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ASIN vs UPC Amazon: What’s the Difference?

ASIN vs UPC Amazon

If you’re looking to enter the world of eCommerce, there is a lot of information you need to keep in mind and rules to adhere to before you start selling.

As an online retailer, you need to make sure that your products can be found and identified according to certain specifications. Your business will be competing with millions of other online marketplaces across the world. The right barcode will ensure that your item can be found in search results and product listing pages.

Who Uses Barcodes?

Barcodes are found on almost every product that is sold in every country in the world. This stands true whether you’re a seller on Amazon, eBay, or Etsy. The right product code will ensure that your item is found by the person looking for it and will show up on the product page when searched for.

So what’s the difference between ISBN, EAN, SKU, FNSKU, Amazon ASIN, and UPC? What do these codes mean, and which ones should you use for your products?

Let’s find out.

What is a SKU?

Stock Keeping Units or SKUs are products in your system. As a business, you can adopt any naming convention you like for your items. When you create a new offer for an ASIN on the platform, you will need to provide an SKU. Sellers can use the SKU to keep track of merchandise.

What is an Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) barcode?

It is only natural for online marketplace heavyweight Amazon to have its own unique product identification requirements. With such an extensive catalog of products that serve customers across the world, all Amazon sellers must abide by their system.

Man holding box with Amazon ASIN barcode

How many ASINs do you need?

Every item in the Amazon catalog is allotted an ASIN number, which stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number, and this applies to variations of the same product.

For example, if you upload three colors of the same t-shirt, you will be creating 4 ASINs – one new ASIN for each color and one for the parent item. This means that the ASIN is unique to that listing and not to the product. A seller in the United States will create ASINs for these t-shirts, and a seller in the UK who is selling the same t-shirts will create different ASINs. Both for the same item, but with individual listings and exclusive ASINs.

Amazon Standard Identification Numbers consist of 10 characters, made up of both letters and numbers, and without an ASIN, your product will not be searchable on the Amazon marketplace.

Even though items will have their own unique ASIN number, there is one exception to making it universal, for books (ISBN).

Let’s find out what an ISBN is and how it relates to the ASIN.

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

All books come with an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) that publishers purchase and assign to every edition and adaptation of a publication. ISBN product identifiers are 13 digits long (books published prior to 2007 have 10 digit ISBNs) and give specific product details about each book such as its title, edition, and format. For example, each format of a book from e-books to audiobooks, hardcovers to paperback book editions will have their own unique ISBNs.

ISBNs on Amazon

Amazon uses the ASIN and ISBNs interchangeably, and the ASIN is matched to the book’s ISBN to make it easier to keep track of the book trade globally and adhere to international standards for books everywhere and on the Amazon marketplace. Today, there are many programs to help you manage your book listings seamlessly and import product data to Amazon and match the codes and the ISBN number accurately.

What is a UPC (Universal Product Code) barcode?

The Universal Product Code or UPC code is a 12 digit barcode that is unique for every product and SKU and is widely used for products packaged in the United States. It is also called a GTIN-12 (Global Trade Item Number), and GTINs are used to look up product information in a database and is a globally recognized identifier for your product. As implied by its name, the UPC product identifier is universal and indicates the item’s weight and size.

UPC barcode print

Where is the UPC, and who uses it?

You can find it in the bar code of the product label and helps the manufacturer understand how many items are sold across the world. UPCs are used for all categories of items, from medication to clothing, food to electronics, and even certain services.

UPC barcodes on Amazon

UPCs enable sellers to keep track of their Amazon inventory, and Amazon won’t let you publish your product listing without a UPC code. Amazon prefers its sellers to obtain their UPC/GTINs for products through GS1 or directly from the product manufacturer. 

The barcode you purchase for the Amazon marketplace can be used almost everywhere and anywhere in the world, making it a very useful code to invest in as a seller. Global Trade Item Numbers contain the GS-1 company prefix and followed by your product’s UPC code. Amazon conducts regular checks to ensure that your UPCs are legitimate and will remove your products’ listing if they suspect fraud. GS-1 provides a money-back guarantee if the store you want to sell on won’t accept their barcodes.

UPCs and GTINs are so widely used that whoever looks them up on any system across the world should be able to find out what the product associated with it is.

Can I get an Amazon ASIN without a UPC code?

Yes, but the only way is if your product or SKU is already listed on Amazon and the item is uploaded using a UPC code. Your products can be added to the page listing without a UPC.

How do I look up a UPC on Amazon?

You can search for your products before you start selling by entering the code into the Amazon search box, which will show you a listing page with product codes you searched for. Many sellers prefer another way if they have multiple codes and items. If you prefer to bulk search, you can use a number of online tools (like ASINScope) to help you upload a lot of information at a time and search many codes at once. You can also use this system to find products with their ASIN code on Amazon.

What are European Article Number (EANs) barcodes?

You can safely assume that the European Article Number (EAN) is the European version of the UPC barcode. The EAN can be 12 digits or 13 digits and uniquely identifies the manufacturer of the product, its type, and various attributes and provides sellers with these informative insights. Amazon uses EANs to improve the quality of its product search and listing. The EAN for a book is generated from the ISBN, just like the ASIN.

Should I use UPC or EAN for my Amazon SKUs?

The EAN is similar to the UPC but starts with a country code at the prefix of the 13 digits. If most of your customers are based in the US or Canada, you can easily stick with the 12 digits of the UPC code for your business. Otherwise, we recommend that you use EAN for global appeal.

Further Reading:

Amazon small and light – find out which is best.

How to get started selling on Amazon.

Final thoughts

Now that we’ve compared the different types of barcodes you will need to sell on the Amazon marketplace, you can start organizing your product page and products before you start listing. As an online business, it is important to consider all the aspects of your product posts your way before you begin. From ISBN to ASINs, EAN to UPC and SKU, sellers need to classify products in their own unique way.

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Tim Carlson

Tim Carlson

I'm Tim or as others call me a bit of an Internet geek, serial entrepreneur, and have gone deep down the rabbit hole of all things Amazon FBA. I have joined the Infinite FBA team to help other Amazon sellers achieve their own goals.