Why you should never select “does not apply” for a GTIN on eBay

By Chris Dawson April 11, 2017 - 6:23 pm

I’m seeing many hundreds of listings on eBay where the seller has simply added “does not apply” in place of a GTIN. Often I suspect it’s because the seller hasn’t invested in buying GTINs (Generally EANs in the UK and EU) for their own products, but in many cases “does not apply” has been used out of laziness for products from main stream manufacturers who already have a GTIN.

Nine months ago I looked at MK Electrics products on eBay which didn’t have the correct product identifiers completed. I’ve had another look at the same product (a K4871 light switch) today and dozens of listings in eBay search results still don’t have GTINs completed.

I have some sympathy, whilst I accused sellers of sheer laziness in the first paragraph, in truth it’s more probably frustration at the amount of work needed. Nowhere on the MK Electrics website do they display GTINs for their products and they are a pretty large business. If it’s hard to find MK GTINs what chance for smaller manufacturers?

Why selecting “does not apply” is a bad idea

If you select does not apply on your product listing eBay cannot surface product reviews on your listings. Google loves a bit of user generated content and whilst the reviews are seller specific, they will help to drive traffic.

As well as reviews, eBay listings with product identifiers get:

  • Increased visibility on Google shopping and Bing and other search engines.
  • Increased visibility in eBay deals, bargains, and other promotions
  • Better listing information and item specifics, which are included automatically by matching your item with a product from the eBay catalog, which ensures your product is still seen when the customers are using filters to refine their searches.
  • More accurate pricing guidance when you list your items
  • Trending price alert in view item when your listings are priced lower than the trending price

“If the product identifier does exist and you enter “Does not apply” in the required field, your item will lose search visibility—meaning, shoppers will have a harder time finding your item on eBay and on external search engines. We strongly recommend sellers use “Does not apply” only when product identifiers truly do not exist to maintain visibility and remain competitive.”
– eBay

It’s not just eBay!

In addition to eBay lack of a GTIN will impact your ability to list on other marketplaces:

  • Merchandising opportunities on Cdiscount are not available to the seller if you do not add a product identifier
  • You cannot list on La Redoute if you do not have an identifier.
  • You cannot list on Newegg if you do not have an identifier
  • You cannot list on Walmart if you do not have an identifier.

There is only one source of genuine GTINs – GS1 UK. Whilst there’s a cost involved if you need to source GTINs for your own product, those who sell branded products from mainstream manufacturers will be able to use their GTINs for free. The only thing you have to do is find out what they are and add them to your listings instead of selecting “does not apply”.

  • Paul Mitty
    5 years ago

    What if you’ve got over 200,000 listings for power supplies and Laptop chargers. Would you recommending using does not apply in this instance?

    • 5 years ago

      Willing to bet that they’re not all unique and you have duplicates that could all use the same GTIN 😉

      Yes I’d recommend a program of adding them.

  • Alan
    5 years ago

    So if there is truly no GTIN number for an item, is it better to buy some and use as your own? Would that help visibility when only one “seller” is using it? What if other sellers selling the same item sees you using it and start copying but it was us who paid for the GTIN numbers? Any solution to that?

    • 5 years ago

      I went to leave a review for something I bought last week and couldn’t as there is no GTIN. If your product doesn’t have one I’d recommend getting them.

      Don’t forget – no GTIN = zero visibility on the likes of Google Shopping! eBay can’t help drive traffic to you if you don’t make sure your listing has the attributes Google demands.

  • Neil
    5 years ago

    That’s why. Who wants the neg review posted for another seller. I have dozens of listings where a single review for someone else has killed the line. There aren’t enough reviews on eBay to balance it, so you are totally wrong.

    The last thing you ever want to do is enter the correct barcode.

  • Nick
    5 years ago

    I have had reservations about this for some time. I may be wrong & please anyone let me know if I am.

    I don’t compete on price. It’s a pointless race to the bottom in my opinion. So…

    If I buy product “A” from a supplier and list it anywhere online with the supplied GTIN then immediately it gets lumped in with any “fly by night” that wants to compete on price until they go bust or indeed the very same supplier that sold me product “A” in the first place.

    The result is being at the bottom of the pile with stock you can’t sell.

    If I buy the same product, add value to it, list with my own GTIN purchased from GS1 UK (who seem to have the monopoly) then where is the actual benefit?

    People won’t search by my newly created barcode. GS1 make a few quid and that’s it.
    There seems to be no obligation to add information to any database listing the product attributes, descriptions etc as far as I can see.

    • Alan Paterson
      5 years ago

      You have it correct Nick.

      You touched on something important – “adding value”.

      For example – if you sell a bottle of car polish and “add value” by adding a car polishing cloth the item has now become a “bundle” (Amazon terminology but works equally as well on ebay) and is therefore due its own unique GTIN. I think if sellers simply replace the existing GTIN with their own the ebay marketplace will become confusing as the same products will have the same GTIN. However, by “adding value” to your car polish i.e. the polishing cloth your listing has now became unique. Whatsmore other sellers may have difficulty “copying” your listing if you are purchasing each item from 2 different sources.

      If priced correctly with good pics and keywords it is possible that your “new” product can become more popular than the original GTIN number. With all these things (and product reviews also help) it will start to be ranked higher on Google. I know sellers adopting this strategy that now have a higher rank on Google for the generic keywords than the original product GTIN does!

      Having said that it will only help your visibility on Google at the moment which – at least with our shop – is only 4 % of the traffic to our ebay shop the rest coming from ebay search themselves (Cassini) . at the moment there is no evidence that adding GTIN increases your position on best match but that doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t be adding them.

      If you are listing on Amazon this can also be very effective although there are “rules” for listing bundles on Amazon that need to be adhered to. If you list your items correctly (if you don’t Amazon will kick off your listings) and have “bundles” it will deter other sellers from listing under you if they cannot fulfil the items in same bundle.

      It is a good strategy for generating your own GTIN numbers instead of just listing the same product under your own GTIN number.

      You have probably already thought of this as you mentioned “adding value”. It is a good strategy.

  • David Brackin
    5 years ago

    If it is true that adding barcodes makes such an improvement in sales (my view: it does not) then let sellers see the data and choose whether to do the work. Most of us are voting with our feet at the moment.

    I’m afraid the ebay just saying that it’s a good idea is not enough: there’s a huge credibility gap with their analytics.

    If you sell on ebay it’s not because you want to be part of a catalogue. If you wanted that, you’d sell on Amazon quicker and probably wouldn’t even bother putting the inventory on Amazon. Ebay’s one unique sale point is the tail and unique inventory — breadth of stock at a price point that suits. Why on earth would they let go of that?

  • 5 years ago

    Once again, part of the problem is that ebay haven’t sorted out the details before blinding telling us all to add eans. I make personalised items and asked CS for advice and was told I should buy the numbers and start adding to my listings. I did just that and the listings dropped dramatically in best match. I phoned again, CS looked at search results and said “Oh dear, I think you should remove the EANs”. How are sellers supposed to know what to do when eBay clearly don’t?

    Product reviews are not seller specific on ebay, in fact, they are not even product specific. Reviews have appeared on some of my items which do not have EANs and are newly listed so no sales yet. So if certain key words are deemed by ebay to be enough to match a review of another product to mine and I make individual custom items, it doesn’t bode well. Cs said stars cannot be removed even though clearly incorrect product and using key words to link a review was “a trial”. My understanding is that “trial” is an experience or situation that tests a person’s endurance or forbearance. It has certainly done that.

  • Joe B
    5 years ago

    Chris can you provide evidence that doing all this increases visibility? I mean other than quoting some vague eBay page?

    For instance, adding GTINs to your own items perhaps has seen an increase in your sales?

    And FYI some of my eBay items have attracted reviews without any kind of product identifier attached. But to suggest that we should be wanting reviews is nonsense. On eBay anyone can leave a review even if they’ve never purchased the item and they can do so totally anonymously. How is this a good thing?

    Some of us don’t use these things not because we’re lazy, but because we’re actual retailers working with the system every day and have actual working knowledge of how things work. Some of us made a choice not to use them because it’s the smart choice.

    • 5 years ago

      “Chris can you provide evidence that doing all this increases visibility? I mean other than quoting some vague eBay page?”….

      ….Have you ever found a product on Google Shopping and clicked to buy to find it was an eBay listing? If you have that’s all the proof you need. Without a GTIN Google won’t accept a product free from eBay (or in fact from any marketplace or your own website).

    • Joe B
      5 years ago

      Plenty of my eBay products are on Google Shopping and all I’ve included is the MPN.

  • luke
    5 years ago

    I purposely miss out the GTINs on my Ebay shop so I’m not competing with my website through PPC!!!

    • Alan Paterson
      5 years ago

      Hi Luke, this strategy would only work if you are in a very niche market. Please also remember that ebay are insisting on these numbers – i wont quote a date on my post as ebay keeps shifting it back and may shift it again but my point is that it will soon be a requirement.

  • 5 years ago

    Since so few product reviews are left on eBay, if you get a bad review they really stand out, would removing the GTIN remove the review?

  • 5 years ago

    We sell Jewellery, large number of sku’s and lots of churn, all unbranded. eBay don’t require EAN’s for Jewellery, we provide MPN’s and we have no issue showing up on Google Shopping. The cost of buying codes from GS1 is prohibitive.

  • Ian
    5 years ago

    I have asked this question before Tamebay I had reply several months ago saying you would look into it but never received a response after that.

    I have bought barcodes off the internet not GS1 and listed my products on ebay and amazon with these EAN for the last 3 years. If I buy new from GS1 how can I revise my Amazon listing with the new number I do not believe this can be done?

    Also will the bacrodes / EAN I have purchased from the internet which have been added to my ebay listings enable them to appear on google without purchasing new from GS1?

    Any help would be much appreciated.

  • Chris
    5 years ago

    How can you do anything other than Does not apply for used items?

  • james
    5 years ago

    why you should: cos ebay said so.
    why you shouldnt: real world results.

  • 4 years ago

    How is eBay going to deal with the sellers that use just one GTIN for all the items they sell…this number is usually originally pulled from the air! Could be something completely different!

    I know of sellers that have just one GTIN for all items so the star rating is very high due to it being a multitude for items:(

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