Amazon requires UPC or EAN codes. This is non-negotiable. Whether you try to sell on Amazon through Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) or as a resale partner of Amazon or Amazon is sourcing products from you directly, it doesn’t matter. Amazon requires UPC or EAN codes. UPC codes are of course are 12-digit barcodes that aim primarily for the US market. They ensure that each and every product sold by a particular online or offline merchant have a unique numerical identity.

This is a big deal. This is not just a random number that somebody slapped on to a product package. These codes had a tremendous practical impact on the product’s ability to sell. It also impacts the lives of the retailers handling the product as well as the manufacturer. Why does Amazon require UPC products? Well, it leads to better product tracking. The last thing that you want is the same product having different numbers. This can cause all sorts of headaches as far shipping and product fulfillment and sales fulfillment goal.

Also, stocking those materials in an online database can be a massive hassle if you are dealing with a situation where you have one product that has many different numbers. If that wasn’t bad enough, your customers might have a tough time with your products because they might think they’re comparing different products when it turns out that they’re comparing one and the same product. The reason they were led to that conclusion is that different retailers and distributors stamped on different tracking numbers to those products. The reverse can also apply.

You may have a situation where you’re dealing with many different products, but they’re using the same product number. The bottom line is this leads to a tremendous amount of consumer confusion. They cannot make product comparison; as a result, they are less likely to buy because they feel that they are not able to make an informed decision. They are more likely to stay on the fence or look for alternative products that they can trust more readily. Regardless of how this plays out, you end up losing out if you are the product manufacturer, distributor or seller. You don’t want consumer confusion to eat into your profits. The worst part is that this is all easily preventable.

Another reason why Amazon requires UPC codes is that it now helps enhance Amazon’s brand as a solid confusion-free selling platform. Amazon is a multi-billion dollar online retailer for a reason. It has made the whole online buying experience as smooth and seamless as possible. Amazon insists on UPC codes to eliminate as much confusion as possible on its platform.

Finally, within it’s platform, there is another area for confusion because there are many ways to sell on Amazon. You can sell through Amazon’s fulfillment program. Amazon can proactively resell your product. Or Amazon can be acting as your front end, and you are doing the back-end fulfillment. Whatever the case is, there is an inherent amount of confusion in these in-house sales channels without a Universal Product Numbering and Identification System.

Your big problem

Now that you’re clear as to why you need UPC codes, your biggest challenge is determining how many you need. It’s easy to think that you only have a few products. Example, you are selling computer keyboards. You might think that you only have a need for one UPC code because you are only selling one basic keyboard. It turns out that your keyboards actually have different colors and sizes.

For each iteration of your product, you need a UPC code. Let me repeat that again, the rule of thumb is for every iteration, meaning any alteration or any version of your product regardless of how similar its core features are central design may be, you still need a distinct UPC code. Back to the example of the keyboard, if you are selling keyboards that come in 20 different colors, then you need 20 different UPC codes for your products.

Again, determining how many UPC codes you need is actually quite simple. The focus should be on how much unique iteration of your products is available. It’s easy if you have a few distinct products; it’s not as easy if you have many different brands and models. It can get especially tricky if you have many attributes like size and color.

The bottom line is every SKU needs a code. That means product variations need one code too. For example, a shirt comes in 3 different colors and 4 sizes, to sell this on Amazon; you need multiply the 3 colors by the 4 sizes. The result? You need 12 UPC codes.

The power of scalability

It is easy to think that since your company’s capital is relatively limited that you would only need to spend a few bucks on product numbers. Wrong. You are looking at the situation in a very short-sighted way. Think several years ahead. Maybe your firm’s marketing plans pan out, and you end up with a huge number of requests for new products. Maybe your R&D department hits the ball right out of the park and comes up with amazing new products with proven or even rabid market demand. Whatever the case may be, the amount of products you need to sell on your own or others’ online platforms may explode. You need to be prepared for this possibility.
Finding a UPC or EAN code source that can easily adapt to whatever needs you have is crucial. This makes company growth smoother. This contingency planning ensures your company can smoothly transition from your current size to its fullest potential. Being prepared can enable your company to level up. Believe it or not, the absence of scalability planning is what keeps many otherwise excellent companies from truly living up to their fullest potential. They may have great products and many loyal customers, but they remain small and obscure. If you are serous about making your company a great success, UPC code scalability should be part of your game plan.