Facts about Barcodes

Barcode Definition:
A bar code or barcode is a graphical representation of alpha, numeric, or alphanumeric data represented by a series of bars and spaces. There are different types of barcodes and these styles are called symbologies. Each of these have different functions and uses and include postal barcodes, pharmaceutical barcodes, UPC and EAN barcodes, warehouse management, etc.

The GS1, the original source for barcodes has created the confusion between UPC (Universal Product Codes) and EAN (European Article Numbers also called International Article Numbers). The UPC-A barcode was the original format for product barcodes. As demand in Europe, Asia and Australia started growing, country codes were added.  US and Canada have a a country code of zero which is not printed under the barcode nor is it entered in US and Canadian Inventory and Point of Sale Databases.

The only major difference is the placement of the numbers below (human readable numbers) which are there only as a back-up in case the barcode doesn’t scan properly and the information has to be manually entered into the point of sale system.

The GTIN is a family of numbers and include UPCs, EANs and Shipping Container Codes.

Retailers use GTINs (Global Trade Identification Numbers) to simplify and automate the inventory management process which includes making sure that the customer is charged the proper amount of money. The GTIN is the number, the UPC or the EAN is the type of barcode graphic that has the GTIN encoded within it.

Even though, all of these terms are all jumbled up and misused, everybody know what you mean when you say that you need a barcode to put on your product.

Here is the breakdown:

GTIN-12: This is the UPC or UPC-12.  UPC stands for Universal Product Code and is a 12-digit number represented by a UPC barcode. UPCs are used in the United States and Canada.

GTIN-13: This is also called an EAN or EAN-13. EANs are used outside of the United States and Canada.

GTIN-14: Shipping container codes.

GTINs (UPCs and EAN barcodes) are used on all products. Whether you have produced a DVD, sell clothing, food, hardware, electronics, accessories, etc., you will use a UPC (or EAN) barcode for your product.

The only items that don’t use UPC (or EAN) barcodes are for books (Books use ISBNs – you can add a UPC to the book in addition to the ISBN), variable weight products (Fish, Poultry, Meat, Fruits/Vegetables) or Pharmaceuticals (Prescription-required)

There is no difference between barcodes for retail stores and barcodes for online retailers like Amazon or Google Merchant.

The purpose of the barcode is to identify an item allowing for the automated tracking of the item.

There are a variety of situations where you will need a UPC barcode:

  1. You are a manufacturer of an item or items that don’t have UPC barcodes.
  2. You are a distributor of products(s) that don’t have barcodes.
  3. You have purchased products from a manufacturer or distributor. These products don’t have UPC barcodes.
  4.  You are the author/producer of a ‘specialty’ book and have an ISBN number and want a UPC so you can sell this book in specialty stores (example: you produce a cookbook and will sell this cookbook in bookstores (they use an ISBN) and in cooking shops (they use a UPC).
  5. You are a musician who wants to sell your digital or physical on Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby, etc.There are two ways that you can get a UPC barcode.
  • You go  to  the GS1
  • You go to a legitimate reseller.

UPC Barcodes is the definitive site to both purchase UPC Barcodes and register your products for Google/Bing indexing and for inclusion in the Shop Savvy Database. Shop Savvy is the premier UPC Barcode Scanner Application.

You will need a barcode for each product or variation of product that you sell.
If you are selling an item that comes in a variety of styles, sizes and colors, you will need one for each variation. Each of these items is a SKU (Stock Keeping Unit). Each SKU is tracked individually so each item needs it’s own barcode for tracking.

How Barcodes Work:

The manufacturer/distributor obtains GTINs (UPC/EAN barcodes) and assigns them to their product(s). The UPC or EAN barcode graphic is affixed to the product(s)

  • There is nothing embedded in a UPC or EAN barcode except for the numbers that are beneath the barcode. When the retailer enters the info about the products(s) into their database, the numbers are associated with the product. When a barcode scanner scans the barcode, it turns the bars back into numbers and looks for the item associated with it.
  • There are a number of ways that you can communicate this information to the retailers, your retailer will let you know how they want the information. Sometimes they will ask for a printed sheet with a list of your items, sometimes they will want an excel spreadsheet that they can upload to their database. This all depends on the number of items and their level of technical requirements.
  • The information that you have supplied gets entered into the computer that connects all of their POS systems (electronic cash registers). All of this is done at store level because there is no accurate and complete database of products, and if there was, it could potentially carry billions of items. That’s too much data for local stores to access, so, all stores only concern themselves with their inventory.
  • Your products are delivered to the retailer and once received into inventory and are now available for purchase.
  • Sometimes your retailers will ask you to add an additional barcode to the outside carton. They will refer to this as a Shipping Container Barcode or a GTIN-14. We can provide those too.
  • A customer picks up the item to be purchased and heads to the checkstand.
  • The item is scanned and the point of sale system (cash register) requests information about  the product from the database. Once purchased, the Point of Sales system tells the database to subtract the number of items purchased.
  • The customer pays for the item and the transaction is complete.

Here is how it works:

We own a large number of prefixes. These prefixes belong to us and each one allows us to generate 100,000 UPC and EAN barcodes. We guarantee that these numbers are pristine….not duplicated or previously used.

We are selling you a subset of the UPCs and EANs that we own…99% of retailers  do not require that you have your own prefix. They simply take the barcode number along with your product info and enter it into their inventory system that connects to their Electronic Point of Sales systems.

If you are planning on selling to Walmart/Sam’s Club, J.C. Penney’s. Kroger’s, Macy’s or other stores that tie the barcode prefix into EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) you will need to get your barcodes directly from the GS1.

Once you place your order for your Barcodes, you will be directed to a page where you can download your barcodes.

You either include the barcode graphic as part of your packaging design or (if it’s already done) get barcode labels. We’ll get you great prices from our friends at Pacific Barcode. They are fast, too.

Amazon is no different than any other retailer. You have products to sell that you have either purchased or manufactured and if they don’t have UPC or EAN barcodes, you need to obtain barcodes in order to list your items.