We've been fielding UPC questions from Sellers ever since Amazon changed their GTIN policy in 2016. What do you do if Amazon tells you your GTIN has already been used? How do you add a GS1 GTIN to an old listing? What if Amazon won't recognize your prefix as matching your brand? We spoke to Michelle Covey of GS1 US to get the best troubleshooting steps for these common issues.
[00:00:07] Leah: Hi, I'm Leah McHugh. I am here with Michelle Covey from GS1 US and today we are talking about one of my favorite subjects and probably not most sellers favorite subjects, barcodes, GTINS, and UPCs. Hi Michelle.
[00:00:27] Michelle: Hi, I'm so glad to be with you today. Thank you.
[00:00:30] Leah: Thank you so much for joining us. This is something that we get asked a lot of questions about and it's been, five years now since Amazon changed its policy on this.
[00:00:39] Michelle: It's been several years. And they continue to get stricter and stricter. So I think sellers are finding out more and more that they need to know a little bit more about GS1. So we're here to help as much as we can.
[00:00:51] Leah: Definitely. It's yeah, they really weren't enforcing this a lot until I would say even the last 12 months
[00:00:57] Michelle: it's been more so in the last year that they've gotten a lot more strict, so yes.
[00:01:01] Leah: Definitely. So we just wanted to quickly go through the main issues that we see sellers having when it comes to GS1. We do have an article on the website that goes through all of the, like, what is a GTIN, what is a UPC, so we can skip all over all of that. We already have the basics. Now we're getting into the deep tough stuff. So one thing we see a lot is people's GTINs being hijacked. When they go to create a new listing with their newly purchased GS1 GTIN, and then Amazon comes back with a message saying that this code is already being used on another product.
[00:01:32] Michelle: Yep. So as we started off the call, Amazon has definitely gotten a little bit stricter on their listing process.
[00:01:39] And so a GTIN hijacking scenario can happen where maybe a seller has been on the platform for a while and they didn't understand unique identification. They didn't understand the value of having a uniquely identified GTIN to their product. They may have gone to an unauthorized source for GTINs. So there's a couple of different scenarios there, but regardless, that seller, maybe the original seller doesn't have an authentic GTIN assigned to their product. And then the new seller comes on and they have their, like you said, brand new GS1 GTIN, and they're ready to list and they run into a collision. So we shouldn't see too many of them going forward. It's really, for those sellers that have been on the platform for a while. But there are a couple of steps that a seller can take generally. And you'll see it even on Amazon seller support, where Amazon validates all of the listings against the GS1 database. So a member who comes to GS1 and gets their identifier, they could be assured that they are the owner, the true owner of their GTIN.
[00:02:39] And Amazon does that check against our global registry platform. Make sure that they are, that brand owner is associated to their GTIN. Generally, brand owner or a seller can then provide their GS one company prefix, which is what they, a certificate that they get when they become a member of GS1 US, to prove that they are the true owner.
[00:02:59] And so they could provide that into a seller support center and then continue, and that should help unblock their listing process so they could keep going through the process. We do also find that sometimes that may not work, but GS1 US is here to help. We do have an escalation process because they do use our registry.
[00:03:19] So if you come to GS1 US member support team, we have an escalation process in place, directly with the catalog team that if the, um, providing the GTIN or, and, or the prefix, and then some other steps, some very short form of information. And we submit that in. And then usually those hijacked listings can be removed so that the true seller can then list their product.
[00:03:43] Leah: Okay, great. Yeah, because seller support is inconsistent in their ability on anything really.
[00:03:49] Michelle: Yeah, we usually ask as a first step to provide that GS1 company prefix to seller support. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. So we do have that escalation process in place. And so we do advise members to come to just contact our member support and easy firstname.lastname@example.org
[00:04:08] we can make sure you have that information or call into our support center and our team is here to help them.
[00:04:13] Leah: Okay, great. And sort of similarly, if you're having an older ASEN that you maybe list with a resold GTIN a while ago before the rules changed. If you're now trying to make that ASIN compliant with a new correct GS1 GTIN, what would be the best way to go about updating that existing ASIN with the new code?
[00:04:32] Michelle: Yeah, I guess we call it a, like a GTIN changeover process. So that is a similar situation. So again, if they had an authorized GS1 or an unauthorized identifier on their listing and they want to switch it over to the GS1. Amazon has said the first course of action is to provide all the information to seller support. We find again, that that sometimes is not as reliable of a process. So we do at GS1 US have that same kind of escalation process into Amazon. It does get a little trickier if that seller does have is FBA, participates in FBA, and has fulfilled by Amazon, and has inventory. So there are some extra steps that go into play in that scenario.
Probably too detailed for this, but it just complicates it a little bit. But we do have a process that helps with that changeover.
[00:05:24] Leah: Is it a little bit less complicated if they're using stickered inventory and FBA versus commingled? Yeah. Okay, great. Yep. That makes sense. Cause they're not using the barcode.
And then another one that we're seeing, which is sort of a newer issue, again, as Amazon's getting a little bit more strict on these, is people getting a message back when they try to create a new listing saying that they're using codes that don't match the products they're trying to list.
[00:05:49] Michelle: Yeah, we see a lot of escalations come in because they think, okay, well, GS1 can help with this.
And unfortunately, this is not really a GS1 related issue. It's really more around brand registry. So for example, I'm Michelle shoes and I go to list products and I might be a third-party seller. And I tried to list Nike's in my listing, Nike, may be a gated brand and Michelle's shoes is not allowed to sell it.
So that will stop the listing. Or I would have to then submit my paperwork into brand registry saying, yes, I am an authorized seller of this product line, or if it is truly my brand, but it doesn't match my name. Then I might have to submit again through brand registry, any kind of trademark or licensing information.
So when you get that message, it usually is tied to a brand registry scenario. And so the recommendation is to contact brand registry and go through the proper process there.
[00:06:44] Leah: The way we've been seeing it the most lately is where the GS1 prefix is under their company name. Right. And then they have multiple brand names underneath it. So then it's not matching in Amazon's system. Is there a correct way to set that up on your end?
[00:06:56] Michelle: We're seeing a lot of people say they need to come in and change their company prefix name to their brand name, which is actually not appropriate because it's really, you really should have your prefix under your company name, your organization name.
Okay. So it's that brand because you could have multiple brands. So then you're constantly changing your company prefix. It doesn't make sense. Or the name, the company name associated. So. Again, the prefix should be associated to your company name. The brands then have to be again, registered through brand registry, associated to that company name.
So that's where that confusion should help be clarified.
[00:07:33] Leah: And do you guys have a path to assist with that? If brand registry is less than helpful?
[00:07:39] Michelle: We don't unfortunately, because that is not something it's not really related to a GS1 identifier. So we don't have, I mean, unfortunately, I'd love to say we could, but we just know that it is a brand registry and that is something that is proprietary to Amazon.
[00:07:53] Leah: [00:07:53] That's okay. That makes sense. I mean, you're starting to get into like IP and all sorts of issues there, so exactly. To get involved. Yep. And then if you are the owner of GTINs and say you have an old one that you used to sell on a product, but you no longer sell that product. Can you then use that old code on a new product?
[00:08:13] Michelle: So the GTIN management standard changed in 2018 I believe, several years ago. So prior to that brands were, there were some scenarios you are able to reuse GTINs on products that were no longer sold in market after a period of time. Um, that standard changed. So some people may have been using that standard or feeling like they could reuse products or GTINs prior to that standard change.
But now, because products can live in marketplaces much longer than what an original brand manufacturer had intended, the standard has changed so that the GTIN associated to the product originally should stay on that product and associated to that product and never be reused in market. So if you do have a new product, you are supposed to assign a new GTIN to that.
[00:08:59] Leah: It's interesting because usually, we see that error with larger brands. Actually, if people try to resell larger brands, those up is already being
[00:09:06] Michelle: well. It's the larger brands. Yeah. The larger brands probably were used to the pre-2018 GTIN standard. And so there's been a lot of education and we need to continue to bring that education out to those brands that GTINs should not be reused.
[00:09:20] Leah: Right. And it must have, you know, affect your selling a collectible item as well. Those stay in the market for who knows how long. So again, you're just causing more headaches on the logistics side of things. Yep. Not even mentioning the Amazon side of things,
[00:09:33] Michelle: sales analytics, and a whole bunch of other things that original GTIN is associated to that you don't want to change that GTIN.
[00:09:41] Leah: Yeah. That makes sense. And then actually that makes, kind of leads us into the next thing I wanted to talk about, which is that you at GS1 US are now offering single GTINs. So people don't have to buy a whole lot if they only sell one product.
[00:09:53] Michelle: Yeah. So we understand that sometimes, especially those smaller micro-businesses or those early product launches, some sellers only want to launch one or two products.
And felt that when they came to GS1, our bundled options were still were priced a little too high for those initial price offerings. So we listened to the market and we wanted to make sure we had offerings that would appeal to even those small brands. So we now launched the single GTIN offering versus buying them in bundles where you could get a prefix and then enumerate your GTINs from that.
So the single GTIN offering we launched in November, it allows sellers to come get one, two, three GTINs if they need. At $30 each and there's no renewal fee associated it's just a one-time fee. And then that GTIN, they would get the same benefits. They would get their GTIN certificate, um, that they could send into Amazon and prove that they're the true owner of their GTINs are also registered in that global registry platform I was mentioning, that Amazon does a lot of validations against. So it's still treated as an identifier used in market from GS1.
[00:10:58] Leah: Great. Especially for people just getting started. I think as you go along and start selling more and more products, particularly with all of the issues we were talking about with brand registry and such, it's probably better to get the full prefix later on, but just getting started or just testing out a new brand that single GTIN is going to be great.
[00:11:14] Michelle: There are some business decisions too on getting that prefix cause that prefix allows sellers to enumerate other identifiers that might be used in other channels.
[00:11:24] Leah: Right. Like EDI and stuff like that. Yep. That's actually something that I think maybe a lot of Amazon sellers who only sell on Amazon don't know is that that prefix is used in a lot of other ways in the logistics supply chain.
[00:11:37] Michelle: So it's another business decision. As Amazon sellers go to create their business, where do they want to sell? And if they're going to expand channels, they're going to have to look at how do they want to identify their products and then possibly go into other channels and need other identifiers for logistics tracking and that sort of thing.
[00:11:54] Leah: Right. Yeah. It's a lot easier if you can just set it up the way it needs to be set up in the first place. And then one more question I had, which is about licensed products, which again is something we're seeing more and more as they're getting more strict on matching GTINs against brand registry. If you're selling a licensed product, which brand, or which company should the GTIN be under, should that be under the licensor or the licensee?
[00:12:16] Michelle: So the standard is that the GTIN that the original manufacturer of the product. That GTIN should be the one used. So if you are a licensee, you should still use the original GTIN associated to the product. So don't reassign your own GTIN. You should use the original brand manufacturer's GTIN. There are some scenarios where a seller may sell bundles of products.
And so that's where the seller can then assign their own GTIN. So like shampoo, you have a bottle of shampoo and a bottle of conditioner, both should have their unique GTINs associated to them. But if then you sell them and you're like an authorized third-party seller, you could bundle that and then create your own GTIN for that bundle of the shampoo and conditioner.
[00:13:03] Leah: Right, that is something where if the products are a gated brand, we are finding people run into issues if they bundle it under their own UPC, Amazon then comes back and says it doesn't match. But again, it depends on the brand and it depends on brand registry.
[00:13:15]Michelle: That's very true. You have to consider that too. It gets complex when you start talking about gated brands .
[00:13:20] Leah: And unfortunately they don't give you a list of those.
[00:13:24] Michelle: No, you find it out the hard way.
[00:13:27] Leah: And then last question was, I wanted to ask you what is a GTIN-14, and what should sellers be using that for?
[00:13:34] Michelle: Okay, good question. And we get this a lot too in some of the escalations, because when a seller goes to list products, initially they go, okay, I have my GS1 GTIN and the first thing they see is enter your identifier and then you get a GTIN.
And then you also see EAN, UPC, ISBN. So that GTIN, when you go to list is actually associated to the GTIN-14, which is a 14 digit identifier. And that's usually for like a logistical identifier, so more of a pallet or a case, depending on upper-level packaging. So it's usually not the each, but it's usually, a larger, like that larger logistical unit.
So you could, and they originally weren't considered for sale. They are usually more for logistical, but we're seeing more and more companies are using that. Like you could actually buy a case or a right if you want. Yeah. So that's why Amazon accepts that GTIN-14.
[00:14:24] Leah: [00:14:24] Great. Thank you so much for this.
We've been getting these questions for like years and I feel like other than telling them to go to seller support, we really haven't been able to give sellers a lot of information. So thank you so much for joining us today. This has been great.
[00:14:37] Michelle: You're welcome. Of course. Glad to help.
[00:14:39] Leah: Yeah, and I will have all of your information in the show notes as to how people can get more information on GS1, where they can buy single codes or prefixes.
[And you also shared an info sheet with me before we recorded this, and that will be included as well. So thank you guys so much and thank you, Michelle.
[00:14:56]Michelle: Sounds great. You're welcome. Thank you.