In this article

GTIN vs SKU: What's the Difference? [2024 Update]

2 minutes

In this GTIN vs SKU article, we will explore the unique characteristics of Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) and Stock Keeping Unit codes (SKUs) and compare their differences. Read on to learn more.

gtin vs sku

What is a GTIN?

A GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) is a standardized identifier assigned to products for the purpose of unique identification and easy global recognition. These codes are used to streamline inventory management and facilitate accurate product identification.

Unique Characteristics of a GTIN

Here are five distinctive features of a GTIN:

Global Recognition: GTINs are internationally recognized, making them suitable for products distributed on a global scale.

Variety of Formats: GTINs can be expressed in 8, 12, 13, or 14-digit formats, accommodating various product types and industries.

Barcode Compatibility: They are often encoded into barcodes, such as UPC or EAN, which are scannable for rapid data retrieval.

Product Hierarchy: GTINs can be structured hierarchically, allowing for easy categorization of products within a brand or organization.

Lifecycle Management: GTINs remain with a product throughout its lifecycle, from production to sale, and even after discontinuation.

sku vs gtin

What is an SKU?

An SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) is an internal code used by businesses to manage and track their inventory. Unlike GTINs, SKUs are unique to individual organizations and are designed to meet their specific inventory needs.

Unique Characteristics of an SKU

Here are five unique characteristics of an SKU:

Internal Use: SKUs are created and used internally by businesses to manage inventory, which means they may vary widely between different organizations.

Customization: Organizations can design SKUs to align with their inventory management systems, making them highly customizable.

Not Necessarily Globally Unique: Unlike GTINs, SKUs may not be globally unique since different businesses can use the same SKU for different products.

Detailed Information: SKUs can incorporate detailed information like product size, color, location, and more, aiding in granular inventory control.

Rapid Retrieval: SKUs are optimized for quick internal retrieval, allowing businesses to easily locate and manage their products.

difference between sku and gtin

SKU vs. GTIN: Are They the Same?

Although SKUs and GTINs are similar, they have a number of key differences. We'll compare SKUs and GTINs to highlight these differences below:


SKU: Utilizes a combination of letters and numbers in an alphanumeric format.

GTIN: Composed of numeric characters, typically structured as 8, 12, 13, or 14 digits.

Data Capacity:

SKU: Offers a higher data capacity, accommodating more extensive product information.

GTIN: Has a limited data capacity and focuses primarily on product identification.

Data Type:

SKU: Used for comprehensive product identification, including size, color, and variations.

GTIN: Primarily serves as a product identification code and does not accommodate additional data types.


SKU: Unique to each specific product within an organization's inventory, but not guaranteed to be globally unique.

GTIN: Globally unique for each product, ensuring no duplication in the global marketplace.


SKU: Widely applicable across various industries, including retail, manufacturing, and distribution.

GTIN: Primarily used for global product identification and recognition, crucial in retail and supply chain management.

Origin and History:

SKU: Evolved as a tool for expedited checkout and accurate pricing in grocery stores, expanding into diverse industries.

GTIN: Originated from standardized systems like UPC and EAN to streamline global trade and product identification.

We hope that our GTIN vs SKU comparison has given you a better understanding of their unique characteristics and the key differences between SKU vs GTIN coding systems.

Get Google Sheets productivity and automation tips delivered straight to your inbox
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
We'll email you 1-3 times a week — and never share your information.
Get your copy of our free Google Sheets automation guide!
  • 27 pages of Google Sheets tips and tricks to save time
  • Covers pivot tables and other advanced topics
  • 100% free

Work less, automate more!

Use Lido to connect your spreadsheets to email, Slack, calendars, and more to automate data transfers and eliminate manual copying and pasting. View all use cases ->