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Amazon and eBay Sellers: Why You Should Double-Check Your UPCs

  • Ecommerce
  • March 28, 2016 | Bethany McDonald

As a seller on Amazon or eBay, you’ve already got a lot on your plate when it comes to offering new products, including writing compelling descriptions and sales copy, adhering to each website’s image guidelines, processing sales, gathering feedback, and troubleshooting customer issues.

Although it may seem tedious, adding ‘product UPC verification’ to your to-do list will not only save you headaches later on, but help increase your visibility in the marketplace and even boost sales.

Understanding UPCs

A Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is used to identify a product for sale in a database. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers all rely on GTINs for inventory and supply chain management. Like a fingerprint, GTINs are unique to each product, and can be used anywhere in the world.

A Universal Product Code (UPC) is a type of GTIN, and is the most commonly used form of product identification in the US; however, other common GTINs used in other countries or in special industries include European Article Numbers (EANs) and International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs).

The UPC is represented as a barcode with a series of 12 digits. The first six to 10 digits represent the company prefix, a unique number assigned to a given business by GS1, a nonprofit organization that develops and maintains supply chain coding standards, followed by the item reference number. The final number is known as the check digit, which is generated by a formula using the first 11 digits, and is used to ensure the accuracy of the information when the barcode is scanned.

Use UPCs to Improve Your Business

In order to list a product, Amazon requires sellers to obtain and input a UPC or similar GTIN for most categories. In addition, eBay launched an initiative in 2015 that required sellers to include GTINs in order to complete new listings.

For both website marketplaces, the reasons for requiring GTINs are the same: These codes improve listing accuracy, boost product visibility, and help customers quickly and easily find your products. Amazon specifically uses GTINs to help sellers match their products to existing listings, which greatly enhances their visibility and increases the chances of customers viewing their offer. eBay listings that include GTINs benefit from priority placement in eBay deals and promotions and are also eligible for business tools, such as pricing guidance and trending price alerts.

Verifying UPC Accuracy

Sellers on both the Amazon and eBay platforms are solely responsible for obtaining and verifying the accuracy of GTINs. If a code is inaccurate, out-of-date, or the seller has entered the data incorrectly, it is the seller’s responsibility to remedy the situation and compensate the customer. As such, it’s critical to verify and double-check UPC and other GTINs for accuracy before listing your products.

Although GTINs are unique to individual products, manufacturers are allowed to reuse codes for obsolete or outdated products after a certain amount of time has passed. This is especially important for sellers listing older models of products that are still on the market.

In order to obtain seller and item information, as well as verify that the codes are accurate, sellers should use GS1’s free Global Electronic Party Information (“GEPIR”) lookup tool. Although GEPIR can provide additional information regarding the UPC owner, there are other free online databases, such as HIPAASpace that simply confirm whether a UPC is valid.

While potentially cumbersome, taking the time to verify that you’re inputting the correct UPC for your products will benefit both you and your customer in the long run.


Avalara Author
Bethany McDonald
Avalara Author Bethany McDonald