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SKU vs Serial Number - Are they the same? [2024 Update]

1.51 minutes

In this SKU vs Serial Number article, we will look at the unique characteristics of an SKU and a Serial Number and uncover the main differences between the two. 

sku vs serial number

What is an SKU?

An SKU, or Stock Keeping Unit, is a unique alphanumeric code assigned to a specific product or item within a company's inventory system. SKUs are commonly found in retail and e-commerce businesses, warehouses, and supply chain management systems.

Unique Characteristics of SKUs:

Product Identification: SKUs are primarily used to distinguish different products or variants, helping businesses easily identify and manage their inventory.

Alphanumeric Code: SKUs typically consist of a combination of letters, numbers, or both, allowing for a wide range of unique codes. For instance, a clothing retailer might use "BLK-SHIRT-M" as an SKU for a black shirt in medium size.

Hierarchical Structure: SKUs can be organized hierarchically to represent various attributes like product type, size, color, and more.

Limited Descriptive Information: SKUs often do not contain detailed information about the product but serve as a reference for quick identification.

is sku the serial number

What is a Serial Number?

A Serial Number is a distinctive code assigned to a product unit, differentiating it from others of the same kind, like 'S12345' on a smartphone or 'M45678' on machinery. They are prevalent in electronics, machinery, vehicles, and valuable items.

Unique Characteristics of Serial Numbers:

Individual Identification: Serial numbers provide a specific identity to each unit of a product, enabling traceability and warranty tracking.

Uniqueness: Every product has a unique serial number, ensuring that no two items are identical in the manufacturer's database.

Detailed Information: Serial numbers often contain more detailed information about the product, such as manufacturing date, location, and batch information.

Anti-Counterfeiting: Serial numbers are crucial in the fight against counterfeit products, as they help verify the authenticity of an item.

is the sku the serial number

Is SKU the same as Serial Number?

While both Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) and Serial Number serve the purpose of uniquely identifying products, they have distinct roles and characteristics. 


In this section, we will closely examine the distinct purposes and roles of SKUs and Serial Numbers.

SKU focuses on internal inventory management and categorization, helping businesses organize and track various products or product variants efficiently.

Serial Numbers are primarily focused on individual product identification, ensuring each unit is uniquely identified and traceable.


Here, we explore the scope of SKUs and Serial Numbers in terms of their applicability.

SKUs are specific to a particular business or organization and may not be standardized across the industry.

Serial Numbers are unique to each product unit and are consistent throughout the manufacturer's database.

Information Level

In this section, we contrast the information levels provided by SKUs and Serial Numbers. 

SKUs may contain limited descriptive information, mainly for internal tracking and organization, often lacking details like manufacturing dates.

Serial Numbers often contain comprehensive information, including manufacturing dates, batch details, and sometimes even warranty information.


Here, we compare how SKUs and Serial Numbers are utilized to enhance various aspects of business operations. 

SKUs are used by businesses for inventory management, categorization, and internal tracking purposes.

Serial Numbers are used for traceability, quality control, warranty tracking, and anti-counterfeiting efforts, ensuring the authenticity and history of individual products.

Example Use Case

In this part, real-world examples illuminate the practical applications of SKUs and Serial Numbers.

SKU: A clothing store may use SKUs to categorize and manage different sizes and colors of the same T-shirt design within its inventory.

Serial Number: Electronic devices like smartphones use serial numbers to uniquely identify each device, aiding in warranty claims, repairs, and ensuring product authenticity.

We hope that our Serial Number vs SKU article has now left you with a better understanding of the differences between a Serial Number and an SKU, and while similar they are not the same.

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