You might assume that, in a world defined by ecommerce, the barcode is obsolete — or at the very least, that it’s been replaced by other product identifiers. You would, however, be mistaken. Barcodes are a crucial building block of product identification for marketplaces, as well as for the larger ecommerce space.
In many cases, they also bridge the gap between physical and digital; the code used to identify a product sold at a brick-and-mortar outlet is identical to the code used to sell that product online.
Bar codes, therefore, are the foundation of product identification for marketplaces. Correctly understanding and applying them (along with other product identifiers) is central to effective product catalog management. Moreover, these identifiers also allow you to more effectively manage your inventory while playing an important role in product matching.
In short, by understanding product identification, you can:
- Give yourself a competitive edge by improving product visibility and discoverability
- Group similar items in one product listing
- Improve sales and conversion rates through more effective product matching
- Guide sellers on pricing and let consumers know they are getting the best deal in town
- Unlock better, more accurate market insights
- Increase customer satisfaction through better pricing and support.
But what exactly does ecommerce product identification involve? More importantly, how can you ensure you’re applying it in the precise way you need to? Let’s talk about that by going over a few product identification best practices.
Understand the Different Types of Product Identifiers
There are numerous product identifiers at your disposal in online retail. Some, such as barcodes, are universal. Others are exclusive to certain marketplaces.
The most generally relevant are as follows:
- Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN). Basically a catch-all term for a numerical sequence used to identify a product. Often used interchangeably with ‘barcode.’ Depending on how many digits the GTIN contains, it may also be referred to as any of the following.
- Universal Product Code (UPC). 12 digits. Used primarily in North America, and required by retailers such as Wal Mart.
- European Article Number (EAN). 8 or 13 digits. Used globally outside of North America.
- GTIN-14. Used to identify trade items. 14 digits.
- International Standard Book Number (ISBN). A 13-digit product identifier exclusively used for books. 10-digit ISBNs also exist.
- Authorized GS1 Company Prefix. An identification number unique to your company. Generally affixed to the beginning of a barcode.
- Stock Keeping Unit (SKU). Used for internal inventory tracking and management.
- Amazon Serial Identification Number (ASIN). Provided to Amazon retailers by the marketplace. Each Amazon listing has its own unique ASIN.
- Manufacturers Part Number (MPN). A type of product identifier created for direct sales between manufacturers and vendors/customers.
GTINs Done Right
Wherever possible, you’re going to want to create and apply GTINs yourself. This is because, per Business 2 Community, a barcode purchased from a third party generally won’t include your unique company prefix as a basis. Instead, it will be tied to a different brand owner.
In addition to potentially creating issues with product discovery, this presents an obstacle for certain marketplaces that require unique branded GTINs. And that, in turn, could end up leaving you with a hefty bill for relabeling. Custom GTINs can be created via GS1.
Aim for Data-Driven Marketplace Architecture
Where marketplace architecture and design is concerned, catalog data is what sellers most frequently neglect. But you cannot create a successful marketplace model without both the presence of actionable, real-time data and the capacity to analyze it. In order to achieve this, you’ll need a few things.
- AI-based marketplace APIs that continuously provide up-to-date product intelligence.
- A Product Identification API for improved product matching and catalog enhancement.
- Rank catalog items based on demand intelligence.
- An ecommerce tool that offers neural network monitoring to help prevent mismatches and smart outlier detection to keep pricing consistent and within an acceptable range.
Don’t Neglect Other Aspects of Product Discovery
Product identification is a crucial part of the ecommerce sales process. However, these numbers are only part of the picture. You cannot afford to neglect the other elements of your product listings, such as:
- Images. Include as many high-quality product images as possible to give your audience a complete picture of a product.
- Unique selling points. What makes a product valuable? Why would someone be searching for this product?
- Value-adds. What features might people search for when trying to find this product?
- Distinctive attributes. This includes product dimensions, color, packaging, materials, etc.
The Details Are in the Data
Online retail is a more competitive field than it’s ever been. Success requires a proper strategy and smart decision making, both day-to-day and in the long-term. The right data goes a long way towards helping you make these decisions.
By ensuring that you’ve assigned the right product identifiers to everything you’re selling and feeding that data into the right tools, you can acquire that data. And Algopix can help.
Contact us to learn more about how we can provide you with a real time window into eCommerce, and help you outplay the competition at every turn.