ASIN Number and What It Means For Your Business
If you’ve ever bought an item from Amazon (you must have had!), while scrolling through the product’s listing you might have come across something called ASIN. You probably didn’t give it much thought. You were focused on getting the right product with the best reviews at the lowest price. And you were probably looking for sellers that offered free shipping, too.
Today, we’ll explain how this innocuous string of alphanumeric numbers that make up the ASIN powers the online retail experience at Amazon. We’ll also cover how businesses manage their inventory with other product codes. Next up, we’ll discuess the pros and cons of using ASIN. Finally, we’ll see how you can use and implement ASIN numbers in your business.
What does ASIN Mean?
ASIN stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number. It’s a 10-character alphanumeric string that uniquely identifies each product in the Amazon catalog. The same ASIN number is also used by Amazon partners in the wider Amazon ecosystem. It’s better to think of ASIN as Amazon’s own SKU to track the millions of products that it stores, sells and ships.
As you know, you generate SKUs for internal stock control and inventory management. They also play a part in keeping tabs on high-value products through serial number tracking. SKUs are also used to help rationalize and reduce your inventory holdings when you purchase far too many products and variants than you need.
Amazon’s ASIN isn’t just used to receive and fulfill orders, it’s also used to enhance the customer experience. Using the ASIN number, purchased items can be accurately identified and confirmed by customer support. This facilitates exchanges and returns and ensures that the customer and Amazon are talking about the same item.
There’s little doubt that Amazon’s dominant position in online retail has allowed it to set standards to address inefficiencies in the supply chain. If not for introducing the standardized ASIN, Amazon would have had to juggle a basket of UPC, EAN and ISBN product codes. And every other retailer in their Amazon Marketplace would have had to do the same.
Managing Inventory with Product Codes
As such, ASIN is simply another way of managing inventory with product codes and, ultimately, barcodes. The methodology and technology behind ASIN aren’t entirely new, however. Before ASIN there was UPC, EAN, and ISBN. Their use depended on the type of products you were selling and the country you were selling them in. As such, there was confusion and fragmentation for wholesalers and retailers selling around the world.
Interestingly, for books in the Amazon catalog, their ASIN number is the same as their ISBN number. This is no doubt a nod to Amazon’s early start as Earth’s biggest bookstore!
Like its name, the Universal Product Code (UPC) is a 12-digit barcode used for retail packaging that started in the United States. It was born in the 1970s out of a need to accurately track items in retail stores. As such, the UPC barcode is popularly used around the world for scanning purchases at retail point of sale terminals today.
A typical UPC barcode
On the other hand, the European Article Number (EAN) is a 12- or 13-digit barcode that identifies the product, manufacturer, and its attributes. Japan Article Number (JAN) is identical to EAN codes except JA denotes Japan while E means the European Union. EAN barcodes are also used at retail POS terminals and for wholesale ordering and accounting purposes.
A typical EAN barcode
Finally, the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 13-digit barcode for books. They are calculated using a mathematical formula and include a check digit to validate the number. Each ISBN is matched to a unique book that identifies the registrant, title, edition, and format. Like products, the ISBN is found on the back of a book as a barcode.
A typical ISBN barcode
Benefits of ASIN
1. Standardized Product Code
Enter the Amazon Standard Identification Number. Amazon’s scale and dominance in online retail no doubt ushered in another product identifier that could support its needs. It was also useful for Amazon sellers outside the States and Europe who did not have to pick either an American, European or book publishing product code. ASIN ultimately means one product code for one marketplace.
2. Identifies Unique Product
Having a standardized product identifier in the world’s biggest marketplace also means that it is easier for customers and partners to deal with your product. When a customer interacts with Amazon customer support, you will most likely be asked to provide the ASIN number in addition to the product’s listing page. This ensures an accurate description and location of the unique product.
3. Prevents Counterfeits
Having a unique ASIN also means defeating counterfeits in the marketplace. This is critical for manufacturers or brand owners. Poorly made counterfeit sports shoes or luxury items can only hurt your brand. Obtaining an ASIN means that it identifies your product and only yours alone. Others who want to use your ASIN must be resellers of your original product.
4. Controls Resellers
Finally, enforcing a unique ASIN allows greater control over distributors and wholesalers. Firstly, these resellers must be authorized to sell the product. If not, the listing can be suspended and the goods removed from FBA warehouses. Secondly, authorized resellers must offer the identical product for sale: brand, packing units, and specifications. This ensures consistency across different resellers who compete on price and shipping.
Disadvantages of ASIN
1. Intense Reseller Competition
As you can gather by now, a unique ASIN offers protection to manufacturers and trademark owners. Everyone else — resellers, wholesalers, and distributors included — must toe the line and use the same ASIN if you’re selling the product. This means immense competition for listing the same product. And customers are free to choose sellers based on price, shipping cost, and whether they ship to their country.
2. Counterfeiters Can Hijack Them
Also, the same standardized ASIN can work in favor of counterfeiters who may hijack a genuine ASIN. These shoddy knockoffs will then be listed in the Amazon Marketplace alongside genuine items sold by Amazon itself and other resellers. And there’s no way of knowing until a customer receives a counterfeit product and then leaves a 1-star review.
3. You Still Need GTINs
Thirdly, ASIN numbers don’t completely remove the need for UPC, EAN, and ISBNs. If you’re fortunate to sell a product that is not currently sold at Amazon, then you need to apply for a unique ASIN. Aside from creating a product page, you’ll also need to supply a GTIN or Global Trade Item Number to identify your product. And these include UPC, EAN, and ISBN. If you don’t have a GTIN then you’ll need to purchase one.
4. ASIN is Amazon Specific
Finally, since ASIN is unique to the Amazon Marketplace, it has little meaning outside of it. Unlike your custom SKUs, an ASIN tells you little about the date of purchase or the supplier that you purchased it from. Also, if you have multiple Amazon stores or sell in other Amazon international marketplaces, then your product listings will have different ASIN numbers. This adds to a basket of ASIN numbers that you need to now manage.
Why Should I Care About ASIN?
If Amazon Marketplace sales make up a growing portion or the bulk of your online sales then you need to use ASIN whether you like it or not. Amazon’s dominance in the online e-commerce space along with their Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) means that it’s very hard to ignore ASIN. FBA alone helps you to pick, pack, ship and service your sales.
So if you want to continue to sell on Amazon then you need to play with their rules and ASIN numbers. “But this adds to the tracking and paperwork that I do for my inventory system,” you protest. Well, there are third-party inventory management solutions such as EMERGE App that import your orders and products from Amazon so that you can manage them along with your existing sales channels.
Inventory management solutions like these help to alleviate any drawbacks of adopting yet another product identifier for your stock. If you’re a small to medium-sized business that you should be vested in a cloud inventory solution along with barcode scanning and printing technology. Together these help you to manage products and orders from whichever sales channels you have.
So, at the end of the day, you can’t simply ignore ASIN and go your way. As an Amazon seller, you need to simply decide whether you’re going to get a unique ASIN for your manufactured or trademarked products. Or search for an existing ASIN to sell your products if you’re a reseller, distributor or wholesaler. And, you need to abide by Amazon’s rules for listings and ASIN numbers.
How Do I Start With ASIN?
First of all, you need to decide which camp you’re in with Amazon Marketplace. Are you a manufacturer of a product or do you hold trademarks over a product? If so, you’re going to need to create a new ASIN as there should be no existing ASIN for your unique product. In this way, you, the sole manufacturer or owner of intellectual property of a product reserve the right to create an ASIN for your product alone.
But for most small and medium-sized sellers, you’re going to be a reseller of existing products at Amazon. Think of popular brand name products in clothing, shoes, accessories, electronics, books, and so on. Here, you’ll need to search for the existing ASIN for your product. You can look at the URL or product listing for the same product. You then create an offer for that listing.
In both cases, new sellers are restricted in the number of ASINs or offers that they create at first. This allows customers to deal with businesses that have an established sales history with Amazon. Most importantly, this avoids sellers setting up mass listings or offers with no reviews or reputation to count on.
Finally, Amazon frowns upon the creation of duplicate ASINs. So do your homework before you create an ASIN for a product that already exists in Amazon’s catalog. Duplicate ASINs can only serve to confuse customers and partners. Plus, matching your products to existing ASINs means leveraging upon SEO, buyer interest and traffic for a particular product.
How Do I Avoid Duplicate ASINs?
We cannot stress the importance of not creating duplicate ASINs enough. Customers discover products at Amazon by performing keywords searches like a search engine. Each product in the Amazon catalog must have a unique ASIN just like any SKU in inventory management. So duplicate listings may impact your sales and Amazon may suspend or remove your ASIN creation or listing privileges.
You can avoid creating duplicate ASINs by using the correct UPC, EAN, ISBN, ASIN, or JAN product code. You should have such GTINs for your products unless they fall into the category of handmade goods or commodity products such as parts and accessories. Generally, these product codes are reliable enough to match your products to existing products in the Amazon catalog.
Using ASIN In Your Business
As you know by now, ASIN is Amazon’s version of their SKU to manage the millions of products in their catalog. You can avoid any additional paperwork or effort from adopting ASIN by using an inventory management system that integrates with Amazon. Doing it this way means that your inventory management system becomes the hub while sales channels, such as Amazon listings and retail stores, become the spoke.
EMERGE App, for example, integrates with Amazon to work with your orders and products. Orders are imported from Amazon where they appear as sales orders in EMERGE App. This eliminates mistakes from double-entry and allows you to centralise all your orders from multiple sales channels in one place.
Amazon orders appear alongside other sales orders
Most importantly, products are seamlessly imported from Amazon so that images and specifications need not be entered another time in EMERGE App. Once Amazon products are in your inventory management catalog, it’s a simply matter to export them to whichever sales channel that you sell products at. This might include a Shopify store, a WooCommerce site or even eBay.
You need to live with ASIN numbers if your business uses Amazon Marketplace as a sales channel. Creating or using an ASIN is the ticket to entry into Amazon’s vast e-commerce marketplace. At the same time, you need an inventory management solution and barcode technology to manage multiple sales channels.