What UPC/EAN barcodes are, where to get and how to use them in the WooCommerce

What UPC/EAN barcodes are, where to get and how to use them in the WooCommerce

By Dmitry Vasilev
Jan 24, 2024

This article is related to the major release 2.0.0 of the "UPC/EAN Code generator/importer" plugin for the WooCommerce. Here I will try to explain why and how this plugin can be useful if you decide to go with UPC or EAN codes in your WooCommerce store

This plugin was designed to achieve 2 major purposes:

  • The first one is to assign codes for all your existing products automatically, so you don't have to open each woocommerce product and add the UPC/EAN code manually.
  • The second purpose is to assign codes for all newly created products, so when you create a new product - the UPC or EAN code will be added to the product automatically.

But before I dive into the plugin details, I need to explain what UPC/EAN codes are and how this plugin generates them - it is very important.

What UPC/EAN codes are

UPC and EAN codes are a global product numeration system and it was designed to give a number for each unique product in the world, I think you already know that. UPC codes are mostly used in the US and EAN codes are used in the rest of the world.

These codes are created and managed by a private company called “GS1” but a lot of people think that UPC and EAN barcodes are somehow related to the government - but that is not true, only the private company "GS1" can manage UPC/EAN codes. So, legally no one (except GS1 of course) can generate UPC or EAN codes.

At this point, you may already be asking yourself, if it is not legal to generate codes by yourself how can this plugin be helpful at all ?

There are 2 answers to this question.

  • First one is that this plugin can actually generate the UPC and EAN codes but from a specially allocated range for the internal use. It means that GS1 allows you to generate these codes and use them inside your company. But such codes won't be accepted by online marketplaces like Amazon, Google and others.
  • The second point is that if you want to be serious about UPC or EAN codes you will have to purchase these codes sooner or later.

2 ways to buy UPC/EAN codes

  • The first option is to purchase codes directly from the "GS1" company. However, their prices can be a real shocker to small businesses. For example 100 codes will cost you 750 USD and don't forget about the annual renewal fee which is additional 150 USD each year.
  • The second option is to purchase codes from the second hand market. You see, a few decades ago the GS1 was a small modest company and they sold hundreds of millions of codes for a much much lower price and without annual renewal fee. So, after decades a lot of their old clients don't mind selling some codes on the secondhand market for a higher price now (and yes, codes reselling are legally allowed - I checked).

Thankfully there are a lot of second hand sellers online with much more affordable prices, in some cases prices can be 10 times cheaper compared to GS1 prices, and of course without annual fee.

But let's get back to the plugin and how it can help you with all this. If you want to use codes inside your company - this plugin can generate free UPC/EAN codes for internal use.

But if you decide to purchase the real barcodes, you will be provided with the spreadsheet file which contains all the codes you own. So, you can upload your file into the plugin and the plugin will be managing and assigning codes for your products automatically. Plugin will also keep track of how many codes are already used from the file, so you can see how much is left and if you need to purchase more.

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