EP 17: Understanding GTINs with Michelle from GS1 US

Narrator: (00:01)
Welcome to the Process to e-com profit podcast, where we know top line sales just isn’t enough to have the business of your dreams learn to run a profitable business online that doesn’t run you.

Robyn: (00:17)
Welcome To the Process, to Econ Profits podcast. Today we have Michelle from GS one us here to talk to us about UPCs barcodes at really those GTIN’S, those global trade identification numbers that are important not only to sell on Amazon, sell on Walmart, but also in brick and mortar, especially if you get into the big stores, you’re going to have to have barcodes for most products. So barcodes are a big part of being a, someone who sells physical products. And today, Michelle’s gonna answer all of our questions about GS one, and how it works. so thank you, Michelle. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and kind of what you do at GS one us?

Michelle: (00:55)
Sure. First of all, thank you for having me on today. I really am happy to be able to talk about UBC’s and barcodes and all fun stuff. so I’m Michelle Covey. I, work for GS one us. and, my main, job at GS one US is really to help educate, our community about what we do, and, explain, I guess, try to demystify barcodes and all the other GS one standards that we manage. So, GS one is a global standards organization. we are, most known for the UPC barcode, but, we essentially, manage, a set of business standards that allow, training partners to be able to exchange product information, location information, product master data information in a standardized way. and that is globally, recognized so that trading partners can do business around the world. so, here I am today to talk about barcodes and kind of help answer some of your questions.

Cindy: (01:58)
One of the things that I’m really curious about, Michelle, is, you know, we’re, we’ve been through a crazy ride with, with the pandemic and now, this inflation and talk of recession. I’m just curious, for someone who is actually involved in, creating and selling barcodes, what have you seen in, in, in as far as trends with physical products? And, do you have any, any crystal ball as to where things might be going?

Michelle: (02:29)
? Well, I wish I had a crystal ball. I don’t think, I think we all do. but really what we saw over the last couple of years were, a lot of, with, especially with the pandemic and everybody kind of shuttered up in their homes, we saw a lot of small businesses start off. And so we had a lot of those mom and pops that come to us and, and look for, what, getting a barcode. So a lot of things, and I do it too. So I’m very, I’m very guilty of this. But one of the things I think we should start with is what’s the difference between ufc, you’ve heard gin or GTIN, barcode, all that stuff. So one of the things that we do is we help those small businesses when they do come to us, try to figure out what is all this, what is all the terminology, what do we mean, and why is it important to get, an identifier for your product?

Michelle: (03:16)
so I’ll start with what’s the difference between a gin and a UPC and a barcode, if that helps. because that is one of the first things that we help sellers with. a lot of times you’ll see, and especially if there are small sellers that sell on Amazon, it’ll say, one of the first things that it asks is, what’s your product identifier? What’s your gin, What’s your upc? E n a gin is a global trade item number. It’s essentially those little numbers that you see, associated to a barcode on a product that goes beep at the checkout stand. and even though Amazon doesn’t really have a beep, it still requires those numbers. So those numbers are the, the identifier that uniquely identify an item, and then, they get encoded into a barcode. So, like I said, sometimes we interchange the G 10, which is the number and a barcode because they get encoded in it for a, a machine to read it. So again, the first step is to identify your product uniquely with that, that number. And that number’s kind of like a license plate. Think of it as like a, like either a social security number and a license plate that uniquely identifies that one, product. which is really important for many reasons. But, that’s, you know, usually the first starting point for, sellers is to be able to identify your product uniquely and they come to GS one.

Cindy: (04:37)
And is that, is that code, I’m sorry, is that code universal? I mean, is it across all countries or is it just us?

Michelle: (04:46)
So the, the benefit of coming to GS one and getting, a G 10 or an identifier from us, it is, globally unique. so we manage, when we, whether it comes from GS one, represent, we, our company works with the US market, but there are other GS one member organizations around the world. So like GS one, uk, GS one, Brazil, GS one, Germany, they all issue G tens as well. but we’re all issue something, out of a system that is globally unique and can be recognized around the world. So, you could mark your I, item with a UPC or G 10 from GS one us and it could be, accepted in Europe and vice versa. So that’s why, you know, we called it globally, globally global, excuse me, global trade item number.

Robyn: (05:36)
And I know that for a long time on Amazon it was really popular and I, I was even guilty of this, you know, seven years ago if you needed a upc, you would go to eBay, you’d buy a hundred of ’em for five bucks or whatever it was, and you’d use that for your products. And now I know what havoc that causes, so I would never do that anymore. But can you talk kind of briefly about if people are thinking of doing that? I mean, obviously just there’s several, but what are some reasons why not to do that?

Michelle: (06:03)
That’s actually a really good question. So we do know that there are, companies out there that do claim that they, issue gins or, or UPCs. really if, if you want a, a true GS one issued, G 10, you should come to GS one. we don’t have any kind of agreements with any other parties out there. and I think some people go to eBay, because they think it’s, maybe more affordable or it’s easier. what happens though, and you’ll see this even on Amazon, and other retailers, they want to make sure that the, the seller is associated to their, their company and that that gin is associated to their company as well. And so they check our database that, where we record all of the, the gins that are issued to sellers, so they, they trust our database is up to date.

Michelle: (06:58)
And so, coming to GS one, you get recorded into our database, we, that allows, you know, Amazon and other retailers to check the authenticity, and ma ensure that, that they’re getting a globally unique, number. the problem if you do go to a non GS one source is one, Amazon may reject your G 10 and ask you to come back to GS one. but there are also other, issues that you have to consider if you do go that route and, and maybe you ran into this Robin, if you then mark your product with it and you put it on your package, then you end up with a lot more cost because then you might have to repackage your product, you might have to, you know, do relabeling and there could be additional costs involved. so again, we always recommend it’s a business decision. but we do recommend if you do want to, you know, start off with the right foundation, come to GS one and get your G 10 from us, versus some of those other third party sellers.

Robyn: (08:00)
And, Amazon has been kicking back some air codes lately. and if so, you know, you when somebody buys their, Can you first, let’s, let’s start with step one. Can you explain a little bit about how the prefixes work and how the, how Amazon is able to see if this is really a Disney bar code or this is really a Lego barcode?

Michelle: (08:20)
So again, like I said, when you come, when a,  we call members, when a member comes to us, and it, licenses, a gin or a prefix with us, we record that into our database. So we do have a couple of options you could get. so we’ll talk about prefixes. Prefixes allow, a seller to, get their gins in bulk. So whether it’s 1,000, a thousand, they could come to us and that prefix allows them to enumerate, quite a few or you know, that a number of gins, based on the capacity that they need. if they want just a single G 10, then they could get just a one or two.

Robyn: (09:00)
So one of the things that has been, so one of the things that has been happening a lot on Amazon, you know, like I’ll get like messages from people that are, you know, like the struggling getting their product on Amazon because, it’s saying that Amazon is saying that, you know, the barcode, you know, they’ll give this kickback in air that basically says that, the UPC that they provided doesn’t match what’s in the GS one barcode. Can you talk a little bit about those air codes and kind of how, like Lego, how, how does Amazon know that this UPC is not a Lego, upc, so the people can understand why they, why, why, why we’re getting those, those errors as we create those products on Amazon?

Michelle: (09:39)
Sure. So, again, when, a seller comes to GS one and licenses, and identifier with us, whether it’s a G 10 or if they get a prefix that allows them a capacity of G 10 s, they get registered into our, GS one database. we call it, I call it GEPIR. anybody can access it, it’s on our website too. But, Amazon refer, does a sync to, our database to ensure that those G 10 s or those identifiers are issued by a GS one organization. so if, again, if you’re going to a non GS one source, your identifiers are not gonna be recorded in our database. and that again ensures that your company is associated to your G 10 or your, your, your prefix your block of G tens. And, it can help with, you know, brand authentication. It could help with counterfeit, so that, you know, Amazon or any other retailer can, ensure that, that we’ve, you know, got you recorded in our database correctly. So again, it’s really for, you know, to help Amazon ensure the seller is, is who they are

Robyn: (10:52)
When people use those recycled UPCs things, you know, one of the things that would happen was is, you know, somebody would create this under some, maybe some company that kind of has gone out of business, and then when GS one would resell that barcode, then all of a sudden now there was two products with the same G T I N. And so it can cause a lot of issues. It can make it so you have to like manually label things, so it can cause a lot of, of hassle for you further down the road. I know that when, if people have been coming from buying products, you know, buying UPCs on eBay, then when they go to GS one, it seems like the prices are just extraordinarily high, but the, the reason they’re higher there is because it provides that global, you know, you’re able to use that barcode globally. Is that That’s correct. Right.

Michelle: (11:36)
Yeah. and I think, so I wanna address a couple things in there. So yes, you know, coming to GS one is actually the, the right source. and like I said before, if you go to a, a non GS one source, it could end up costing more money in the, the end with relabeling having to actually then come back to GS one. one of the things that we did, do though, at GS one us is we listened to the market and realized that some of the sellers, especially those very small sellers, may only want one or two G tens. And instead of buying the packs like the prefixes where you could get, like bundles of, you know, a hundred, a thousand, 10,000, a lot of times they just wanted one or two and, and to your point, they might have been, past their price point.

Michelle: (12:25)
And so, two years ago we, rolled out the single G 10 offering so that it can help those smaller businesses come and just get one or two G 10 s and not feel like, you know, they’re paying a lot of money for, for, you know, more gins than they don’t, than they need. So, our single G 10 offering was, is very, popular, especially for those Amazon sellers that only have a couple of products. so hopefully it’s not as, as expensive as it was, you know, seemed several years ago and we’d really tried to help with that, offering. So, and you don’t have to pay a renewal fee on those single G tens. So that was a, a big bonus for some of those small sellers as well.

Cindy: (13:07)
Well, and the cost of having to pay for, pay for it on the cheap and then buy it again and then possibly delay getting your product to market and the cost of maybe having your product suspended, I mean, those are all real costs. So doing it right the first time certainly makes a lot more sense.

Michelle: (13:24)
Definitely. And there’s a lot of benefits too when you, come to GS one, first of all, you know, you get the right identifier, but we do provide tools so that the sellers can, be able to create their barcodes, especially if you get a prefix. we have tools so that they could enumerate their, their G 10 s, accordingly cuz there’s, you know, a calculation with check digits. But we also have our data hub tool, that allows those sellers to assign product information so they could start building out, you know, their product file. plus we also have a lot of resources for education and training, you know, just a lot more, resources at their hands. so they could, when they do expand their businesses, hopefully they do, they understand how GS one can help with other business transactions. Not just identifying your product, but how to ship your product. How do you, mark your cartons with, you know, barcodes for, shipping, how do you share product information back and forth to your trading partners? So there’s a lot of other resources that we provide.

Robyn: (14:26)
Can you talk a little bit about using the GT, using the UPCs or you know, what you have from UPCs like you just said about shipping? Can you talk briefly about that? Cause I don’t think that that’s talked about as much.

Michelle: (14:36)
Yeah, so, so not only do you if you come to GS one and get your identifiers for your products, especially if you get, our prefix, the, that prefix helps you also create, shipping carton labels if you, you, especially if you’re starting to ship into those brick and mortars that need, carton labels, assigned. So, just a lot of other identifiers could be created from that, that prefix, which are really used in, in some of the big box retailers, to help standardize all of that, trade of through the supply chain. So I mean, that’s what we do. We help, you know, apply and provide standards so that these trading partners can do business more efficiently. and so again, signing product, signing numbers, not just your products, but to your logistical units, to locations, that’s what GS one can help with.

Robyn: (15:30)
And I think that, one of the things that can be that, that I think that GS one, data hub is, is really important too, cuz it’s easy to lose a spreadsheet or, you know, to, you know, mismanage that we’ve actually had, companies, you know, we, we’ve created products for us, we have ’em check them, and then low and behold, we, they had us, they gave us the wrong UPC for the wrong product and changing a UPC on seller Central like God has to come down on a cloud to make that happen. You know, like, like acts of Congress are easier. so, I think that using a data hub like that could really help make small clerical mistakes that can create huge nightmares with items being mislabeled or, being uploaded to marketplaces incorrectly.

Michelle: (16:17)
Right. And I think too, it also helps, especially sellers because, you know, a lot of the sellers, they’re, they just wanna get their product to market. They, you know, creating gins and, and UPCs from a prefix is not what they’re really, you know, an ex need to be an expert at. And so using that data hub tool really helps take that logic out. and it helps with some of the common errors could be, a wrong check digit, it could be, you know, just mismanaging your prefix and assigning new numbers. So it just, we really try to make it easy as possible, to take out all that confusion from sellers so they can focus mostly on getting their, their products into the market and making money sooner. So

Robyn: (16:56)
Yeah, I think so too. And if you could, if you had a chance, if you, when if you was one thing, you’re like, man, I wish that, you know, small sellers, medium sellers knew this one thing, what would it, what be the one thing that you meant? I wish I could tell them that.

Michelle: (17:10)
one of the things that I always, like to remind sellers from, especially if you’re starting with one or two products, two, two things. think for growth, like your product’s gonna be successful, so plan for growth. so do you need one or two products, or identifiers or do you think you’re gonna have, you know, 10 products, a hundred products by the end of the next two years? So do you, you know, plan your identifiers that way? So do you want just singles or do you want a prefix? So that’s one of my first things. But then also plan for growth. where do you wanna sell A lot of, sellers start on just Amazon, and, that gets their product discovered and then, you know, they want to then sell into Walmart or into Target or into their local, brick and mortar. So again, being able to have all those identifiers, being able to have a barcode on your product, being able to understand what are some of the other, GS one standards that are needed to trade with those larger retailers, can be a benefit too. So just understand where you want to, place your product or see it in the future, and understand what those retail trading partners, business requirements are and, and how we could help.

Cindy: (18:26)
One, one question that, that I have, Michelle, is, what, and this is really basic, but what is, what is required for a, for a code? So for example, I have a t-shirt and I’m gonna have it in multiple colors. Are, are each of those, a unique identifier code or does, does one code do it? How, how, how many codes do you need if you’re gonna have variations on your product?

Michelle: (18:56)
That’s, that’s an excellent question. And this is another, common mistake or, misconception you say, I have a water bottle, I need to identify a water bottle. But if you have, or an apparel too. But if you have two or three sizes, maybe a 60 ounce and a 24 ounce and a 32 ounce, if you provide that in three colors, you need a unique identifier for each variation. So, so that you could uniquely identify, and especially think about it, when you go to buy, something online, you wanna make sure you have the right color and the right size of your product. And so each one of those variation needs a unique identifier. on our, on our website@gsoneus.org, we have a, a barcode estimator tool. So if you don’t know, we talk, especially if you’re coming to us for the first time, we have a little tool that helps, you know, sellers determine, okay, how many do I need? If I have a product with so many sizes and so many colors, then it could give you an estimate of how many you might need. but each individual variation needs a unique identifier and it, and it helps for so many, so many reasons, not just to uniquely identify, but it for inventory control. you could do sales analysis, based on, you know, which color, which size sales better, You know, there’s a lot of, a lot of data that could be collected on each unique, variation that could then help your business.

Cindy: (20:21)
So I would think the, the number of people that really just need one barcode is probably pretty small when they get started really thinking about the, variations their products might have.

Michelle: (20:32)
Yeah. So you know, that’s, and that’s again, maybe it could be a common error. People come to us and they think that they only need one or two, they get a single and then they realize, oh wait, I needed actually a hundred or, you know, 20, maybe not a hundred. But, so then they’ll have to come back and then license either a prefix or continue to get with, come back. So, it’s always easier to try to understand how many products you have up front and how many you’ll, you’ll need for, to be uniquely identified so that, again, you, you get the right identifier when you first come to us.

Robyn: (21:04)
And if you’re listening and being like, Man, I have a clothing apparel line, and that would be so much money that depending on the kind of product you are on, if you’re just gonna sell on Amazon, then there it might be where you are able to get a GTN exemption. but some categories don’t provide that. If you wanna sell on vendor central, they, they don’t allow that there. You have to have a upc and if you’re gonna get into Nordstrom’s Dillards, you can’t be like, Oh, I didn’t wanna buy the barcodes. You’re, you’re gonna have to make sure that you have the proper Barco so that you can get into brick and mortar. So when you’re looking at the cost, don’t just look at the cost, but look at what are the distribution channels you plan to be in, and like really looking at, you know, where are my long term goals? Where are the next channels that I’m gonna be looking at? Not just what is, what do I need today just on Amazon?

Cindy: (21:54)
Well, and I thought Michelle’s point was really good too, and the number is used for so many things like inventory tracking. And I can tell you from our work with our clients in accounting, the inventory tracking is something that people really struggle with. So having that unique number to using your system, will really give you so much better data for managing your business too.

Michelle: (22:16)
Yep. And, and like I said, sales analysis too. So, you know, we also know that, you know, some of the summer colors or you know, the, the pastels sell better and the in like Florida versus, you know, black in New York City or something like that. So you could do sales analysis and see where your products are selling and, and how well they’re

Robyn: (22:36)
Doing. And then, you know, you said you recently made it, so how long ago was that change? Cuz I did notice that the last time I went I was like, I can buy one barcode for like, I think it was like 42 bucks. I was like, that’s a lot less than I remember it being. so it, how, what have, what trends are you seeing now that you’ve added that ability? or what, what trends are you seeing in general?

Michelle: (22:57)
Well, so when we launched the single G 10, it was really in response to several, a couple things. We did some market research, where we are seeing a lot more smaller businesses come, you know, try to start, especially on Amazon, cuz Amazon’s pretty easy for those small, businesses to, to at least put in, you know, launch a couple of products and see how well they do. it really is. and also I think in, I mean, we launched the single G 10 prior to the pandemic, but it was something that we’ve seen an uptick again, with everybody being locked at home . a lot of the people were, you know, just trying to get their foot in the door, see if they, you know, wanna launch a lot of hand sanitizers, you know, cleaning products, toys and games.

Michelle: (23:46)
Those were interesting. We saw some, sellers come to us that were new in those spaces, but they had time on their hand. And so those small businesses, you know, came to us to get, you know, a handful of gins to launch their products. I think, you know, it’ll be interesting to see now that a lot of, you know, what we’re seeing is a lot of sellers are actually starting to go back to the store, to the brick and mortar to see if some of those, small businesses, you know, we still see the trend of small businesses, come to us or if we’re gonna get, more and more of the, the larger capacity. So it’ll be interesting to see

Robyn: (24:24)
It, it, it would be, it’s always interesting to me to see how, especially looking at pre versus post, it’s always interesting to see how, you know, patterns have changed, not consumers, but all the way there you’d, we’d asked that we haven’t asked yet.

Michelle: (24:41)
There are a couple things that, we find that there are common, like errors or issues that, when members come to us and say, I’m having these problems on Amazon, that we always can give tips and tricks to. So there’s, a couple of, ones that I think right off the bat is when a seller, first starts to list their product on Amazon, the first question is enter your product identifier and it, they’re given a dropdown of either G 10 EAN or upc. And that could be very confusing because when you come to GS one, we say get your gins, But, then when you, get that identifier, if it’s a 12 digit that’s actually in Amazon, that’s, a UPC because that G 10 is, G ten’s like a family of, identifiers. So the 12 digit G 10 is really associated to the UPC barcode, whereas the 13 digit G 10 is associated to the EAN barcode.

Michelle: (25:42)
So we usually have to, remind, some of our members that the, the Amazon terminology and the way we talk about G tens are a little bit, they’re, they’re the same, but they’re, they could get confusing. So if you have a 12 digit, you’re supposed to use the upc, If you have 13 digit, you’re supposed to use the EAN. Those are usually issued out of, GS one member organizations like in Europe or in Brazil or South America. whereas US and Canada usually issue those 12 digit. And then the G 10 is really the 14 digit, identifier, which is usually associated to like, a carton or, a case. So, so that’s one of the issues, that we hear a lot of questions when, sellers go to list on Amazon, that first question. And then another one we get, another common, question we get is if, when listing you get a, there there’s an error of, there’s, it does not match, like the, the details do not match.

Michelle: (26:42)
And that could be with brand, like if you don’t put in the right brand or if your brand name doesn’t associate to your legal entity name. and a lot of, sellers come to us and then want to change their company name to their brand name. and, and obviously we don’t wanna advise that because your legal entity should stay your legal entity name. So, usually that could be helped by, registering your brand through brand registry if appropriate, or providing, Amazon all of the appropriate documentation of your, of your brand. So, it doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t make sense to change your legal entity and I always give the example of Coca-Cola company would never come to us and say it changed my, my legal entity name just bright. So, and then it makes sense to people.

Michelle: (27:28)
So we always, because we get that question a lot where, sellers wanna come to us. So it’s really just providing Amazon the right documentation of your brand. and then the other common one we see, and I think you guys might have heard this one, is, that the product already exists on the catalog and that can sometimes be a G 10 hi, what we call a G 10 hijacking scenario. And that’s where maybe a bad actor, on the platform either used an identifier, they made it up and it just happened to collide with the true GS one member that is associated to it. Or they, we don’t know. We don’t know how that, that, that, you know, and not authorized seller got that G 10, but when the GS one member, tries to list and they get that error, it could be very frustrating. So, providing that GS one company certificate to Amazon, can be helpful to, you know, have the, the non, GS one owner of that or the hijacker, delisted and have that member be able to list their own product. So those are some of the, the three common ones that we usually have to help members through.

Robyn: (28:39)
I think that, especially with the matching thing, you know, you have to really think about if you’re on, when you’re on Amazon, you need to think about what did you use for brand registry? And, because it’s not just, you know, especially if you’re a brand that has sub brands in it, so if you’re like Coca-Cola and Sprite, you really have to think about that as you’re creating your listings, as you’re filing for brand registry, how do we wanna do it? And making sure it’s uniform across all of your products. So if you’re gonna use the sub brand, then you should use the SUBBRAND for all of them, or you should use the master brand for all of them. So it’s easy for people to navigate and you can pull in on a store page, you can pull in additional brands that you own into that store page a little bit. So really, you know, this is where it can be helpful to work with an agency where they can tell you what you can and what you can’t do. but also you could be there, you have some pretty good support at GS one us too, right?

Michelle: (29:31)
We do. But on some of those other, like you just mentioned, that’s why we, work with a lot of partners in the community because, you know, we’re not experts on listing on Amazon. We know the standards, but we know that there are, you know, there’s a lot more resources out there that could help with some of the more specific questions such as that. So, you know, that’s why we, we love to collaborate with a lot of the partners out there and help with at least, navigating through UPCs and barcodes and standards. but let the experts, you know, help the, the sellers with all the other issues when listing

Robyn: (30:07)
Great. well, I, I know I wanna make sure that we’re respectful for your, to your time. you given us a lot of great information here. If people want to, you know, find out more about the, especially like the trainings that GS one, GS one US offers, or you know, how to, how to find out more information, what’s the best way for them to reach out to your company?

Michelle: (30:26)
So, we have a lot of resources on our webpage. So our webpage is GS one us.org. we have, like, one of the first questions is how to get a barcode. So we have a, a page and like I said, we have the barcode estimator on there. we have a great YouTube channel, so the GS one US YouTube channel has a lot of, short videos that explain some of the standards, in, you know, so you don’t have to go through lengthy, tutorials or read, long documents. We’ve, we try to make it short and easy for, people who have not a lot of time, but like need to understand what the difference is between a UPC and a barcode. so our YouTube channel is, is has a lot of resources there. And then we also have an online learning, management center, like most, companies, you could just click on our little learning management center. And we have access to webinars, we have, resources, we have classes, a lot of different resources there too.

Robyn: (31:26)
well, I wanna thank you for coming on today. I know that you’re, you’re busy, and it’s the summer, and so we really appreciate you, you coming on and sharing with us today. this has been another episode of the Process to Econ Profits podcast.

Narrator: (31:39)
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