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Key Takeaways

  1. EAN ensure accurate product identification, minimizing errors in inventory records.
  2. Quick and precise scanning of EAN barcodes streamlines inventory management processes.
  3. Essential for online sellers, EANs comply with major ecommerce platforms, enhancing product visibility.
  4. Integrating EANs with PIM software enhances centralized control, streamlining product information and ensuring consistency across all channels.

Have you ever wondered what those long barcodes on products mean? Well, they are EAN—European Article Number. But what exactly they are? 

Let’s break it down together and see how this 13-digit code makes our shopping experiences smoother.

What is EAN (European Article Number)?

The EAN stands for European Article Number (EAN). It is a standardized 13-digit barcode system used for uniquely identifying products. 

EAN number

EAN number serves as a unique identifier in the global supply chain, facilitating efficient product management for manufacturers, retailers, and warehouses. 

Parts of EAN Number

The European Article Number (EAN), a 13-digit barcode, is structured into three distinctive parts, each playing an important role in identifying and categorizing products.

EAN Code SegmentsDescriptionExample
Prefix (GS1 Company Prefix)– Identifies the GS1 Company Prefix, indicating the country or region of origin.– Example: 590 (Assigned to Poland)
Company Identifier– This represents a unique identification assigned to a specific company by GS1.– Example: 12345 (Unique company ID)
Item Number– Specifies the unique identification for a particular product within the company’s catalog.– Example: 678901 (Unique product ID)

Origin of EAN and its Relation to GTIN

The origin of the European Article Number (EAN) can be traced back to its predecessor, the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN).

The GTIN system was initially designed as a global product identification system. 

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However, as demand for a standardized system grew in Europe, Asia, and Australia, it became apparent that a more region-specific approach was needed.

In response to this demand, the EAN system was developed. EAN is an improvement upon GTIN, specifically tailored to the needs of the European market. 

Key Difference in EAN & GTIN

The key difference lies in the number of digits: GTIN has 12 digits, while EAN has 13 digits

This additional digit in EAN accommodates a country code, allowing for a more versatile and region-specific product identification system.

EAN vs. UPC: How do they differ?

AspectEAN (European Article Number)UPC (Universal Product Code)
Digit Count13 digits12 digits
Origins and DevelopmentDeveloped as an improvement over GTIN, specifically for the European marketOriginally designed as a global product identification system
Geographical UsageUtilized throughout the world, excluding the U.S. and CanadaPredominantly used in the U.S. and Canada
Geographical DifferencesIncludes a specific country code as part of the 13-digitTypically has a country code of zero (not explicitly shown) in the U.S. and Canada
Structural DifferencesAdditional digit includes a country code, reflecting product originDoes not include a country code explicitly, with a standard 12-digit structure
Application EnvironmentsUsed for high-volume scanning environments, point-of-sale (POS), couponsWidely used in retail environments, especially in the U.S. and Canadian markets
Global StandardsAn integral part of the GS1 system, ensuring global product identificationAn integral part of the GS1 system, contributing to standardized product identification

Do you want to learn more about Universal Product Codes? Read our blog for a closer look!

Arrival of the EAN Number

The arrival of the EAN involved Europe adopting the UPC system with tailored modifications, introducing explicit country codes for improved regional identification and trade.

1. Europe Adopts Modified UPC

Recognizing the efficiency of the U.S. UPC system, Europe decided to adopt a similar approach.

Modifications were introduced to customize the system to the needs of multiple European countries.

2. Country Code Integration in the EAN

In contrast to the implied country code in the U.S. and Canadian UPC systems, EAN includes a specific country code precisely in its 13-digit structure.

This addition provides valuable information about the product’s origin, helping in global trade and regional identification.

3. Unique EAN Symbol Encoding

The EAN symbol is encoded with a unique approach, featuring three characters of even balance and three characters of odd balance on the left half.

Various patterns in the encoding represent specific country codes, making the first three digits of the EAN indicative of the manufacturer’s registered location.

Why do you need an EAN Number?

Why do you need an ean number
  1. EAN or GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) ensures accurate product identification on online platforms.
  2. It is essential for maintaining compliance with eBay, Amazon, or Google product listing requirements.
  3. EAN facilitates efficient inventory management for businesses with large product catalogs.
  4. It ensures products are correctly identified, reducing risks associated with online marketplace listings.
  5. It enhances cross-platform compatibility, making it easier for customers to find and purchase products.

Managing Inventory with EANs

Efficient inventory management is important for businesses of all sizes, and European Article Numbers (EANs) play a pivotal role in streamlining this process. 

Here’s how businesses can effectively manage their inventory using EANs;

1. Accurate Product Identification

EANs provide a unique identification code for each product, minimizing the risk of errors in product identification and ensuring accuracy in inventory records.

2. Seamless Integration with Systems

EANs seamlessly integrate with inventory management systems.

This integration allows for automated tracking, reducing manual input errors and enhancing overall efficiency.

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3. Enhanced Product Visibility

With EANs, products become easily recognizable and traceable throughout the supply chain.

This enhanced visibility ensures that products are where they need to be, minimizing the risk of stockouts or overstock situations.

4. Streamlines Product Information

Managing detailed product information, such as variants or specific attributes, becomes more straightforward with EANs.

Each unique code corresponds to a specific product configuration, aiding in detailed inventory categorization.

How PIM Software Enhances EAN Management?

1. Centralized Information Hub

PIM software serves as a centralized hub for managing and storing product information, including EANs and UPCs.

It allows for easy access to comprehensive details, ensuring consistency and accuracy across all channels.

2. Bulk Data Handling

PIM software facilitates bulk handling of data, making it particularly useful for businesses with extensive product catalogs.

Bulk updates and modifications to EANs and UPCs can be efficiently executed, saving time and reducing manual effort.

3. Cross-Channel Consistency

Ensures consistency in product information across various sales channels by providing a single source of truth.

This consistency is vital for maintaining a coherent brand image and providing accurate data to customers.

4. Integration with E-commerce Platforms

PIM software often integrates seamlessly with ecommerce platforms, ensuring that EANs and UPCs are synchronized across online marketplaces.

This integration enhances visibility and reduces the risk of discrepancies between inventory systems and online listings.


EANs help businesses avoid mistakes in keeping track of products. When things get busy, the quick scanning of EAN barcodes makes sure the inventory stays accurate.

They not only follow a global standard but also tell us where a product comes from. So, adopting EANs isn’t just about barcodes; it’s about making your business run better. 

It’s like having a reliable friend to help you tackle the challenges and opportunities in the world of business.

What to Do Next?

  • Sign up for our PIM software and get a 14-day free trial. 
  • Read our blog posts to stay informed about the latest features and industry news.
  • Book a demo to see how our PIM software can help your business operations.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is EAN?

EAN stands for European Article Number, a 13-digit barcode used for uniquely identifying products. It’s a crucial tool in modern commerce.

2. How does the EAN barcode work?

The EAN barcode comprises a GS1 Company Prefix, Company Identifier, and Item Number. It facilitates accurate product identification through quick and precise scanning.

3. Why is the EAN important for inventory management?

EAN ensures accurate product identification, minimizes errors in inventory records, and allows for efficient order fulfillment and cross-channel selling.

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