It's almost 2020. Or let's put it this's almost 5 years past the "future" of Back to the Future know that one with the flying cars and actual hoverboards. 

If you have any hopes of selling through distribution or almost any level of retail, you're going to need a barcode.

If you plan on selling through Marketplaces (e.g., Amazon, eBay, Walmart, etc.), you're going to need a barcode.

If you want to track your sales volume seamlessly from website through fulfillment programs or your inventory software, you're going to need a barcode.

If you want to ensure that "fat-finger" errors don't screw up your inventory counts or proliferate through your supply chain, costing you lost sales, money wasted, or higher operating costs, then you're going. To need. A barcode.

What is a barcode (aka, UPC or GTIN)?

A barcode is a graphic symbol used to convey data.  Typically the characters in a barcode symbols consist of bar/space patterns. The most common linear barcode is the UPC barcode (aka UPC-A). UPC stands for “Universal Product Code” and is a barcode symbol encoding a 12-digit number called a GTIN-12.  The GTIN-12 is essentially the UPC data derived from a GS1 Company Prefix and Item Reference Numbers. 

How many UPC' codes do you need?

Each individual product that you are planning on selling will need its own unique UPC Code. Each variant of a product will require a unique UPC, that is, products of different size and colors will each need to be uniquely represented with an individual UPC.

For example:

  • You make 1 t-shirt in 3 sizes with 4 color choices. You will need 12 UPCs. (1 x 3 x 4 = 12)
  • You make 1 type of oil in 3 different package quantities (i.e., each, 4-pack, case). You will need 3 UPCs. (1 x 3 = 3) 

More information is available from GS1, the organization that oversees all UPC/GTIN licensing, at Or schedule a meeting with us at this year's SEMA Show for one-on-one consultation. 

SEMA Data can help you help you acquire UPC codes if you do not have them. In many cases there is no charge. Contact your SEMA Data project manager or write to to find out how.