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Guide to Barcodes for Amazon FBA Sellers

May 14, 2021 by Andrew Minalto
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How to Save 50% on Barcodes for Amazon FBA Sellers?

I’ve covered barcodes previously on this blog but it’s something I still receive a number of questions about every week. And Amazon has also made some recent changes to barcode requirements for FBA sellers (but don’t worry they’ve actually made things easier for us). 

That’s why I want to go over them again today and also share something I recently came across that can save you up to 58% on your barcode costs! Read on to find out more about that.

That’s why I want to go over them again today and also share something I recently came across that can save you up to 58% on your barcode costs! Read on to find out more about that. 

So first things first – what is a barcode and what’s it used for? 

A barcode is an identifier used on all new, branded products. Most people associate it with the black and white barcode image but it’s actually the code underneath that’s important and what identifies each product.

GTIN (Global Trade Item Number)

This number is known as the GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) and is specific to each product. 

As you can see this GTIN is 13 digits long, which means it’s an EAN (European Article Number). Despite the name this is the barcode type used in the UK and most of the world, except for North America which instead uses a 12 digit GTIN called a UPC (Universal Product Code). 

UPC (Universal Product Code)

I know that’s a lot of abbreviations! But it’s actually very simple – the GTIN is the worldwide barcode standard used by pretty much all retailers and marketplaces, including all of the below: 

Retailers who uses GTIN

And then there are two types of GTIN – one for North America (UPC) and one for the UK and the rest of the world (EAN). 

Simple, right? 

So What Barcodes Do You Need To Sell On Amazon? 

When you create a new listing on Amazon, you have two choices for what type of barcode you use – EAN or FNSKU. 

What’s the difference? 

Well the EAN is the universal manufacturer barcode, exactly as we just covered above. And the FNSKU, which stands for Fulfilment Network Stock Keeping Unit, is Amazon’s own barcode. 

Previously when listing products on Amazon we had to use the FNSKU, which meant a slightly complicated system of creating a listing using an EAN code and then using that to create an FNSKU for your product packaging. 

But thankfully now it’s much simpler and for most products you can just use the manufacturer barcode (i.e. the EAN code) for your Amazon listing. There are only a few products where you have to use Amazon / FNSKU barcodes, and they are: 

  • Products with an expiry date
  • Consumable products
  • Topical products such as skin creams, shampoos, and cosmetics
  • Products that are prepped so that the barcode cannot be scanned

EAN vs FNSKU

You may have also read that there’s another reason to use FNSKU codes instead of EAN – and that’s the dreaded comingled inventory. 

Comingled inventory basically means that Amazon mixes stock of the same product from different sellers. Or in their own words, “if more than one seller has inventory with the same manufacturer barcode, Amazon fulfils orders with inventory that’s closest to the customer. We do this to facilitate faster delivery.” 

Say for example I have a PS5 listed on Amazon which is bought by Joe Bloggs, but rather than sending the actual PS5 that I sent to Amazon, they’ll simply grab any one from their stockpile and ship that to my customer. 

And this is of course not ideal as I can’t be 100% sure about the authenticity and condition of another seller’s item. 

BUT this issue doesn’t apply to private label products as we’re selling our own brand and there are of course no other sellers – so stock being mixed up isn’t something we have to worry about at all.  

And that’s why I suggest simply using EAN barcodes for your Amazon products and listings. 

It’s easier – there’s issues now with getting FNSKU codes before your product is completely created and branded – and also means that you’re able to use the same product packaging if you want to sell on other marketplaces or even sell to retailers etc.

Where To Get Barcodes For Amazon FBA Products?

If you search online for “cheap EAN barcodes Amazon” you’ll get a ton of results starting from just a few pounds… BUT unfortunately 99.9% of these are unsuitable and can actually cause big issues for your Amazon business! 

The problem is that there’s only one official provider of GTIN / EAN codes and all other websites are simply re-selling these codes to you. But these codes are only officially licensed to the original member and if Amazon ever check they won’t match your brand and company. 

And they 100% do check this. Please don’t take any risks here as I’ve seen a number of businesses in huge trouble from using unlicensed codes. 

The only place you can buy official barcodes is from GS1 UK.

GS1 UK Membership Options – Save 50% On Annual Fees

In order to get your barcodes you have to become a GS1 member and pay an annual license fee. Their membership plans start from £119 + VAT, which works out at £142.80 a year, and entitles you to up to 1,000 barcodes. If your turnover is above £500,000 annually or you need more than 1,000 codes, then there are other membership options: 

GS1 Fees

You need a specific barcode for each SKU which means every colour, size, and variation needs its own code. So for some sellers this allocation can be used up fast (if you sell clothing for example) but for the vast majority of people, especially those new to Amazon FBA who are launching with just a few products, 1,000 is definitely overkill. 

And thankfully GS1 have recently introduced a Starter 100 membership option which gives you 100 codes for £100 + VAT, so a small saving. 

However, there’s a way to get this fee down even lower! And no I’m not talking about any shader resellers or other blackhat methods. All you have to do is go onto GS1’s website and click on their live chat box on the membership page and select “no, not yet” when asked if you’re already a member: 

Gs1 Membership Chat Box

Then simply write in the chat “what if I only need a few barcodes” and a few offers come up!  

Sample Offers

The first one is the Starter 100 which we already covered but the second one takes you to this page: 

Get ready to start trading with barcodes from GS1 UK

And from there you can sign up to a £50 + VAT membership, giving you access to 10 codes a year. This is more than enough for most new sellers and costs less than half of the usual cheapest membership option. 

How Do You Get A Barcode Image?

You may have also noticed that as well as the number of codes, each membership option also gives you access to a number of barcode images. 

This refers to the actual black and white barcode that you see on all products. But you don’t need to create this “officially” via GS1. The number/code itself is what’s important and once you have that you can simply use any free barcode generator to create the image, click here for sample website.

You then enter your GS1 barcode and are given an image which you can then use on your product packaging. 

Speaking of which, let’s cover the last question for today’s post: 

How Do You Add The Barcode To Your Amazon Products?

There are 4 options for this, which I’ll cover from best to worst. 

  1. Include the barcode within your product packaging

This is the simplest, cheapest, and also best looking option. You simply include the barcode as part of your product packaging design and that’s it – you don’t have to do anything else. 

With this option the cost is £0 and there’s nothing for you to do so the only reason not to go down this route is if you’re not using custom packaging or if you’ve already got your packaging designed and printed without the barcode. 

In that case then the next best option is to: 

  1. Ask your manufacturer to label the barcode onto each product

Simply send your manufacturer the barcode and ask them to stick it as a label onto each product. Most manufacturers will happily do this for you for free so it’s the second best option. 

  1. Label the barcode onto each product yourself 

If for whatever reason you couldn’t get your manufacturer to do it for you, then you can label the barcode onto each product yourself. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is if you already have a thermal label printer, such as a Dymo 450. 

Then simply get some compatible label rolls, such as this: 

Sample label rolls

10 rolls, which is 2600 labels, costs just £16 – giving you a cost per label of less than 1p as there is no ink with thermal printers. 

  1. Pay Amazon to label the barcode onto your products 

The 4th and final option is to just pay Amazon to take care of the labelling for you via their FBA label service.

There’s a few reasons why I suggest only using this as a last resort: 

  1. It costs £0.15 per product 
  1. You have to use Amazon barcodes
  1. From what I’ve seen there are more issues with missing inventory when you use the FBA label service  

So if you can – avoid it! And really there’s no reason to need to pay Amazon to add barcodes for you rather than using one of the three much better options we’ve already covered. 

And that’s it for today’s post. As always if you have any questions or comments leave them below or email me at info@andrewminalto.com and I’ll personally get back to you. 

Otherwise, until next time! 

All the best,

Andrew  


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