A Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) serves as a unique identifier, making every product distinguishable worldwide. It’s similar to a product’s passport when in the market, ensuring that no two products bear the same number. This identifier is crucial for businesses, retailers, and consumers, facilitating efficient inventory management, product tracking, and checkout processes. GTINs are typically found alongside the barcodes, like the GS1 barcode, on a product’s packaging, making them easily accessible for scanning at retail points or for online listing purposes. 

What is GTIN?

GTIN full form – Global Trade Item Number – a series of numbers that uniquely identify a product in the global marketplace. This numbering system is essential for the standardisation and efficiency of international trade, helping businesses manage their inventories and streamline the checkout process. GTINs make it easier for products to be sold, tracked, and located anywhere in the world. 

Types of GTIN

The GTIN system encompasses a range of formats designed to uniquely identify products and services worldwide. Each type of GTIN is structured to suit different product types, packaging levels, and geographical considerations. Here’s a detailed look at the various Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) formats based on the provided information:


  • Use: The GTIN-13 format is widely used in global trade, especially in India, and is the sole GTIN format for EAN-13 barcodes.
  • Structure: Comprises twelve digits, featuring a GS1 Company Prefix and an Item Reference. The prefix begins with numbers 1-9, denoting the company’s geographic location or origin, followed by a check digit.
  • Example Applications: A broad range of retail products internationally.


  • Use: The GTIN-8 format is specifically designed for smaller items that cannot accommodate larger barcodes. It is the exclusive GTIN format used in EAN-8 barcodes.
  • Structure: Consists of seven digits, which include a GS1-8 Prefix and an Item Reference, followed by a check digit to ensure the number’s integrity. The GS1-8 Prefix identifies the country or issuing organisation, while the Item Reference specifies the particular item.
  • Example Applications: Small consumer goods where space is limited for labelling.


  • Use: The GTIN-12 is the standard format for UPC-A barcodes, facilitating the identification of products in retail environments.
  • Structure: Contains eleven digits, including a U.P.C. Company Prefix and an Item Reference, capped off with a check digit. The U.P.C. Company Prefix is assigned to the manufacturer or distributor of the product, and the Item Reference uniquely identifies the product from that company.
  • Example Applications: General retail products in the United States and Canada.


  • Use: GTIN-14 is used to identify trade items at various packaging levels, from individual items to bulk quantities. It is not used with EAN/UPC barcodes but rather with ITF-14 barcodes.
  • Structure: Begins with an Indicator Digit that specifies the packaging level (1-8 for standard packaging levels, 9 for variable measure products). This is followed by twelve digits that include a GS1 Company Prefix and an Item Reference, plus a check digit.
  • Example Applications: Bulk shipments, cases, or pallets of products, as well as items measured by variable dimensions or weights.

Each Global Trade Item Number format plays a critical role in the global supply chain, enabling the precise identification, tracking, and management of products. From individual consumer goods to large-scale shipments, the GTIN system facilitates efficiency, accuracy, and transparency across the board.

Why GTINs are Important for eCommerce

The Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is essential when discussing modern eCommerce since it provides a universal standard for the identification of products across the global supply chain. Its importance in eCommerce stems from several key benefits that directly contribute to the efficiency, reliability, and growth of online business operations. Here’s an elaboration on why GTINs are critically important for eCommerce:

  • Drives eCommerce: GTINs are instrumental in the global flow of trade items and the associated information crucial for eCommerce. By standardising product identification, GTINs ensure that products are easily discoverable across online platforms. This standardisation supports the seamless listing and selling of products on various eCommerce sites and marketplaces, enabling businesses to reach a broader audience without the need for multiple identifiers.
  • Enhances Compatibility Across Business Sectors: The use of GTINs builds confidence among businesses across all sectors to engage in trade. This confidence comes from the compatibility that GTINs provide, ensuring that products can be identified uniformly, regardless of the industry or market. Such a level of compatibility is vital for the interoperability of systems and processes in a diverse and global eCommerce ecosystem.
  • Facilitates Accuracy in Supply Chain Operations: The capture and use of GTINs at critical points in the supply chain, such as warehouse shipping and receiving, hospital supply chains, and point-of-sale (POS) systems, are fundamental for maintaining accurate stock control and facilitating timely order replenishment. This accuracy is crucial for eCommerce, where consumer expectations for product availability and fast delivery times are high.
  • Leverages the GS1 Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN): GTIN enables businesses to utilise the GS1 Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN), a powerful tool for managing product information across the supply chain. The GDSN ensures that all trading partners have access to consistent and up-to-date product information, thereby increasing data accuracy, improving operational efficiency, and reducing costs associated with data management discrepancies.
  • Simplifies Supply Chain Management: By providing a unique identifier for every product, GTIN streamlines communication among supply chain partners. This simplification allows for more efficient management of the flow of products and information, reducing errors and enhancing the overall agility of the supply chain. In the fast-paced world of eCommerce, such efficiency is key to meeting consumer demand and maintaining competitive advantage.
  • Improves Data Quality: GTINs contribute significantly to the improvement of data quality within the supply chain. By ensuring that product information is consistent among all supply chain partners, GTINs help to eliminate discrepancies that can lead to inefficiencies, such as incorrect product shipments or listings. High-quality data is essential for making informed business decisions and providing customers with accurate product information, which in turn supports better customer experiences and loyalty.

GTIN Structures

At the core of GTIN’s utility is its numeric structure, which ensures that every product can be universally recognised. This structure includes different elements designed to provide detailed information about the product, including its origin, manufacturer, and specific item details. The flexibility to accommodate this structure within only some digits is what makes GTIN so effective for global commerce.

While GTINs are commonly associated with barcodes, their utility extends to other data carriers. This adaptability ensures that GTINs can be utilised in a wide array of technologies and mediums to suit different needs and environments.

How are GTINs Used?

GTINs are used throughout the product’s lifecycle, from manufacturing to end sale. They play a key role in supply chain logistics, enabling the tracking of products as they move from factories to warehouses to retail shelves. GTINs are also essential for online sales, where they help list products on eCommerce platforms, optimise search engine presence, and facilitate transactions. By standardising product identification, GTINs simplify the global trade process, making it more efficient and reliable.

GTIN vs UPC vs Barcode

GTIN, full form as Global Trade Item Number, is a broad term that represents unique product identifiers used globally, encompassing various formats like UPC (Universal Product Code), EAN (European Article Number), and others. A GTIN can be encoded into a barcode, a visual representation that allows for easy scanning and identification of products. Barcodes, therefore, are the graphical representations that encode GTINs (including UPCs) for scanning purposes, facilitating the tracking and sale of products across retail and online platforms.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is GTIN used for?

GTIN is used for uniquely identifying products worldwide, facilitating their tracking, listing, and sale across the global marketplace.

2. Which requirements are needed to be able to use a GTIN?

To use a GTIN, a company must obtain a unique company prefix from GS1 member organisation – GS1 India, ensuring their product’s identifiers are globally unique.

3. Can the GTIN be used to identify the associated company?

Yes, part of the GTIN includes a company prefix, which identifies the company that owns the brand of the product.

4. What are SKUs, and how do you use them?

SKUs, or Stock Keeping Units, are internal product identifiers used by companies for inventory management. Unlike GTINs, SKUs are not standardised and vary from company to company.

5. Is a GTIN number mandatory?

While not universally mandatory, GTINs are required by most major retailers and eCommerce platforms for product listings.

6. Do all my products need GTIN numbers if I want to sell on Google Shopping?

Generally, yes. Google Shopping requires GTINs for most listed products to enhance searchability and provide detailed product information.

7. What if a Product Doesn’t Have a GTIN?

Products without GTINs face significant challenges in the marketplace. It will be quite difficult to list the products on major online platforms, potentially limiting their visibility and sales opportunities.

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