Navigating GS1 Standards to Safeguard Your Brand and Conquer Marketplace Challenges
GS1 plays a pivotal role in global commerce by providing standardized identification solutions like UPC barcodes that ensure product authenticity, streamline supply chains, and enable accurate transactions for businesses and consumers alike.
In this episode, Leah and Michelle Covey from GS1 US delve into how GS1 facilitates product identification for Amazon sellers, ensuring genuine and verified product listings, while also exploring the broader applications of GS1 standards in optimizing supply chain operations and combating marketplace abuse.
Leah: [00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to Seller Performance Solutions. I'm Leah McHugh from ecommerceChris, and today I'm here with Michelle Covey of GS1 US. Hey Michelle. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Michelle: Hi, Leah. Nice to be with you again today.
Leah: Yeah. So first off, let's just get started. For those who aren't familiar what is GS1 and why is that something that Amazon should know about?
Michelle: Sure. So GS1 is a global standards organization. We are best known For the UPC barcode we do manage a lot of other global standards, but especially as it's relates to Amazon, most of the members come to us to get their product identification to list on Amazon. And that's the main reason for Amazon sellers to engage with GS1, but we are known as a global standards organization.
We manage a lot of other business standards to help businesses transact and have supply chain efficiencies through automation of barcoding [00:01:00] and warehouse processes too.
Leah: Yeah, absolutely. And yeah, so I think, you know, for most of our listeners, maybe their first experience with you guys was for Amazon.
But certainly as they start selling in other places and particularly physical retailers they come to realize that you guys do a little bit more than just that barcode on the product.
Michelle: Yes, we do. We could spend a whole time talking about all that, but it's very complex. So we'll just talk to how Amazon sellers engage with GS1 pretty much around that product identifier, but we help Amazon sellers on many ways in the listing process too.
So we can chat about how GS1 is here to help out.
Leah: Yeah, absolutely. And so maybe we can start with what are some of the things that sellers often have issues with when they first get started with GS1 on Amazon.
Michelle: Well, first of all one of the first things Amazon asks for is for sellers to identify their product.
And again, that's where sellers will engage with GS1. They will come to us to get their bar, we'll call it barcode. It's also used [00:02:00] interchangeably with GTIN, the global trade item number or UPC or EAN if you're in Europe they're all kind of used interchangeably, but really it's that number that is associated to your product.
You'll see that number also at the bottom of a barcode that gets scanned, it goes beep at the checkout stand when you're at the grocery store. But that is really why members will come to us, get their identification need Uniquely identify their products to be able to list on Amazon.
And I think the importance of coming to GS1 is we do ensure that that product identifier is genuine. It is associated to the company and Amazon claims on their seller support that they do verify those through the GS1 database. So we want to make sure that we're getting sellers started off on the right foot.
Coming to GS1, getting their identifiers instead of going elsewhere because there are other you know, places that they can get identification. But Amazon doesn't have that verification in place for [00:03:00] other sources. They come to GS1 to verify that the GTIN came from GS1.
Leah: Actually, one of the issues that we regularly see sellers come across is if they have a parent company and then multiple brands underneath the company. Basically, you need to get your UPCs whitelisted and so they're regularly asking for either, GS1 certificate, and then also the relationship between the parent company and the brand names.
We're seeing that more and more, actually, Amazon requesting that documentation from GS1.
Michelle: Well, you bring that up that they ask it from GS1, the brand name that is associated to the company is actually managed by the brand owner. So we do provide the data that associates that item number to that company, but that brand name is actually something that the brand owner or the seller would have to provide.
So there is a little misconception. We do get a lot of those calls saying that GS1 has to provide that brand name authorization. When it's really on the brand and it is a misconception a lot of times because our members will [00:04:00] come to us and ask to change their company name to their brand name because they want the brand name in the database.
And I always give the example. Coca Cola would never change their company name to Sprite. Sprite's brand in their portfolio, but they would never change their company name to Sprite. So, we don't have our members do the same. What the seller would have to do is actually provide that proof to Amazon that they are the rightful owner of that brand or they are a legitimate authorized seller of that brand.
Whether they show a picture of the brand on their product or a website there's a couple of different things that Amazon might ask for in order to prove that brand name association the company.
Leah: Yeah, well, ideally you can use your trademark registration because ideally the trademark is owned by the company that also owns the UPCs.
So we usually find that a combination of the GS1 certificate showing that their company owns UPCs and then the trademark registration. Assuming it's under the same company name, hopefully it's under the same company name. That [00:05:00] tends to be the most sure bet way of getting those approved. And then once it's approved, you know, they can list their branded products.
It's not like on a per product basis, which is good because sometimes Amazon does make you come back every single time to do things. So this one, you're good to go with your brand. Once you get that approved, which is nice. Another issue that we see pretty regularly with sellers is they go to list their products with their freshly minted GS1 UPCs, and then Amazon Systems tells them that there's another product being sold under that UPC and that they can't list their new product. Is this something that you guys hear about a lot, I imagine?
Michelle: Yes we call that a GTIN hijacking scenario where if you are the legitimate owner of that UPC and it seems that some other seller has used it on the platform You could prove that you're the owner.
So you have that GS1 company certificate that shows that you're the owner. What we suggest to do, and Amazon did [00:06:00] update their standard operating procedure, their SOP, to handle such scenarios. When you send in the case to selling partner support, reference GTIN hijacking in your case, and that way it will actually be routed to the right queue in order for the Amazon selling partner support team to help get your product listed with your rightful barcode or your UPC, and then take down the invalid listing.
And so put the words GTIN hijack or GTIN hijacking in your case. And again, it'll get routed to the right queue, but provide your GS1 certificate and that will also prove that you are the owner of that GTIN.
Leah: Right. That's really great because previously just going through regular seller support.
One, they didn't really know what you were talking about half the time. And two, they didn't necessarily have the tools to help you there. So that's really great because I'm not sure how many sellers would naturally use the term GTIN hijacking. So that's a really great tip for a lot of people.
Michelle: Exactly. [00:07:00] And again, it's a term we've kind of dubbed but it is something that Amazon has also in talking with them and helping out them kind of create this sOP that was kind of the terminology that we decided on. So trying to get the word out and we tell our members when they come to us and have that issue.
Leah: That's really great. Cause I think most sellers will just say barcode or UPC, you know, GTIN isn't necessarily part of their regular template.
Michelle: And even providing the error, the listed error code. I think that also helps too.
Leah: So another way that we've also been seeing the GS1 certificate come in handy for sellers is abuse on the marketplace is pretty rife. And so often if your listing is hijacked you can use... Well, so one, you can use product images to show that it's your product as well.
But if somebody changes the brand's name and Amazon pushes back saying that, well, no, they own this product the GS1 certificate [00:08:00] is also quite useful in proving that it is your product and that you do own it. And it isn't whatever the brand has been changed to. But we also are seeing more and more sellers looking at that data of their competitors and using it to help identify review hijacking and reporting that sort of abuse because you often see products that are associated with multiple UPCs in Amazon's backend, often completely unrelated to completely different companies that have then been either merged or put together as ASIN variation families with everything out of stock.
So it looks like a brand new product has 5, 000 reviews, 50, 000 reviews when it's a newly launched product. And what I find interesting in this is that the FTC is also paying a lot more attention to this as well. And again, like using that data from GS1 and from Amazon, you can also report that sort of abuse to the FTC.
And that's something that we're talking to sellers quite a lot [00:09:00] about recently, because there is renewed interest from the FTC and within Amazon, because the FTC is interested in it. So it's interesting because we've gone from however many years ago that Amazon changed their UPC policy.
What was that? Five or six? Where most people didn't even know what GS1 was for Amazon. And now it's like, we're using the GS1 certificate more and more with sellers.
Michelle: Yeah. And it's really fascinating too, because I think Amazon starting to understand the value of all of the GS1 system of standards too.
So not just on product identification, but, you know, starting to look at other areas of some of the GS1 standards. Product information and images, things like that, that like you said, all are very important on product listings and as we're talking more and more with them, the product certification claims, like the climate pledge friendly work that Amazon has been really advocating for, they've [00:10:00] engaged us to, to determine how to link those sort of certifications to actual GTINs to make sure that they are actual verified certifications to prove that they are associated to that product. I think it's amazing just the value of how product identity is really helping with a lot of their other initiatives at Amazon too.
Leah: Yeah, I mean, because at the end of the day, a large portion of their operations are logistic. So it's actually kind of surprising to me that it took this long for them to start using universal standards because surely on their end as well, It's more difficult when, when there are duplicates and when there is incorrect information in their system.
So it's nice to see that moving forward, it's more standardized because I think that it makes it easier for Amazon, but it also makes it easier for sellers as well. Not having to troubleshoot quite as often incorrect data in the system.
Thank you so much for joining us, Michelle. It's, as always, been very educational. And if sellers have any questions who should they reach out to at GS1?
Michelle: So we have [00:11:00] our member support team is awesome. They really are great at helping answer questions.
You can reach out to them at email@example.com. We also have some great resources. We have a GS1US YouTube channel that has a lot of short videos and informational videos to help sellers understand GS1, GS1 standards, understand what problems they might encounter if they don't start with the GS1 barcode as well.
And so we have a lot of resources there. And then of course if anybody is interested in learning more about just supply chain, we have our Next Level Supply Chain podcast, which always has some very fascinating topics. If anybody's interested in and listens to podcasts.
Leah: Yeah. I was a guest on that podcast. I very much enjoyed joining you guys. So perfect. Thank you so much, Michelle and I look forward to speaking with you soon.
Michelle: Sounds good. Thank you.