What are Product Codes? Basic Product Codes for Online Sellers

By Thomas Bennett Financial expert at Priceva
Published on March 30, 2023
Every seller has a collection of goods that they need to add to their inventory management system. These items might also be listed through other channels, including their E-commerce site or distributed via their brick-and-mortar business's point of sale. How to monitor all these items? The answer is simple – assign individual product codes.

In a nutshell, a universal product code serves as both your product’s digital fingerprint and unique identity. Every merchant and marketplace can use these codes to track sales, determine how well a product has sold, and improve inventory management. This article describes the most widespread types of product codes and where they are used.

Global trade item number (GTIN)

An international number, known as GTIN (Global Trade Item Number), is used to manage millions of product references globally. 13 digits are used to produce the code. Depending on the kind of goods and the country of sale, there can be several variants of this code, such as:

  • UPC
  • EAN
  • JAN
  • ASIN

To locate items from E-commerce merchants, as well as to search for and compare products on marketplaces, search engines are becoming a vital tool for online consumers. GTIN plays a crucial part in facilitating that process. By including them in the product listing, your chances of standing out in the market will rise, which will result in an increase in organic traffic. As an illustration, Google Shopping has agreed to make GTIN codes mandatory. According to Google, products including GTIN codes have a 40% higher CTR and generate 20% more sales.

Universal Product Code (UPC)

As you can guess from its name, this sort of code is used everywhere: on marketplaces, in online shops, and in brick-and-mortar stores.

The 12-digit Universal Product Code (UPC) is frequently used in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and other nations. It can be used for any type of item that your business offers, from electronics to apparel and foods.

How to obtain a UPC for your item? You need to register with GS1 and receive your company code prior to being able to obtain a UPC for your items. All of your items will have this prefix to help customers recognize you as the seller.

European Article Number (EAN)

The 13-digit European Article Number, or EAN for short, is a designation for the EU. Any UPC can be transformed into an EAN by adding a zero to the front, which makes this number obviously related to the UPC.

One product may be distinguished from another using both UPC and EAN codes. The characteristics of the items are described by these special numerals, which also serve as identifying markers. They can represent information such as:

  • The nature of the good
  • Cost, size, or color
  • Producing
  • Country code
  • Further product information

Japan Article Number (JAN)

Japan calls their version of the EAN standard the Japan Article Number (JAN). Because JAN begins with different numbers in Japan than in Europe, it is recognized worldwide.

Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN)

Amazon is a global retail marketplace with millions of daily transactions, which is why it is now necessary to have a special identifying number for each item sold there. So, as a merchant, you have two options: either you attach your goods to an existing ASIN, or you obtain permission from Amazon and obtain new ASINs. The Amazon corporation uses this unique 10-digit number to identify products.

Managing and tracking product listings on Amazon depends heavily on ASIN numbers. Putting the ISBN on your items will prevent counterfeiting, in addition to making it simpler for marketplace buyers to discover your products.


Product codes are essential for the retail industry, where sellers need to manage thousands of items: they help track goods from the moment of production to the moment of selling. For any goods that you sell online, you will need to obtain product codes – this facilitates the process of distribution and pricing management. Just add your product codes to Priceva and use our price tracker to get real-time information about your and your competitors’ rates. It will be updated automatically, so there’s no need to scan prices manually.


What is the purpose of a code?

A product code, also known as a product number, SKU (Stock Keeping Unit), or UPC (Universal Product Code), is a unique identifier assigned to a particular product or item. The purpose of a product code is to provide a standardized way to identify and track individual products throughout their lifecycle, from manufacturing to distribution to retail sales and beyond.

Why is a product code important?

Product codes help distributors and vendors quickly scan and identify goods at different stages of their lifecycle: production, storage, transportation, and selling.

How do I find a product code?

As a rule, product codes are found on packaging and labels. When it comes to your own goods, you should not create or search for product codes – they are assigned by authorized organizations. You can require one or more product codes, depending on the country in which your company conducts business. For instance, GS1 is the source of the UPC, the main code used in the US and Canada.

What does a product code look like?

SKU numbers are internal 8-digit inventory codes that are used within companies, while UPC codes are 12-digit barcodes for external use that can be scanned by any company.

Where is the product code on a package?

As a rule, product codes are printed on product packaging (box, bag, etc.), and may also be printed on the product itself (on its sides or back part).

How many digits is a product code?

The Universal Product Code (UPC) is a unique 12-digit number assigned to each individual product sold in stores and online. In the world of retail sales, there are primarily two barcode formats: UPC and EAN. The UPC format is 12 digits, while the EAN is 13. These two formats are typically used in their own regions: the UPC is used only in the US and Canada, while the EAN is used everywhere else globally.

The UPC-A is considered a standard version of the UPC and is the most commonly used code for point-of-sale transactions. This type of UPC is 12 digits long and utilizes the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN-12), a form of data. Companies that sell retail merchandise, such as privately owned goods that can be found exclusively at only one store, will use the UPC-A.

The UPC-E contains only 8 digits, but it also uses GTIN-12 data. These types of UPCs are mostly found on smaller goods that have compact packaging, such as candy and cosmetics.

Is a product code the same as a serial number?

An item of a product line is given a serial number, which is a sequential number. Only that one item will have a serial number. You may use it to monitor ownership and warranty details for that particular item. Pretty often, electrical appliances have serial numbers.
A serial number can be easily created for each product and printed internally in a contemporary WMS program (like the one provided by SmartB).

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