Upc vs. Sku

As you eventually grow your business and brand, it is natural to add more services and products to increase productivity. However, some business owners have a hard time keeping track of all items they have in stock. Now, if you have reached that point, you are more likely to wonder what’s the difference between SKU and UPC.

For that reason, we have decided to pinpoint these two terms, and help you determine if you need SKUs, UPCs, or even both of them. While these two serve different purposes, they are a vital part of any business; therefore, neglecting them could harm your company.

Upc vs sku

SKU is short for Stock Keeping Unit, and its purpose is to enable you to know the status of your stock at any moment. For example, how many particular products do you have and where are they located in your warehouse.

Upc vs. Sku

On the other hand, UPC means Universal Product Code. In this case, the term universal is crucial because it identifies the product regardless of its location, and no other product has the same code. UPC is spread across the world, and many countries use this tracking system. However, other codes are still in use, as well.

How to use SKUs to track inventory?

With its help, you can track your inventory and locate a specific product quickly and efficiently. In this case, you can never run out of top-selling items. Here are some of the benefits and features of SKUs:

You can design SKUs in a way that matches your business. This code utilizes both letters and numbers, which means it’s alphanumeric.

Keep in mind that length can vary, between eight and twelve characters is the most appropriate for telling the products apart. But, make sure to avoid characters that are easily confused, such as letter O and 0.

  • By employing SKU, you will know how many products you have in stock and their location.
  • You can set your POS system to launch alerts every time your inventory reaches a specific limit.
  • SKUs are placed on your product tags and shelves and are often followed by code.
  • Business owners can apply SKUs to services as well; it doesn’t have to be products only. It can help you with finances and invoicing.

It is essential to generate meaningful SKU codes that both machines and people can understand well. But, you can code your products any way you want because they are only for internal use. Based on how you keep your inventory, you could start code with the product description.

UPC product identification

UPC is a bit different a lot more serious than the SKU code. In this case, GS1 US, which is a non-profit organization, gives a product an external code, and every single item has a unique UPC. So, if you are selling a smartphone that a competitor company sells as well, these two products will have the same UPC. Keep in mind that GS1 US assigns this code, regardless of the retailer. For example, if you have 15 same smartphones in stock, then they will have identical UPC.

Barcode black and white

Back in 1974, this system was first developed, and it was designed to speed up the checkout process. Before this, cashiers had to insert the prices that were printed to products manually. Since then, UPC spread to all industries in the United States, Canada, and the rest of the world.


  • UPCs are only numerical; they don’t contain letters.
  • It contains 12 characters.
  • UPCs are designed only for computerized equipment and were not meant for people to understand them.
  • Business owners can’t crate UPCs because GS1 US assigns them.