This guest blog is written by Shane Morris, business development director at GS1 US, a Riverbend Consulting partner.
Whether you are a seasoned seller or just starting, you have likely come across Amazon’s requirements to assign GS1 Universal Product Codes (UPCs) to your product listings. Even though we interact with UPC barcodes at retail stores almost daily, you might not know how identifying your products with them can help grow and scale your business online.
Below are the 4 reasons your UPCs have more power. You should think about your UPCs beyond just fulfilling an Amazon requirement.
Reason #1: GS1 GTINs and barcodes are part of a global system of standards
GS1 US is a part of GS1, a global identification and supply chain standards organization that has worked with the retail industry, among others, for more than 50 years to set standards collaboratively. It is a neutral not for-profit that has helped companies add visibility and traceability to their supply chains.
These benefits are achieved through the use of the GS1 System of Standards, which includes the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN). This number, which you can find at the bottom of any UPC/EAN barcode, is a unique product identifier that enables businesses to price, order, and invoice products that circulate through the global supply chain.
By becoming a member of GS1 US, you can create your own GS1 GTINs, which allows the product to be directly associated with your company, and that number is embedded into a UPC barcode (be aware that some marketplaces like Amazon may use GTIN and UPC interchangeably). A record of the GTIN will be stored in the GS1 Global Registry Platform—a validation source for many retailers including Amazon.
When brands are all using the same standardized approach to identifying their products, marketplaces, retailers, and even consumers can more efficiently confirm authenticity. The GTIN is just the beginning—there are other unique identifiers and standards that identify locations, logistics units, and more that growing businesses will encounter as they scale and focus more on their supply chains.
Reason #2: The retail industry relies on GTINs from GS1 as a source of truth for product identification
You come across GTINs every day, so often in fact that they are taken for granted as just another part of the shopping experience. But have you ever been standing in line at check out with an armful of clothes only to find when you get to the register that one of the tags is missing? This one tag typically contains a UPC barcode that encodes the product GTIN providing access to information that enables frictionless experiences when shopping, both digitally and physically anywhere in the world.
Aside from going “beep” at the register, the GTIN and UPC do so much more. GTINs are the key source of information for retail systems to know what a product is and have access to certain information about that product, such as the price, style number, and other information. Unique product identity ensures a product is what the brand owner claims it is and can be verified if a product’s safety was ever called into question. For example, think of a product recall. GTINs allow retailers and brands to identify where the products are in the supply chain, making them easier to look up and remove if necessary.
What started out to get the checkout lines moving in a few regional grocery stores has evolved into over 2.5 million global companies using GS1 identifiers and generating over 10 billion transactions per day to make a truly global supply chain experience.
Reason #3: Supporting consumer-centric e-commerce.
One of the primary reasons a brand will begin using GTINs is because their marketplace or retail platform partner has asked them to do so. And we often hear, “why is Amazon or a retailer asking me to identify my products with GTINs and UPCs specifically sourced from GS1?”
The answer is that the retail industry as a whole promotes the standardization of business processes because they help enable efficiency, scalability, and traceability for stakeholders within the industry. For one entire industry to commit to being consumer-centric, innovation, and collaboration needs to occur with a focus on the greater good for all.
Online selling has fueled the rise of small and medium-sized brands by allowing them to compete in the marketplace with larger competitors. Marketplaces like Amazon rely on GTINs to deliver improved search results to their customers, remove or consolidate duplicate listings, and most importantly, help protect their consumers and themselves from counterfeit products and bad actors on their platform. They recommend their brands to use GS1 GTINs so they have a single source of truth and can verify what is being sold and who is selling it.
Reason #4: GS1 GTINs and UPC barcodes can help you go beyond Amazon
Amazon is the largest marketplace in North America and receives more than 2 billion visits monthly according to Statista. When a seller understands and consistently complies with Amazon’s requirements, it keeps their seller ranking in good standing. A seller looking to grow
beyond Amazon will be able to use GTINs encoded in UPC barcodes as a key part of replicating this success.
Whether you decide to create your own website to sell directly to the consumer or list your products on marketplaces such as Google Shopping, unique product identification is going to be important to not only manage your inventory in the broader retail supply chain, but to also help your brand be discovered. For example, listing your products on Google means your listing can potentially be seen on Google Shopping, as well as in Google search, images, maps, and more. Google uses your GTIN to strategically index products and matches it with the search history they have captured over time. They use this information to surface the products that people are likely to purchase, leading to higher impressions and conversions for your product listings.
Although e-commerce has seen huge year-over-year growth, brick-and-mortar retail still accounts for 85% of all retail sales, according to Statista. Most national retailers have adopted GS1 Standards and often ask their suppliers to identify their products with GTINs and be marked with a UPC barcode. Simply put, a UPC barcode from GS1 US can represent your gateway to bigger sales. Whether you sell your product in store or online, through a retailer, or direct to the consumer, GTIN and UPCs from GS1 US are an important part of a small business’s long-term strategy.
Ultimately, GS1 GTINs have powered the global supply chain for more than 50 years and have become more relevant with the explosion of online retail. By understanding the appropriate channels to obtain, create, and use GTINs, you’ll be well on your way to leveraging a global standardized supply chain language that is foundational to your product and your company’s success. To learn more about GS1 US, please visit https://www.gs1us.org.