Sep 2022
(Last Updated On: May 16, 2023)


Our blog covers the most relevant topics for retailers, such as EDI and how it is used in retail and the supply chain. We shared useful information about integration with e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Shopify, BigCommerce and many others.

In this article, we are going to discuss Global Trade Item Number – GTIN, which is an important topic for all retailers. We will look at what a GTIN is, what it is for, how to get it, why a GTIN is needed in e-commerce and many other important aspects related to global retail and commerce.

What is GS1 US

GS1 US is part of GS1 which is one of the largest non-profit international organizations responsible for identification standardization and bar coding of goods.

GS1 is an international standards organization that develops and maintains global standards for business communication and identification systems. The organization’s main focus is on the development and implementation of barcoding and electronic product code (EPC) standards.

The most widely known of these standards – Barcodes are symbols printed on products that can be scanned electronically.

The GS1 US maintains and develop best practices of the use of a number of other standards that support the supply chain, but the most significant is the GTIN – Global Trade Item Number. GTIN allows products to be uniquely identified around the world and represent the basis of the GS1 system.

GS1 US provides services, education, and support to companies in the United States to help them implement and utilize these standards effectively. The organization facilitates the adoption of GS1 standards, such as the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), which is a unique identifier for products, and the Global Location Number (GLN), which is used to identify physical locations in the supply chain.

What is Global Trade Item Number GTIN?

Global Trade Item Number is also known as GTIN. The GTIN is a number encoded into a barcode that allows you to identify any trade item. The GTIN barcode uses only numbers. Letters or other symbols are not allowed.

The term trade item refers to an item that is subject to trade. It is a term used mainly in supply chain management. The trade item has one or more distinctive characteristics such as size, composition, appearance, etc. in relation to other goods. Trade items include not only single products, but also whole boxes, pallets, and other shipping containers.

There is a GTIN on every package. It looks like a set of numbers. They are also presented as a barcode so that the scanner can quickly read them. GTIN-marked goods are included in the unified international GS1 database.

It is possible for a batch or multiple batches of the same product to have the same GTIN. However, a new GTIN is registered for each distinct product item.

Any change in a product such as composition, package, net weight, etc. requires a new GTIN.

Since GTIN is an international identifier, the same GTIN number cannot be assigned to another product anywhere in the world.

Why Do Companies Need a GTIN?

A GTIN is an essential part of product labeling. Typically, the manufacturers or importers of the product are responsible for obtaining the GTIN. You cannot generate GTINs yourself, as only GS1 assigns Trade Item Numbers.

Where is the GTIN Used?

GTIN in a global supply chain

The GTIN is required for labeling and logistics in the global supply chain. GTIN allows you to uniquely identify products and find them in databases. It is used at all stages of the supply chain from manufacturers to distributors, namely:

  • in distribution centers
  • in retail and wholesale trade
  • in warehouses
  • in 3PL logistics
  • in EDI (for example, in documents such as purchase orders and invoices)
  • in accounting and so on.

GTIN in advertising

It is also necessary to have a GTIN in order to promote goods online.

For example, to place an official commercial or announcement in the Google advertising service, you need to fill in the “GTIN” column. So the search engine understands what product is being advertised. It checks if they sell a product prohibited by law and looks for alternatives with a different price.

How to Get a GTIN?

It is possible to receive an authentic GTIN in two different ways:

GTIN for small busimess

For small businesses, the most cost-effective option is to license individual GS1 US GTINs for $30 each. The identification number is generated automatically in this case.

A second way is to license a GS1 Company Prefix if your business is planning to launch 10 or more products.

This license lets brands create authentic GTINs in bundles of 10, 100, and more. For businesses that license a GS1 Company Prefix, a GTIN is generated from their Prefix.

Companies are linked to products through the Prefix, which represents the first few numbers of the GTIN.

GTINs issued by GS1 US are automatically added to the GS1 Global Registry, a database used by retailers and online marketplaces to verify product identification. 

A certificate of ownership will also be provided for either option, ensuring authenticity for retail partners. 

The Importance of GTIN for E-commerce

Major retailers, online stores, and marketplaces such as Amazon, require companies to provide a GTIN for all products they deal with.

GTINs are often required by online marketplaces in order to verify that sellers are selling legitimate products and to support inventory management.

Marketplaces may hide your product listings if they are not identified with an authentic GTIN.

U.P.C. vs GTIN

A Universal Product Code (U.P.C.) is the most commonly used type of barcode symbol printed on retail product packaging which contains GTIN information. 

In retail systems, U.P.C. used to capture GTIN numbers through scanning.

Thus, the U.P.C. represents a barcode symbol with black lines, while the GTIN describes the numbers that identifies a product.

Many online sellers mistakenly believe that a U.P.C. and GTIN are interchangeable and mean the same thing.

As e-commerce has evolved, more and more GTINs are being used on their own in product listings on the Internet. It serves as a link between the physical presence of a product and its digital identity, and it also allows you to verify the legitimacy of the product. As a result of the use of U.P.C. barcodes and GTINs, businesses have the ability to track their products more easily. 

A number of online retailers and marketplaces check all GTINs provided to them against the GS1 database. If vendors’ GTINs are found to be invalid, they may be delisted.

Which Products Do Not Require a GTIN?

There is a small category of products that do not need GTIN:

  • exclusive – a unique product in a single copy;
  • antiques – antiquities are not assigned GTIN;
  • handmade – handmade crafts differ from each other, so they cannot have a classifier
  • collectible models – which are not mass-produced;
  • used products – everything that has already been used by someone cannot have a repeated GTIN.

Benefits of Using a GTIN

GTIN significantly improves the processes associated with the receipt, movement or sale of goods. By using a code reader in warehouse inventory, employee errors are reduced to almost zero because basic tasks are performed automatically.

GTIN also makes it easy to transport goods through customs. Customs checks GTIN numbers on packages and accompanying documents.

Conclusion: All You Need to Know About Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)

GTIN is helpful for working with documentation, organizing, and searching for goods in warehouses and stores (acceptance, accounting, and shipment), in accounting systems, when automating inventory management, in payment documents and when placing orders, in delivery documents, etc. In electronic data interchange (EDI), GTINs serve as links to refer to the master data, which drastically reduces the amount of information transmitted by a trading partner.

Thus, the standards developed by GS1 US and GS1 globally enable businesses to improve supply chain efficiency, enhance product traceability, enable accurate and efficient inventory management, and facilitate electronic data exchange between trading partners. These standards are widely used in industries such as retail, healthcare, foodservice, logistics, and more.

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