Owning and operating your e-commerce business is a rollercoaster ride like no other. It brings tremendous job satisfaction, along with some understandable worries and unknowns. In this article, I will lay out some essentials that, if you get them right from the beginning, will best set you up for that upward climb as you scale – avoiding unnecessary and disarming dips!
SKU stands for Stock Keeping Unit. A unique code or identifier is assigned to each distinct product. SKUs track and manage inventory and help facilitate the organization and identification of products; they are the cornerstone of any e-commerce business.
The code typically includes letters and numbers representing various product attributes, such as size, colour, style, and manufacturer. If you are buying your goods and onward selling, you can obtain the SKU from your suppliers for each product. If you are reprocessing or producing your own products, then you have the joy of being able to create your very own SKU! My two cents when creating your SKUs: keep it short and simple; you’ll thank me later!
These days, we see barcodes all around us! Barcodes are images that contain information in the form of numbers and parallel lines of varying widths; it is a way to encode data so that it can be easily scanned and interpreted by a barcode scanner or reader.
What is the aim of barcodes? To quickly and accurately identify products.
The most well-known barcode type is the 12-digit Universal Product Code (UPC), which is widely used in the USA, whilst the rest of the world predominately uses the 13-digit EAN barcode. Other types of barcodes include Code 128, Code 39, QR codes, and Data Matrix codes – but these are not typically used in e-commerce.
Barcodes provide a fast and efficient way to input data (via scanning) and reduce the likelihood of human error in tasks involving manual information entry.
Where to get barcodes? GS1 is the global standards organization that originally developed the UPC and EAN barcodes. You can check out their website here: https://www.gs1.org/
So how do these two marry up? Well, it is less formal than some believe. When you have decided on the SKU for your product, you take one of your barcodes attained from GS1, and assign this on your very own spreadsheet to one another.
Place the SKU in one column and the barcode number in the next, and there we have it. You now use this file as your product data source when creating product listings, populating inventory management and accounting systems, etc. This process will make this SKU and Barcode association permanent as they enter the supply chain together. When the barcode is scanned for a given SKU, the system at hand reads and associates it with that product, that product movement/action is logged, and they live happily ever after.
The next thing that is often overlooked is the packaging of the product itself. To get the best picking and packing price from your fulfilment centre and enable super-fast fulfilment, having your suppliers produce your products in ready-to-ship packaging will have a positive compounding effect on your business, with the SKU, barcode and title of the product clearly labelled on the box. If not able to do so or if not your preference, do not fear, as your product can then be placed inside another carton before shipping by your 3PL and we offer a variety of sustainable packaging options here at SJ Henderson Fulfilment.
If you send your products in bulk to suppliers such as Amazon FBA, it is advisable to have master carton/s purchased or produced to fit your products perfectly for transit into these centres for distribution, ensuring the optimum quantities per carton are met for the lowest shipping prices. We always have a selection of off-the-shelf boxes on-site for our clients; if your boxes are not a standard size, we can also help organize the production of master cartons from our suppliers.
I hope this has been helpful as you seek to set up your e-commerce business best to scale. If you get these core essentials right and in place early in your e-commerce journey, it will undoubtedly enable that upward trend in growth to be blissful for all!
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