or company. When you go to apply for Brand Registry for your FBA product, you will likely be rejected due to the fact that the code owner does not match your seller name.
This could also create problems with Amazon. They might close your listing down because of invalid GS1 codes, which is why we do not recommend doing it this way.
Proceed with caution and understand the risks involved in your business if you decide to purchase a resold or recycled GS1 code from a third party!
“All invalid product UPC listings will be removed and may result in your ASIN creation or selling privileges being temporarily or permanently removed – Amazon”
Here is an example of the Barcode for ASIN B003BFU4TI the ‘HP CE285A 85A Black Original LaserJet Toner Cartridge’
HP Toner Amazon GS1 Barcode Check
This shows that the barcode for this product (0884420588689) is correctly registered to the owner – Hewlett Packard. They would have no problems getting brand registered as it is directly linked to their company.
We have tested many private label products and the registered owner in the GS1 database is usually completely different from the owner of the private label product. These barcodes are most likely purchased on eBay and will lead to problems with Amazon in future.
Getting GTIN Exemption for bundles or Private Label
Yes, Amazon will allow you to list without a GTIN if you successfully apply for an exemption. If the product is not already in the Amazon catalog and does not already have a GTIN you can apply. This can be a handmade product, wholesale product, your own private label or a new bundle you have created.
If granted the exemption will apply to a particular Amazon category and be open for between 30 – 90 days. If this lapses before you list your product you will simply need to reapply.
Amazon will require the following information for GTIN exemption
-A letter from the brand owner or manufacturer to confirm that the products do not have a GTIN. Or supply a list of sample products Amazon can review.
-Either a link to a website showing the products or you can upload a photo of the product.
So why would you not ask for an exemption if you are a private label seller?
If you are ever planning on selling outside of the Amazon platform then we recommend you get a GS1 barcode. Even if you start on Amazon if your product is successful then you may well want to sell on eBay or other platforms, different websites or even in retail stores. If you just get an FNSKU you are locked into Amazon. Also, not all categories are eligible for exemption.
Barcode Options for Amazon FBA arbitrage and wholesale sellers
If you are doing arbitrage or wholesale the products you are selling will most likely already have a barcode on the packaging. You have to use this barcode when listing the product on Amazon and most products will already exist in the Amazon catalog. You simply have to match against the existing ASIN. If the product is definitely not in the catalog then you will need to create a new listing with the barcode on the packaging.
If there is no Barcode then you should contact the wholesaler or manufacturer to get one.
Remember you need to print the FNSKU label and stick it over the Barcode before sending your products to Amazon FBA. You can pay Amazon to attach the FNSKU labels.
Amazon FNSKU Label covering the Barcode
Amazon Barcode Printing and Shipping Guide
Printing Labels and Guidelines for Amazon FBA
For Private Label you don’t actually need to print the UPC barcode on your packaging. But we recommend you do, so you can provide further protection against listing hijacking and counterfeiting.
You will need the FNSKU on your product packaging. We recommend you get your supplier to print it onto the packaging which will save time and money labelling. If this is not an option then you need to print a label and attach it. If there is a UPC barcode then this will need to be covered. You can pay Amazon to label them using their labelling service: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=200685690
The FNSKU is automatically generated by Amazon and is DIFFERENT from the product SKU. The seller can either let Amazon create the SKU automatically, or enter a custom SKU code. The SKU is used for internal tracking and doesn’t really have much purpose other than for your own inventory management.
Question -I have seen cheap UPCs on eBay – can I use these?
Answer –No. Never purchase barcodes from eBay as they will definitely get rejected by Amazon. You also risk getting your Amazon account closed. They will show a totally different company as the registered owner. Why spend thousands of dollars on launching a Private Label product and then only be willing to spend $10 on a UPC?
Question -Do I need a UPC to list in the Handmade category?
Answer -No – you can apply for GTIN exemption for handmade products.
Question -The product I am selling already has a barcode – do I need to purchase my own?
Answer -No. If this is an existing product you have not manufactured yourself then you need to check the Amazon catalog to see if the product already exists. Simply go to Inventory> Add a Product and enter the barcode. It should find a match. If it does not then you will have to create a new listing using the existing barcode found on the product.
Question -If I am creating a bundle do I need to buy a UPC?
Answer -Yes, you will need a UPC just like with a private label product or apply for an exemption.
Question -I already have Private Label products launched using barcodes purchased on eBay. What should I do?
Answer -Eventually, Amazon might get around to investigating existing listings. Although it will be painful you should probably create a new listing with a legitimate UPC purchased from GS1.
Question -If I am brand registered do I need to apply for GTIN exemption or purchase a UPC?
Answer -No. If you are brand registered you can use a unique identifier instead.
Question -Do I need to use a different barcode for each colour or size variation?
Answer -Yes. Every unique product will need a unique barcode.
Do you have any more questions about Amazon Barcodes?
Please be sure to join our Amazon Facebook Groups and get help from our friendly community of Amazon Sellers!
Kindra Martinenko created her own successful Private Label brand and is now a 6-Figure seller on Amazon and other platforms. She is the CEO of Active Action Brands, LLC – a Digital Marketing company specializing in eCommerce marketing, Amazon listing management, and Business Coaching.