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What is a GTIN, UPC, and ASIN? Do I Need all of Them to Sell Products Online?

What is a UPC? Is it the same as a barcode?

UPC stands for Universal Product Code. It is a unique 12-digit number assigned to every product sold commercially. The code is printed on a barcode and read by a scanner at the point of sale or time of shipment.

UPCs track inventory and ensure that the correct product is sold. Barcodes are simply a way to encode information in a machine-readable format. They can track any data, not just product information. So, while all UPCs are barcodes, not all barcodes are UPCs.

What is a GTIN? Do I need one?

GTIN stands for Global Trade Item Number. It is a unique identifier used to identify products in the supply chain. GTINs can track inventory, place orders, and verify product authenticity. There are four types of GTINs: UPC (Universal Product Code), EAN (European Article Number), ISBN (International Standard Book Number), and ITF-14 (Intermediate Trade Item Number).

If you sell products nationally, you will need a GTIN for each. GTINs can be registered at and require an annual maintenance fee.

You can also obtain a GTIN from your manufacturer or distributor if they have assigned one to an existing product, but it is unlikely. Marketplaces like Amazon and eBay use GTINs to organize their product catalogs, and search engines also use GTINs for similar reasons, which are critical to scaling retail businesses. 

What are ASINs?

When looking for a product on Amazon, you’ll notice that each listing has a unique 10-digit number. This number is called an ASIN and “Amazon Standard Identification Number.” ASINs are used to identify products in the Amazon catalog, and they help

Amazon keeps track of inventory and available offers competing for the Buy Box. In addition, ASINs are used by Amazon’s search engine to index and rank products. When you search for a product on Amazon, the results are sorted based on relevance and customer reviews. An ASIN’s sales history is also used to help determine which listings should be displayed first.

Does every ASIN need a UPC?

The short answer is no—not every ASIN needs a UPC. UPCs (Universal Product Codes) are only required for products sold in brick-and-mortar stores. ASINs (Amazon Standard Identification Numbers) are unique codes Amazon assign to each product listed on its website. If you’re selling products that will only be listed on Amazon, then you won’t need UPCs.

However, UPCs have some advantages, even if you only sell on Amazon. For one thing, it makes it easier to track your inventory and helps organize variations in a logically defined manner that is accepted everywhere. If your primary business is retail, you must register with GS1 and get UPCs.

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