Cross Border eCommerce Barcode 101 – Is Barcode Mandatory?

Selling on the majority of retail marketplaces requires the brands to add unique barcodes to the products unless your products are under special categories. What’s more, running your webshop integrated with Google shopping might be rejected due to invalid barcode information. Barcode is the universal identity of your product selling globally, so it’s necessary to understand the rules before launching your webshop and retail store.

cross border eCommerce barcode

Selling on the majority of retail marketplaces requires the brands to add unique barcodes to the products unless your products are under special categories. What’s more, running your webshop integrated with Google shopping might be rejected due to invalid barcode information. Barcode is the universal identity of your product selling globally. So it’s necessary to understand the rules before launching your webshop and retail store.

What’s Barcode?

A barcode is a visual representation of the number that sits underneath it, which is called the Global Trade Identity Number (GTIN). Over time barcodes are becoming more digital and we are beginning to need them as a way of identifying products in the same way that they are required in the retail supply chain. As such, selling on an online marketplace increasingly requires the use of GTINs. For example, Amazon verifies all barcodes against the GS1 database when new products are added except for some product category exemptions.

A GS1 GTIN is generally made of 4 components:

  • Company prefix – this is your GS1 company ID for creating barcodes and other product identifiers. The length of the prefix depends on how many numbers are required.
  • Country prefix – The United Kingdom is 500 to 509.
  • Product code – this uniquely identifies a product type. It tends to be 3 digits long.
  • Check digit – this is used to make sure that the GTIN is correctly composed. It can be worked out manually by using the modulo-10 algorithm. 

Types of GTINs:

cross border ecommerce barcode

  • UPC: A Universal Product Code, or UPC (also designated as GTIN-12), is a unique 12-digit numerical product identifier most commonly used in the United States and Canada. This is the most common barcode type in the world and can be found on most physical products in retail stores. It consists of a barcode with a GTIN-12 number beneath. 
  • EAN: A European Article Number, or EAN (also designated as GTIN-13), is a unique 13-digit numerical product identifier used specifically for products in the European marketplace. It consists of a barcode with a GTIN-13 number beneath.
  • JAN: A Japanese Article Number, or JAN, is a type of product identifier used specifically for products in the Japanese marketplace. 
  • ISBN: An International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, is a product identifier used specifically for books. ISBNs have either 10 or 13 digits, depending on the publishing date.
  • GTIN-14: Shipping container codes

Cross Border eCommerce Barcode – Is Barcode Mandatory in the cross border eCommerce selling?

The answer is yes or no. Technically, there is no requirement that products must have barcodes to sell unless you’re selling at the wholesale level or you sell to large retailers. So it depends on your cross-border eCommerce selling strategy. 

Marketplace Store

Amazon now requires all listed products without the Amazon GTIN exemption to have a GS1 registered barcode. In fact, eBay also requires listed products with certified barcodes. Otherwise, eBay does unlist your products on the store.

Essentially, for protecting the buyer’s benefits and ensuring transparency regarding the products, the barcode is mandatory. Merchants selling on the majority of marketplaces worldwide need to equip their products with barcodes. And the barcode needs adding variants, such as size, color, type, etc.

Despite the majority of retailers requiring you to have, some marketplaces like Etsy don’t have a policy to regulate seller marketing.

Marketplace seller: Barcode Required unless you’re selling handmade products, or drop shipping

.com Webshop

Running a .com webshop is a crucial part of the whole cross-border eCommerce strategy. As the brand or seller owns the webshop that is different from listing on the marketplace, so it’s not mandatory to have barcodes for products. For example, if your store leverages Shopify or woo-commerce to build, and connect with Facebook, you can directly list products there and start marketing.

Furthermore, Google Shopping also doesn’t strictly require merchants to equip products with barcodes. For example, merchants can sign up Google ads account and merchant center account, and make them connected. It’s okay to go for Google shopping ads when the listed products on the merchant center are able to comply with the regulations. They are such as the shipping & refund policy, valid contacts, data privacy, and listed product with clear descriptions and SKUs

Being said that, it’s best to have the barcodes as Google Shopping definitely increases the weight of your products indexed and shown in the organic result. It’s because if you add the barcode to your products, the google merchant center disapproves of your product listing due to an invalid barcode. It implies Google also has a certain weight in evaluating your business and products in terms of having barcodes or not.

.com webshop: Optional and it depends on your strategy

Dropshipping

It’s not necessary to have barcodes for each product SKU as a dropshipper. Basically, you are selling products from brands or manufacturers. You are a kind of marketer and affiliate partner to earn mark up or commission by selling their products. Also, the product should already have barcodes as the brand owners would take care of the shipping and return, etc.

Dropshipping: barcode is unnecessary

International Shipping

As of March 1st, 2022, ShipMonk will require that all products (excluding paper inserts and packaging) delivered to our warehouses are barcoded. In the event that your products are not barcoded, there will be a $0.20 per unit fee (billed on the outbound order) to barcode your SKUs or process the units through a more labor-intensive picking process to ensure our commitment to 100% order accuracy.

Thus, for picking, packing, shipping, and fulfillment, it indeed requires the barcode for each type of product SKU, which is mandatory.

Logistic & Fulfillment: Barcode Required but sellers can pay for the 3PL

Cross Border eCommerce Barcode – How do you create a barcode?

Basically, there are two ways to go about getting barcodes: Directly get the code through GS1 or through a reseller. Which way you go depends on a few things.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before deciding what option is best for you:

  • Do you have money to invest in barcodes?
  • How many products do you need barcodes for now and in the future?
  • What type of online or offline retailers do you plan on selling your products to?

If you have A LOT of products and if you plan on selling to major retail stores, it’s a good idea to use GS1US.org. Their initial fee is $750, with an annual renewal fee of $150.

Steps to get GS1 barcode

The first step in creating barcodes with GS1 is to obtain a GS1 Company Prefix. A GS1 Company Prefix is a unique identification number that GS1 US issues just to your company. And it’s part of every barcode, Universal Product Code, and identification number you create. It’s the internationally accepted way to uniquely identify your brand in the global supply chain.

Once you set up your Company Prefix, you can create unique barcodes for each product through their online system. Once you have codes for each product, you need to use any one of their approved partners to print the barcodes for you.

Barcode from Reseller

If you have a smaller budget, you don’t plan on selling through many global retailers. Or if a few of your retailers have asked you for barcodes, it’s best to use a reseller rather than use GS1. You won’t get your own Company Prefix number. But you will get a unique Universal Product Code for each barcode.

Resellers usually charge about $20 or so per barcode (some charge more and some charge less). So, if you need 20 barcodes, for example, it makes more sense to use a reseller. If you need 100, it’s probably best to use GS1.

I have ordered barcodes through http://www.createbarcodes.com and had a great experience, you can have a checkout.

Cross Border eCommerce Barcode – How many UPC barcodes does an eCommerce seller need?

It depends on how many unique SKUs you are selling. This is in a way relevant to when you make a decision on where to buy barcodes. It’s because you can forecast the number of barcodes required. 

As a general rule, every variation of your product will need its own UPC.  If your product comes in different colors or patterns, each different color or pattern will need a UPC.  If your product comes in different sizes, each size will need a UPC.

The same is true for different configurations and packaging. For example, a plastic bottle of sparkling water will need a different UPC than the same sparkling water in a glass bottle.  The same kind of baby shampoo with and without a bundled toy will need different UPCs for each type of packaging.

Prediction

Companies need to also consider how their products might change in the near future.  Any time a change is made that impacts how a retailer or consumer might assess an item, a new UPC probably needs to be assigned.

Apparel is a UPC-intensive category. Consider that clothing often comes in many sizes and colors, with each unique size and color combination requiring its own assignment.  Additionally, if every season brings new items for your company, you will need to consider not just your immediate needs but also how many UPC assignments you will need for every new rollout and every new year.

Wrap up

Essentially the barcode is a way to increase the product transparency and facilitates the product to be tracked and identified. Particularly in international shipping and tax or duties clearance, barcodes play an important role. Also, in this journey, it can enhance the trust and credibility of customers as it’s unique and credible instead of marketing information.

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