GTIN – Most Frequently Asked Questions
GS1 US is part of one of the largest identification and standards organizations in the world. Best known as the administrator of the U.P.C.* barcode, GS1 US maintains and advocates for the use of a host of other data standards that support the supply chain. A not-for-profit organization, GS1 US helps companies uniquely identify products, locations, and other assets and share information about them with trading partners and consumers in a consistent way. Additionally, the organization collaborates with a variety of industries to develop best practices for developing efficient supply chains, effective business relationships and providing consumers access to trustworthy information about the products they buy.
What is a GTIN?
A GTIN® is the acronym for Global Trade Item Number®. It’s a number that uniquely identifies a product. GTINs are used as the global standard to identify products and all of their unique variations such as size and color. GTINs may be used online to improve SEO, list on marketplaces, and identify your products with logistics centers. You most likely encounter GTINs every day, listed at the bottom of U.P.C. barcodes. The U.P.C. (Universal Product Code) is the most widely used barcode in the world and is seen on just about every product in physical stores and online.
How do I get a GTIN?
While there are third party barcode companies that allow a business to simply purchase barcodes and the identification numbers encoded in them, most retailers rely on GS1-issued GTINs to link the company’s brand identity to the product or service being sold. You can ensure you have GS1 US-issued GTINs that link your brand to your product by joining GS1 US in one of two ways:
- License a GS1 Company Prefix. A GS1 Company Prefix is a unique number that is assigned to your company alone and will serve as the first several digits of your GTINs. Prefixes come in different capacities and prices depending on how many identification numbers you need to create.
- License a single GS1 US GTIN. If you only need a few GTINs, you can license individual GTINs. When you license a GS1 US GTIN, your company is uniquely and exclusively identified as the owner of that number, and you get access to other GS1 US member benefits.
What is the difference between a U.P.C. and a GTIN?
Some marketplace guidelines will refer to both U.P.C.s and GTINs, however, the U.P.C. is a barcode symbol with black lines and spaces, and the GTIN is the identification number encoded into the barcode. A U.P.C. barcode, together with a product’s GTIN make it easy for businesses to track a product. However, GTINs are increasingly used on their own in online product listings to help form a bridge between a product’s physical presence and its digital identity and to prove product authenticity.
Can’t I just use my SKUs as my GTINs/U.P.C. s?
SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) created within your propriety systems cannot be used as GTINs. Unlike a SKU, a GTIN issued by GS1 US is unique and globally identifiable as belonging to you alone. However, many businesses use GTINs as SKUs to maintain one consistent identifier for each product.
Do I need a U.P.C. barcode if I only sell my product online? What about a GTIN?
The short answer is “maybe.” Although there are some exemptions, many marketplaces require GTINs or U.P.C.s for unique product identification, so it is always a good idea to check vendor requirements documents. Just keep in mind that unique identification will likely be required if you intend to grow your business and an early investment in unique product identification is a great way to scale seamlessly. Licensing a GS1 US GTIN and associating it with your product online also improves search engine optimization, can validate your product authenticity online, and ensure that the right product reaches the right consumer.
I have licensed my GS1 Company Prefix or GS1 US GTIN and I need to create a barcode. Now what?
Whether you licensed a GS1 Company Prefix or a single GS1 US GTIN, you have access to GS1 US Data Hub | Product, which is an online tool for GS1 US members to create and manage GTINs and barcodes. Once logged in to Data Hub, users can download barcodes in .png format and send to partners digitally. Many members work with a GS1 US Solution Partner to outsource barcode labeling and printing needs. These providers are trained by GS1 US on GS1 Standards for barcodes.
How do I access my GS1 US certificate?
Some retailers and marketplaces will ask you to present your GS1 Company Prefix or GS1 US GTIN certificate. You can find a digital copy of your certificate online by going directly to your myGS1US account. You can also access your myGS1US account through Data Hub by clicking on the Print Identifier Certificate link in the Identifier Tools area. Once on your myGS1 US home page, click on the Identifier Certificates button on the homepage in the Quick Actions section. For a walk-through with visuals, visit the Print A Certificate page in the GS1 US Data Hub Help Center.
What is a GLN?
Many businesses have a need to identify locations similar to the way they identify products. This can help a company enhance their supply chain visibility and transparency. A Global Location Number (GLN) is another type of GS1 identification number used primarily in electronic messages to identify legal and physical locations. For example, the warehouse where you store your product may have a GLN, or even a specific bay or shelf where products are stored can be identified. You might assign your business a GLN to provide it a distinct, global identity for electronic data exchange. You can create GLNs from a GS1 Company Prefix or purchase individual GLNs.
What are some useful tools to help me get started?
One of the first steps that many businesses take before a product launch is to visit the GS1 US Barcode Estimator. This online tool can help you determine how many GTINs you will need based on simple questions about your product variations such as style, color, and size.
Also, for small businesses starting out, the GS1 US Small Business Page features Q&As and videos with other business owners who shared advice about barcoding and other product launch considerations.
Have Additional Questions? Reach out to the GS1 US Member Support Team directly online or by phone.
*In this publication, the letters “U.P.C.” are used solely as an abbreviation for the “Universal Product Code,” which is a product identification system. They do not refer to the UPC, which is a federally registered certification mark of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) to certify compliance with a Uniform Plumbing Code as authorized by IAPMO.