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Do I need a UPC to sell on Amazon?

Selling On Amazon Without A UPC

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Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has conquered and dominated the e-commerce market in the last decade.

The glory that befalls the company is wholly due to its unfathomable army of merchants that sell on its online racks. Running an Amazon FBA business is no easy task, and millions of proprietors, merchants, and vendors sell their goods on Amazon online. 

FBA stands for ‘Fulfillment By Amazon.’ That means that a product sold by a merchant is delivered to the customer by Amazon.

The vendor only has to ship the product to the designated fulfillment center, and Amazon takes care of the rest.

However, to make the task easier for Amazon, vendors need to follow protocols and guidelines that the company sets. For example, there are specific instructions that Amazon expects vendors to follow when packaging and labeling their shipments.

Amazon employees at fulfillment centers find it easier to sort and process your packages when they follow standard Amazon procedures.

GTINs, EANs, UPCs, ASINs and FNSKUs are some daunting acronyms you might encounter in the Amazon FBA shipping process. However, they are easy to understand and unambiguous.

The acronyms mentioned above are all product identifiers that are part and parcel of Amazon’s inventory process. For example, UPC is an identifier used commonly in North America.

However, can you deliver a product without its UPC? Let’s find out. 

What is a UPC?

about upc and its meaning

UPC stands for Universal Product Code. It is a 12-digit sequence that enables you to tag and identify the items you sell on Amazon.

It is a unique code assigned to each product on the Amazon racks. UPCs are seen in the form of barcodes. Amazon can scan the UPC to reveal all necessary information about their designated products. 

There are several benefits of using UPCs on the products you ship. They provide tracking support when your shipment is in transit, and they enable Amazon FBA employees to manage inventory and ship the right package to the right person.

In addition, sellers and buyers can both identify products with ease, thanks to the UPC barcode. Simply put, UPCs will tell you where your target package is located, in transit, or in a warehouse. 

Amazon needs to identify the products that it sells correctly and efficiently. To suit these demands, the company employs identifiers like UPCs to locate, ship, and deliver packages smoothly.

While there are other identifier codes available, UPCs are the most commonly used ones. Additionally, they are used by a majority of the regions that fall under Amazon’s radar, making them a mandatory aspect of fulfillment by Amazon. 

UPCs are provided by an organization called GS1, an international watchdog of supply chains. GS1 designs and designates UPCs for any product that is about to hit the conveyor belt.

When you try to sell a product on Amazon, the company will verify its UPC against those generated by GS! To ensure the authenticity of that product.

In case the UPC does not match, Amazon does not allow you to sell the product. 

Do I need a UPC to sell on Amazon?

amazon seller and upc number

No. You do not need a UPC to sell every product on Amazon.

While it is true that most products you want to sell on Amazon need to have GS1-generated UPCs or other identifiers, there are a handful of products that you can sell on Amazon devoid of UPCs. 

If you are selling a handmade product or selling products under a private label, you are eligible for ‘GTIN Exemption’ on Amazon.

Now, what does GTIN mean? GTIN stands for Global Trade Identification Number. It is an umbrella term for all product identifier codes. For example, EANs and UPCs are different types of GTINs. 

When Amazon allows GTIN Exemption, you do not have to submit a GS!-generated UPC for your product. Instead, you have to apply for barcode identification with Amazon itself.

This road of securing identifiers is a safe bet with a short-term product sale. However, if you want to enter the industry for good, we suggest getting a GTIN for your product. 

The UPCs, EANs, and other GTINs that Amazon entertains are not free. They are created by GS1 and are sold on the market. You can purchase one unique barcode for approximately $30.

However, it is not often that a vendor only sells one product. Therefore, you need to secure a barcode for each of your products. GS1 offers these barcodes at reasonable prices. 

What are products that do not require UPCs to be sold on Amazon?

products without upc

Amazon sells products manufactured by countless brands. Each of these brands owns UPCs for its products.

Therefore, if you are a vendor trying to sell any of these afore-listed brands on Amazon, you have to procure the necessary UPC barcodes to make sales. 

If you are selling products manufactured by brands that have not been listed with Amazon, you need to file for a GTIN Exemption. Irrespective of what brand you are selling, Amazon needs to identify every package it ships.

Therefore, the company requires you to stick a barcode on the box, come what may. When you file for GTIN Exemption, you have to register the necessary product with Amazon and generate unique labels. 

The products that are eligible for GTIN Exemption have to fit specific criteria :

  • GTIN for the products is not provided by the brand, manufacturer, or publisher
  • You are the manufacturer but do not have barcodes for the product
  • You wish to sell products for which GTINs are not generated – auto spare parts or accessory parts 
  • You want to sell bundles packs, for, e.g., one product comprising of a leather belt and leather wallet

For ease of access regarding the need for GTINs, Amazon has made available a list of brands that have UPCs listed with the e-commerce mogul. 

How to enlist products without UPCs?

UPCs fall under a broader spectrum of GTINs. Amazon needs you to enter only one barcode identifier to list a product.

Therefore, if you are devoid of UPCs but have your hands on the necessary EANs or GTIN-13s, then you can successfully list your product on Amazon.

However, EANs and GTIN-13s are 13-digit codes that are eligible for European countries. Similarly, there are special codes for Japan as well. 

If you do not have any barcode identifier for the product you are going to sell, you can file for GTIN Exemption on Amazon. The criteria for the same are listed above.

You can do it using your Amazon Seller Central account. However, Exemption is rare and will only be sanctioned if your product is absent from the Amazon catalog.

code scanner

For example, suppose you are selling headphones that you made by hand but are filing for GTIN Exemption.

In that case, it will be difficult for you to list your product since other brands selling headphones would have already been cataloged online and are generally listed by a common UPC. 

Amazon requires you to file the product and brand name very carefully while applying for GTIN exemption. The names mentioned on the final product must match those registered in the GTIN Exemption. Additionally, no GTIN must be visible on or near the product, for that would negate the Exemption. 

Using the ‘search feature on your Amazon Seller Central Account, look for ‘GTIN Exemption.’ You have to fill out brand and product details as asked by Amazon.

Note that you do not have to reapply to sell more products under the same brand. You also have to select the category of your product(s). You can choose multiple categories, too. 

Once your brand name, or lack thereof, is noted and approved by Amazon, you can add products under your brand.

If you have no brand name, you can list your products under the tag “Generic.” You have to provide proof to Amazon that you do not own any GTINs for your products.

In addition, you have to provide images of the product from all sides for the same. It may take up to 2 days for your request to be accepted.

Once the plea is accepted, you can add products under your brand without a UPC. Amazon suggests vendors wait 24 hours before adding products to ensure that no glitches take place. 

Vendors who are reselling products can also file for GTIN Exemption. However, these vendors have to ensure that the original manufacturer has signed off on the resale of the product. The rest of the procedure stays the same. 

Conclusion

Amazon runs a tight ship with its FBA business vendors. Vendors must package and label their products in a specific way to get their deliveries right and enjoy profits.

For this purpose, Amazon has ratified guidelines in labeling and packaging. An essential aspect of these guidelines is the unique barcode generated for every product in the market. It is an absolute necessity. 

However, there are a few products that you can sell on Amazon without the necessary barcodes – GTINs, EANs, or UPCs.

Additionally, you can look for GTIN Exemptions on your brands and products if you do not own any GTINs. However, in the long run, to make more extensive sales, it is imperative that you, the vendor, procure GTINs for everything you are selling.

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