top of page

Things All Merchandise Sellers Should Know About Product Coding

If you’re just starting out in merchandise sales or expanding your business, you need to know about product coding.

In our globalized world of mass production, product codes (unique identifiers) are useful and often necessary to track sales and inventory. There are many different types of product codes, and a single product might use several of them.

Read on to learn about product codes and why you might benefit from using them.

Cashier Scanning Products in Grocery Store

1: Product codes can help you compete in the marketplace.

If you’re planning on selling products in brick-and-mortar retail stores or on e-commerce sites, there’s no getting around it: You’ll need a way to track your sales and inventory. Product codes can help you do it.

Product codes make it easy to identify product features, including the brand name, type of item, size, weight, and color of a product when it’s scanned at checkout. This helps speed up the process. The codes also help retailers track and manage their inventories, and they create a better experience for consumers. All of this can help you stay competitive in the dog-eat-dog world of retail sales.

2: There are several different types of product codes.

Barcode is the umbrella term for the familiar series of lines you see on the back of most retail products today. The numbers that appear below the lines are product codes.

Barcodes contain machine-readable code that helps speed up the checkout process and makes it easier to track inventory and sales. They’re more or less essential in today’s globalized retail economy. Some of the most common include:

  • UPC codes: These are the 12-digit numbers that you see on many most retail products in the U.S. UPC codes are issued by a nonprofit called GS1 US, which sets standards for international commerce. If you’re selling in the U.S. and Canada, you’ll need UPC codes for your product(s).

  • EAN codes: European Article Numbers (EANs) are 13-digit numbers used in Europe on retail products. Like UPC codes, EANs help product sellers track their products. Any UPC code can be converted into an EAN by adding a zero to the beginning of the code. If you’re planning to sell internationally, you’ll need EANs for your products.

UPC EAN Bar Code

  • ASIN: In 2019, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the world’s largest online retailer. The company is now so enormous it has its own product ID numbers, called Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASINs). If you plan to hawk your merch on Amazon, ASINs are mandatory. The upside: ASINs make your products easier for people to find, and they can help protect you against counterfeiters. Here’s a how-to page on getting ASINs.

  • ISBN: International Standard Book Numbers, or ISBNs, are special identifying codes for books, magazines, e-books and other published media. ISBNs help publishers track how many books they’re selling and where. Different editions of the same book have different ISBNs, and each country has its own ISBN agency.

  • QR codes: Quick Response or QR codes are scannable matrix-style barcodes that often contain data for a locator, identifier, or tracker that points to a website or application. They’re used in everything from consumer advertising to entertainment ticketing.

  • FDA product codes: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has its own set of product codes for food, beverages, drugs, and medical devices. The codes are a combination of five to seven numbers and letters. Read this tutorial, then use this FDA product code builder to determine the right code for your products.

3: UPC codes dominate in the U.S.

The advent of UPC codes made computerized billing and checkout