A Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is a number that uniquely identifies a product. You see them beneath the barcodes on almost every product in the world, which is why they’re often called ‘barcode numbers’.
In the UK and Europe they’re usually 13 digit EANs - European Article Numbers
In the US, they are usually 12 digit UPCs - Universal Product Codes
You need these numbers for selling online through marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, webstores and Google Shopping.
Who needs barcodes?
In short: everyone.
The bottom line is that, if you want to list a product on Amazon, you either need to list it against an existing item in Amazon's catalogue using the barcode or ASIN of that product, or you need to provide your own unique barcode if you're trying to create a brand new product listing.
And it's not just Amazon! eBay and even some webstores are all moving in the direction of encouraging or even insisting that you provide product identifiers and/or barcodes when listing new products.
Barcodes are also used for identifying products on Google Shopping, so they are mega important for SEO/marketing your products too.
That's all well and good, but what if my products don't come with the appropriate identifiers?
Suppose you sell hand-made products or items that you manufacture yourself
Perhaps you create unique combinations of existing products to sell as bundles, kits and multipacks
Maybe you sell old or antique items that pre-date product identifiers
These are just a few scenarios where the items you sell may not already have a manufacturer's barcode.
In this case, you will need to purchase your own barcodes from a reliable and legitimate source. Globally, and in the UK, the best and only official barcode suppliers are GS1
Find out more about GS1 Barcodes for Selling Online
Why should I join GS1? Can't I just buy barcodes cheaper on eBay?
Yes, you probably can. But if you purchase barcodes from any other source, the likelihood is that they belong to another company and are just being re-sold, and you've got no guarantees that they won't be sold on to someone else as well.
When you register with them, GS1 will provide you with your own unique Company Prefix, and you’ll receive an official GS1 certificate, giving you the peace of mind that your numbers are uniquely yours.
This means that ONLY YOU can use the barcodes they provide, and these cannot be re-sold or used by any other company, therefore safeguarding your business and your products.
For this reason, and probably others too, Amazon themselves check product barcodes against GS1's databases, and will likely come down hard on anyone who is found to be using counterfeit or illegitimate barcodes, so it's wiser to go legit, and use GS1 right from the start.