What is GTIN (EAN/UPC/barcode) and how to make sure that it is valid?

Last Updated: Apr 11, 2018 08:45PM CEST

What is GTIN?
GTIN, or a Global Trade Item Number, is an internationally recognized system for identifying products developed by GS1 non-profit organization. It brought together several systems to ensure they all adhere to a common structure. Helping both in-store barcode readers and online product databases.

GTINs can be 8, 12, 13, or 14 digits long. They are a numerical representation of the product's barcode. Different types of GTIN exist depending on where in the world the product comes from and the type of product.

  • UPC (North America / GTIN-12): 12-digit number
    (8-digit UPC-E codes should be converted to 12-digit UPC-A codes)

  • EAN (Europe / GTIN-13): 13-digit number

  • JAN (Japan / GTIN-13): 8 or 13-digit number

  • ISBN (for books): 13-digit number
    (ISBN-10 values should be converted to ISBN-13)

  • ITF-14 (for multipacks / GTIN-14): 14-digit number

All GTINs, regardless of the number of digits, have a similar structure. The structure is Company Prefix, Item Reference, and a Check Digit. In GTIN-14 there is an additional packaging level indicator to indicate whether the product is an item or a case.
Google Shopping GTIN Format

NOTE: Where GTIN-8, GTIN-12, and GTIN-13 numbers are represented as GTIN-14 (the main data structure), left-justified zeros pad out the number. For example, the GTIN-12 number 012345678905 becomes 00012345678905 in GTIN-14 format. Two additional zeros are added to the left of the number to bring it from 12 characters up to 14.

How to check GTIN?
If your GTINs (UPC/EAN/barcodes) are invalid your products will be disapproved on Google Shopping and Amazon, as well as on most of the other shopping channels and marketplaces. There are several ways to make sure that your GTINs are accurate for such situations in which the GTINs you have turn out to be invalid.

The easiest way to validate your GTIN is by looking at the code on your product and double-checking if it reflects the one in the records. If this is not possible, then you can make sure the check digit is correct.

The check digit is a safeguard – it helps you protect against most data entry errors, like mistyping or digit permutations.

Fortunately, GS1 gives you everything you need to deal with check digits. You have a check digit calculator at your disposal, which you can access right here. Simply enter the numbers composing the GTIN and hit the calculate button.

What if a Product Doesn’t Have a GTIN?
This can happen in some situations. Examples include one-off products like artwork, handicrafts, or vintage products. Most platforms have procedures in place to deal with these situations. On Google Shopping, for example, there is an Identifier Exists field. You can set this to false if there is no GTIN.
If you do not have a GTIN for your product and not able to get it from the supplier, you can purchase them on https://www.gs1.org/ and https://speedybarcodes.com/ for example.
NOTE: Brand-new barcode assigned to your product allows you to create a new ASIN on Amazon.

Why do I need GTINs?
Many comparison shopping engines and marketplaces, including Google and Amazon, use GTINs. They keep large databases containing almost all the GTINs that exist in the world. When you upload a product to one of these platforms through Shopping Feed, the product must have a GTIN. If you don’t include a GTIN or you include the wrong one, the platform is likely to reject the product.
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