The EAN Number - What Is It and Do I Need It?
EAN numbers (or EAN codes as they’re also called) will be familiar to most as a type of barcode, but they do much more than just provide information about the price of an item. For an ecommerce seller, they’re an essential part of day-to-day business.
What is an EAN number?
The EAN (European Article Number) is a standardized barcode system used to identify products worldwide. Also known as the International Article Number (IAN), it’s sometimes referred to as the ‘barcode number’ or ‘product code’.
The EAN system assigns a unique number to each product, which is represented by a barcode that can be scanned by electronic point-of-sale systems. The first three digits of the EAN number represent the country code where the product was registered, followed by a unique identifier for the manufacturer or supplier, and a product code assigned by the manufacturer.
EAN numbers are used extensively in retail and ecommerce to manage inventory, track sales, and simplify the checkout process. They’re also used in logistics and supply chain management to track products from their origin to their final destination.
What is the structure of an EAN code?
EAN codes, also known as GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) codes, are used to identify products in the retail industry. There are two standard types of structure for an EAN code:
EAN-13: This is the most commonly used EAN code, consisting of 13 digits. The first two or three digits represent the country code or the region where the product was manufactured. The following group of digits represents the company prefix, which identifies the specific manufacturer or vendor. The next group of digits is the product code, which identifies the specific product. The last digit is a check digit, which is used to verify the accuracy of the code.
EAN-8: This EAN number is a shortened version of the EAN-13 code, consisting of 8 digits. The structure is similar to the EAN-13 code, but with a shorter company prefix and product code. It’s often used if the particular product is small and the code would take up more than 25 percent of its surface area.
Overall, EAN barcode numbers provide a standardized way of identifying products, which helps streamline inventory management and improve supply chain efficiency.
Do I need separate EAN numbers for each product version?
If you’re selling different versions of the same product, such as different sizes or colors, then you’ll generally need a separate EAN number for each version. Each unique version of a product should have its own distinct identifier in order to track inventory, sales, and other data.
However, if the different versions of your product are identical in every way except for the packaging, then you may be able to use the same EAN code for all versions. In this case, the packaging would be considered a variation of the product rather than a unique version.
EAN barcodes aren’t mandatory for all products, and their use may depend on the specific market and distribution channels where you sell your products. It's always a good idea to check with your retailers or distributors to determine their specific requirements for product identification. How do I get EAN codes for my products?
The process for obtaining EAN codes is as follows:
Determine the number of EAN codes you need: EAN numbers are issued in blocks, and the size of the block you purchase will depend on the number of products you need to identify. You can purchase a single EAN code or a block of codes ranging from 10 to 100,000.
Choose a GS1 Member Organization: GS1 is the global organization that manages the EAN code system. You’ll need to choose a GS1 Member Organization in your country and become a member.
Register for a GS1 Company Prefix: Once you become a member of a GS1 Member Organization, you can register for a GS1 Company Prefix. This prefix will be the first few digits of your EAN codes and will identify your company as the owner of those codes.
Assign your EAN codes: Once you have your GS1 Company Prefix, you can start assigning your EAN numbers to your products. You can then use the EAN codes on your product packaging or as a barcode to help retailers and consumers identify and track your products.
It's important to note that there’s a fee associated with obtaining EAN numbers through GS1, and the cost will depend on the size of the block of codes you purchase as well as your membership with the organization.