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Why Are Unique Product Identifiers Important in Ecommerce?

ecommerce education Apr 16, 2024
unique product identifier

In the ecommerce landscape, there are billions of products available. The ocean of items makes it paramount for online store owners to have a way of identifying their products. Unique product identifiers (UPIs) are key to this process. However, these serial identifiers do more than just distinguish products. These codes can also help make your products easier to search for or discover. 

Let’s dive deeper into the concept of UPIs and their benefits to help you understand what they are and why UPIs are critical in ecommerce. Keep reading to learn more!

What Are Unique Product Identifiers?

UPIs are a string of letters or numbers used for identifying products, parts, shipments, and many other things. Each one is unique, as the name implies. This system helps your business easily identify every product you’re offering without confusing it for another similar one. Businesses don’t recycle UPIs — even products that are for disposal or phasing out will retain their UPI. 

There are several kinds of UPIs, but they can be grouped into four broad categories: global trade item numbers (GTINs), manufacturer part numbers (MPNs), stock-keeping units (SKUs), and brand names. 


GTIN codes are internationally recognized UPIs developed by GS1, an organization known for standardizing barcodes and similar identifiers. GTINs usually appear underneath the barcode of a product, and there are several types. 

  • UPC: Universal Product Code (UPC) uses 12 numeric digits and is more commonly used in North America. UPC codes are also called GTN-12.
  • EAN: For those outside North America, European Article Number (EAN) is more common. This code consists of 13 to 14 numeric digits and is sometimes called GTN-13. 
  • JAN: Japanese Article Number (JAN) is exclusively used in Japan, as the name implies. The code can either have 8 or 13 numeric digits.
  • ISBN: The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is used all over the world, and its main application is books. Today, ISBN-13 is the more standard GTIN, with 13 numeric digits.


As opposed to being seller-assigned, Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPNs) are the UPIs a manufacturer assigns to their product. These codes are used globally and are common in industries like industrial manufacturing, electronics, and vehicles. 

Unlike GTINs, MPNs have an even more specific purpose, in a sense. For example, a car manufacturer can make two models of a vehicle. If a buyer wants to replace the oil filter, they may find that an oil filter purchased from the same manufacturer won’t automatically fit their specific car model. MPNs will help the buyer or technician find the right oil filter to avoid incorrect purchases. 

Brand Name

The brand name is simply the name that the manufacturer or seller applies, but many are not aware that it is considered a UPI. Brand names are unique, helping each product remain distinct from others with similar uses or purposes. However, brand names will only indicate who is selling the product, not the purpose of the item.


Stock-keeping units (SKUs) are not universal. These codes are created internally by your business or organization, and they are used mainly for managing inventory. Manufacturer SKUs aren’t usually visible to customers, but they can be included in ecommerce listings to streamline product identification.

The Importance of Unique Product Identifiers

UPIs play an essential role in any business offering a product. In the realm of ecommerce, these strings of numbers and letters become even more critical, aiding in areas like searchability and inventory management. Here are the reasons why UPIs are important. 

Product Searchability and Discoverability

UPIs exist everywhere. If you find the closest item near you, you may find the barcode on its packaging and the string of numbers under it. In the real world, these numbers may be insignificant to the consumer. However, they can become codes to search for a product on the internet. A person can use the UPIs on a search engine to find the item and make a purchase. 

Adding UPIs to your product thus increases the product page’s searchability. Your website will appear on search engine results pages (SERPs), making you more visible and increasing engagement rates. So if you’re offering a particular product from another manufacturer, including UPIs will help customers find your store. Otherwise, your search performance might be limited.

This benefit is not just limited to search engines. Since UPIs are often universal, using them can make your product or webpage visible on social media platforms, ecommerce marketplaces, and other digital platforms where people can search for and purchase a product. Having UPIs is one way to maximize your visibility.

Streamlined Inventory Management

In ecommerce, effective inventory management makes a huge difference in your operations and logistics, all the way to customer satisfaction. UPIs aid in making your inventory management processes more streamlined and accurate. 

Each UPI serves as a thumbprint that makes an item distinct from everything else, enabling precise tracking throughout the supply chain. This strategy boosts accuracy and reduces errors. Overall, UPIs enhance operational efficiency and help your ecommerce business avoid delays. You can ship the right products within the shortest time frame, resulting in higher customer satisfaction. 

More Effective Product Differentiation

UPIs help customers distinguish similar products from one another. This feature is essential for ecommerce businesses that offer similar items with only small variations. In this case, the UPI serves as a clear marker of individuality.

Having this digital signature gives customers confidence that they are looking at the right item — a sort of reassurance that helps with purchasing decisions. UPIs also assist in product comparison, helping your customers contrast the features, prices, and reviews between two similar items.

Prevention of Fraud and Counterfeiting

Fake products are a threat to your revenue, customer trust, and branding. However, UPIs offer another level of protection against counterfeit products by giving the customer a means to verify their purchase. They can use the code on official databases to determine if a product is genuine. Thus, having UPIs helps companies reassure customers about the authenticity of their offerings. This benefit increases customer assurance and safety, heightening satisfaction and loyalty to your business.

Wrapping Up: The Critical Role of Unique Product Identifiers

UPIs are used universally for product identification and distinction, and they are essential in the ecommerce landscape. While there are many uses for these codes, one underrated benefit of UPIs is online discoverability.

It’s important to include these digital codes in your listings as they can make you more searchable, allowing your page to come up in SERP results. By using UPIs correctly, you become more discoverable and visible across all platforms. Having these universal codes also gives your customers confidence that they’re buying the right thing, increasing their confidence and preventing the purchase of counterfeits.

For more information about UPIs and other aspects of ecommerce marketing, contact us today!

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