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Product Code vs SKU: What’s the Difference in 2024?

1.3 minutes

In this product code vs SKU article, we will explore the unique characteristics of SKUs and product codes and explore the key differences between the two.

SKU vs Product code

What is a Product Code?

A product code is a unique alphanumeric identifier assigned to a specific product or item, commonly used for tracking and managing inventory in various industries like manufacturing, retail, and e-commerce.

Unique Characteristics of a Product Code

Uniqueness: Each product code is distinct and typically corresponds to a single product variant, allowing for precise identification.

Internal Use: Product codes are primarily used for internal purposes, helping companies manage inventory, track sales, and facilitate communication within the organization.

Customization: Companies can structure product codes to align with their specific organizational needs, often incorporating information like product category, manufacturer, and version.

Limited Information: Product codes usually don't convey detailed information about the product itself, such as size, color, or price.

Difference between stock keeping unit and product code

What is an SKU (Stock Keeping Unit)?

An SKU, or Stock Keeping Unit, is also a unique alphanumeric identifier, but it serves a more customer-facing role. SKU codes are commonly found in retail, e-commerce, and distribution settings.

Unique Characteristics of an SKU

Customer-Facing: SKU codes are designed to be customer-friendly and are often displayed on product labels, price tags, and e-commerce websites.

Granular Detail: Unlike product codes, SKU codes can include detailed information about a product, such as size, color, style, and price.

Ease of Use: SKU codes are user-friendly and help customers quickly identify and select the exact product they want.

Dynamic: SKU codes can change more frequently to accommodate variations in product attributes or pricing.

product code vs SKU

SKU vs Product Code: What’s the Difference?

Product Codes and SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) are both identifiers used in inventory management, but they have distinct characteristics. We will explore these below:


Product Code: The primary purpose of a product code is internal, serving as a unique identifier for inventory management, tracking, and communication within a company.

SKU: SKU codes are designed with a customer-facing purpose in mind, aiding shoppers in identifying and selecting products easily.

Information Depth

Product Code: Product codes usually contain minimal product-related information and focus primarily on unique identification.

SKU: SKU codes offer a deeper level of detail, often including attributes like size, color, style, and pricing information.


Product Code: Companies have flexibility in structuring product codes to align with their internal processes, allowing customization based on organizational needs.

SKU: SKU codes are more standardized to ensure consistency and clarity for customers, offering less room for customization.


Product Code: Product codes tend to remain relatively stable over time, undergoing fewer changes unless there are significant shifts in product lines.

SKU: SKU codes are more dynamic and can change frequently to accommodate variations in product attributes, pricing adjustments, or marketing strategies.


Product Code: Product codes are typically not visible to customers and are used behind the scenes for internal purposes.

SKU: SKU codes are prominently displayed in retail stores, on e-commerce websites, and on price tags, making them readily accessible to customers for product selection.

Use Cases

Product Code: Product codes are commonly utilized in manufacturing, wholesale, and industries where internal inventory management and tracking are essential.

SKU: SKU codes are prevalent in retail, e-commerce, and distribution settings where customer-friendly identifiers are crucial for efficient inventory management and enhancing the shopping experience.

We hope our Product Code vs SKU article has now left with you a better understanding of the key differences between product codes and stock keeping unit (SKU) codes.

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