Barcodes are an integral part of the Amazon system, but this doesn’t mean they are necessary for all sellers. In this guide, I will cover what you need to know about how to sell on Amazon without UPC.
For sellers who are just starting, all of Amazon’s requirements can be somewhat overwhelming. UPC, GTIN, and FNSKU are just some of the acronyms you’ve probably come across recently.
While it helps to understand Amazon’s processes and requirements, not every requirement applies to you.
Let me start by explaining the basics.
UPC and GTIN – Are They Different?
UPCs, or Universal Product Codes, are a type of GTIN (Global Trade Item Number). A GTIN is that unique string of numbers you would find underneath a barcode.
Here are the different types of GTINs:
- UPC. Also referred to as GTIN-12, a UPC is a unique 12-digit code that is most often used by sellers in the U.S. and Canada. However, UPCs are found in most retail stores across the world. The UPC is found directly underneath the barcode.
- EAN. A European Article Number, or GTIN-13, is a unique 13-digit identifier used within the European marketplace. These digits are also found directly under the barcode.
- ISBN. An International Standard Book Number identifies books and consists of either 10 or 13 digits.
- JAN. A Japanese Article Number identifies products for the Japanese marketplace.
- GTIN-14. This refers to codes for shipping containers.
Where to Get UPCs for Products
In the past, many sellers were purchasing lists of UPCs from third-party vendors at reduced rates. I do not recommend this.
The reason for this is that many of these UPCs are resold, which means they are associated with different brands. As you can imagine, this leads to product mismatches and duplicate listings.
What’s more, Amazon has now regulated codes to prevent this from happening. Purchasing UPCs from third-party vendors leaves you with more problems than the low price is worth.
The best way to get UPCs is to purchase them through GS1.
Purchasing 1- 10 barcodes will cost $250 and attract a $50 renewal fee. The more barcodes you purchase, the more affordable it becomes. However, overall, this can be a considerable expense when you are just starting.
How to Sell on Amazon Without UPC
So, is it possible to get around the UPC requirement? Yes, UPCs are not required for every product sold. Brand and category selections determine whether a UPC is required for a product.
Private-label and handmade products are generally eligible for a GTIN exemption, which means a UPC is not required. However, if you plan to build a long-term brand going forward, you will need to purchase a barcode eventually.
Even if you don’t require a UPC right now, Amazon still requires you to affix an FNSKU to your packaging when using FBA. More on this later.
GTIN Exemption – What are the Requirements?
As an Amazon seller, you can apply for GTIN exemption in the following circumstances:
- The brand or manufacturer you are partnering with won’t supply a UPC.
- You are selling private-label or handmade products.
- Your products aren’t associated with a specific brand and are generic.
- More than one product is bundled together.
- You want to sell products such as automotive parts that don’t have a GTIN.
How to Apply for an Amazon GTIN Exemption
Here are the steps to follow to apply for a GTIN exemption:
Log In to Seller Central
You will need an Amazon account before you can apply for GTIN exemption. To start the process, log in to Seller Central and search for GTIN exemption. This is the page you are searching for:
Apply for GTIN Exemption
To apply for exemption, you need to select a category before entering a brand name or publisher. You do have the option to add multiple categories if need be.
If you are selling unbranded products or bundles, enter Generic in the brand field.
If you can enter a brand name, a green checkmark will appear if it is eligible for exemption.
The good news is that you don’t need to apply for exemption more than once if you add new products under the same brand. Once Amazon approves your brand, all products are exempt.
The next step in this process requires you to submit proof that a product does not have a UPC or GTIN. If you don’t have a letter from a manufacturer, publisher, or brand owner, select No.
You will now enter your product name and submit a photo of the product and the packaging. Make sure these photos can prove there is no UPC. If you are selling a branded product, one of the images should include the brand name.
Send the Application
Once you submit your GTIN exemption application, Amazon requires around 48 hours to review it. However, most sellers hear back within a few hours.
You can track the status of your request in Case Log in Seller Central or wait for the email confirmation.
How to Correctly Load Your Listings
Once Amazon has approved your exemption request, you need to follow a few guidelines when loading your product listings.
Sellers should wait 24 hours before they start adding products following UPC exemption approval. If Amazon’s system hasn’t yet updated, you could run into issues during the process.
For your product listings to be approved, it’s essential that you select the same category and brand you applied with. Even using uppercase letters instead of lowercase letters can create a mismatch. Be wary of spaces and characters too.
Once you click on Add a Product under the Inventory menu, select I’m adding a product not sold on Amazon. Even though you need to ensure your primary category is the same as your application, you can dig into the subcategories to find others that match your product.
Next, your product details are required, including the title of your listing and brand name (same as your application). The asterisk next to the product ID field indicates you don’t need to enter a UPC. You should also select FBA as your fulfilment channel if you don’t want to fulfil orders yourself.
Once you submit your listing, you will see it under Manage Inventory after 10 to 15 minutes.
Selecting a barcode type is the next page you will see when managing your product. Since you don’t need a barcode, select Amazon Barcode (FNSKU), before you save your listing.
Let’s get back to FNSKUs.
As I mentioned, even though you don’t require a UPC for your product, Amazon still needs to scan some form of a barcode. An FNSKU label ensures Amazon can track your inventory once they receive it at a warehouse.
If you decide to go down the FBM instead of the FBA route, feel free to skip this step.
Once you select Amazon Barcode, you will continue to your shipping plan. This is where you can decide to label each unit yourself or pay Amazon to do it for you.
Under the Label Product section, you can print; however, many labels you need. Your packaging designer will require the barcodes that you download in a PDF format.
Another easy way to access FNSKU barcodes is to click on Manage Inventory, find your product, and click on Edit alongside it. This will give you the option to Print Label Items.
In case you were wondering whether Amazon FBA is worth it, read this.
What to Do If You Aren’t Eligible for Exemption
Unfortunately, if your product does not qualify for GTIN exemption, you won’t be able to sell on Amazon without a UPC. Even though a third-party vendor would be cheaper, I highly recommend that you only purchase UPCs through GS1.
In the video below, Sam explains the importance of GS1.
If you plan on expanding your brand soon, you will need UPCs anyway.
I hope this guide on UPCs helps you determine whether your product can be sold without a UPC.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
Until next time…