Most of the time, consumers use UPC and SKU interchangeably. However, for those who are managing the inventory, it is important to determine the difference between the two.
SKUs or stock keeping units are inventory codes that are unique to a certain organization. If you visit one store and compare their SKU with another store, you will see that they are not the same. SKU in stores is printed on the shelf pricing.
UPC or universal product codes are product tracking codes that are used by any company as a way of establishing standard codes. UPC is a universal product identification tool and is the same everywhere. The UPC number is connected to a unique product and it is the same in all stores and chains. UPC is the bar code at the back of the product.
SKU numbers are unique to individual retailers while UPC barcodes are constant and used universally regardless of whoever is selling it.
SKU codes are alphanumeric codes used by companies to trace products in inventory and those that are sold. SKU numbers can also be assigned to intangible products such as repair time or warranties.
SKU numbers are different from product model numbers because the latter are assigned by manufacturers. Each company can assign its own SKU number. Some companies may include the model number in their SKU for easier identification.
Marketplaces, warehouses, fulfillment centers, e-commerce sites, and catalogs often make use of SKUs.
When using SKU, you can add as many information as you want it to contain. However, along SKU might cause confusion and error in data entry. Too short of an SKU might cause confusion with another item. The best practice is to keep SKUs under 12 characters and refrain from using the manufacturer model in your company SKU.
UPCs are numeric codes that contain 12 digits. The bar code is scanned when you line up at a grocery counter is the UPC code.
UPC codes are managed by GA1 US. As soon as a UPC code is assigned to an item, it is permanent for as long as that product is displayed on the shelf.
Even though a product is being sold by another retailer, the UPC code is the same. When you have the UPC of an item, you can search it online to find the retailers who are selling it.
Now that we have established the difference between SKUs and UPCs, it can be pretty hard to mix it up. Just remember that SKUs are specific for a store while a UPC is a barcode on the package.
UPC codes might sound easier to use because they are universal. However, there are still instances when using an SKU is better and more convenient for your business.
UPCs are rarely updated or changed while SKUs are updated when there are changes in the inventory or sales.