SKU Generator: A Free Tool From Gorgias

Creating a new SKU system or revamping your existing one?
Use Gorgias's free SKU generator to structure and scale your product catalog.

Please find below the SKU generator.
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Product type
Product name
Attribute 1
Attribute 2
Attribute 3
generate sku

How to use our SKU generator 

Screenshot of the free SKU generator

Enter your product type, name, and up to three unique attributes to generate a custom SKU. Then, repeat the process for your entire catalog to generate a complete list. Once you have entered the relevant data for all of your products, you can export your list as a CSV to use as you wish. 

Use the codes to update your Shopify dashboard and other marketplaces for the most up-to-date, optimized inventory management processes. 

How do stock-keeping units (SKUs) work? 

Have you ever excitedly made an online purchase with the expectation that you were going to receive your product(s) within a timely fashion only to find that the product was on backorder or out of stock? It’s one of the most disappointing shopping experiences anyone can have. And, one of the keys that keep retailers from delivering this kind of disaster is optimized SKUs. 

SKUs are used for internal inventory management processes within a retail operation -- they are unique to each seller. Moreover, they make it easy to organize, find, search, and reference products for order processing, invoicing, and general sales-related processes. 

Screenshot of generated SKUs

[Screenshot source: Gorgias]

By assigning a product SKU to each catalog item, retailers can keep track of product details, product types, and know when inventory is short of stock or taking up excessive space in a warehouse. 

What are some best practices for creating SKUs? 

Now that you fully understand the reason for using SKUs, it’s time to learn how to create them. Do it effectively by using the following best practices. 

1) Never start your SKU with the number zero 

One of the first rules of thumb to remember when creating product SKUs for your inventory is to avoid the use of the number zero at the beginning. There’s nothing morally wrong with the number itself, but it isn’t a good idea. 

The main reason the number zero doesn’t work at the beginning of a SKU is because of the way it will be processed in a spreadsheet. If you enter a code like “00FBHRQ3979” into Excel or other spreadsheet software, it will be stored as “FBHRQ3979.” 

Excel will drop the number zero from the beginning of any code or number entered. So, to keep things moving along, just avoid it.  

2) Avoid the use of spaces and special characters

Spaces and special characters are other SKU elements to avoid. For one, your SKU will be entered into various software, which might remove spaces and characters like @,#,%, and * from your code. And, you want your product identifiers to be easy to understand. 

Anyone who sees the letters, ‘BK,’ might assume this means ‘black.’ Likewise, special characters have connotations that aren’t likely to be relevant in an SKU. For example, ‘$,’ symbolizes money, ‘%,’ symbolizes percentages, and your product identification shouldn’t have anything to do with either of these things. 

So, just keep symbols, spaces, and special characters out of your SKUs to keep things simple. 

3) Don’t use product titles in your algorithm or coding system

Over time, your product titles may change. You might want to update them for readability, relevance, or SEO purposes. So, using the titles of your products in your SKUs is not a good idea. 

Instead, use product identifiers that describe the product’s size, color, shape, and other aspects that won’t change.  Most importantly, use the identifiers that are going to help you and your team best keep track of your inventory. 

4) Keep each product SKU unique

Once you’ve created a SKU for a product, it should be used only to identify that specific product. Do not reuse and SKU to identify two similar products. To avoid reuse, try to include as much relevant information about the product in your SKU to differentiate between two items. 

For example, you may sell a handful of black women’s medium t-shirts. If so, include information about brand names and/ or fashion features in your SKUs. 

Or, if you are selling more than one generic fish aquarium with matching dimensions, use numbers or letters to differentiate them in sequence (1, 2, 3, 4, or A, B, C, D). Unique and sequential codes uphold the purpose of your SKUs. 

5) Create your own codes instead of prefixing an MPN, ASIN, or UPC

Some retailers have the knee jerk instinct to add a series of numbers or letters to the front or back of an existing product identification code when creating SKUs. While this can be done, it isn’t super helpful because it has no purpose unique to internal operations -- the functionality of a prefixed or suffixed MPN is not ever going to be customized to your processes. 

So, use your own codes. Come up with a list or table of short, one to three-letter or number codes to identify each relevant aspect of your products. 

Here’s an example: 

Example codes

To avoid confusion, no two codes should be the same. This goes for codes in the same categories as well as varying categories. 

For example, if you’re selling a pair of red Reebok sneakers, your code for the color red and your code for the brand name, Reebok, should be different -- In this case, ‘RE’ won’t be the best code to use for either. 

6) Use both numbers and  letters

Some sellers naturally resonate with either numbers or letters as SKUs. Doing so won’t completely ruin your system. But, an optimized SKU code uses both numbers and letters. 

Both are generally used because, for this application, using numbers and letters in tandem is easier for most people to make sense of. Using a series of letters, numbers, letters, numbers, letters, etc. helps break apart an alphanumeric code, making it easier to read. 

7) Make your SKUs succinct

While there is no set number of characters that your SKU must have, use as few characters as possible while creating a fully-functional and helpful product identifier.  

With this said, you need the right amount of characters in a SKU for it to be effective. If your SKUs contain less than seven characters, it’s likely they don’t have enough information. If they contain more than twenty, there’s likely too much being conveyed. 

So, use enough characters to include all the relevant and helpful information you can. Scrap any part of your code that contains irrelevant information. For example, you probably need size and color information, but do you really need to include the date received? In some cases, you might (like when selling food and other perishables). But, in other cases, you won’t, so do what you can to keep your SKUs between seven and twenty characters.  

8) Don't use multiple characters that look the same

The beginning of your SKU isn’t the only place where the number zero should be avoided. Actually, you should think about avoiding it in your code altogether; This is because it looks too much like the letter ‘O.’

If you do use ‘0,’ avoid ‘O.’ Likewise, if you use the letter ‘I,’ avoid the number ‘1.’ If you use the letter ‘g,’ avoid the number ‘9.’ In a nutshell, the letters and numbers you use should never be easily confused with one another. You always want the reader to be able to decipher the meaning of a SKU without a scanner because you never know when technology will fail you. 

Also, when SKUs must be recorded or entered manually, you want to avoid the possibility that the person reading the code is certain of what it says. 

9) Include relevant information

What do you and your team need to know about your product(s) most often? Is it size variations? Brand names? Warehouse locations? Whatever is most relevant to the people who have their hands on your products, include it in your SKU. 

And, avoid irrelevant information. Your warehouse workers probably don’t need to know whether a pair of flip flops are made from leather or plastic, so this is probably an identifier that doesn’t need to be in your SKU. Instead, that information should be in your product description and/ or title -- the place where your customers look

If it isn’t relevant to your team or you, and it’s more of an identifier that a customer would be interested in, don’t include it in your SKU. 

10) Start your SKU with letters

Most effective SKU generator systems start their codes with letters rather than numbers. This isn’t to say that numbers must never be used at the beginning of an SKU, but letters generally come first for a reason. 

If you use a number at the beginning of your SKU, it can easily be confused with a UPC. Upon first glance, a trained eye will generally scan a barcode looking for a number first when seeking the UPC code and in search of a letter when seeking the SKU. 

So, as best practice, your SKU should include a letter or letters at the beginning. 

11) Consider returns and supplier information when appropriate

Returns are one of the easiest aspects of your product to forget about when you’re focused on sales. But, do not forget about them.  If your product returns will be handled through a supplier or manufacturer rather than you, the retailer, consider whether you want to include supplier information in your SKU. 

A dropshipping store, for example, is likely to need to know who the supplier is more often than a company who fulfills their own orders. If you think you may need to know the manufacturer or supplier often, consider including this in your SKU. Your returns team will thank you. 

12) For large catalogs, include storage location

Another easy-to-forget aspect of your product SKU generator strategy is the storage location of the product. Your staff will want to know what warehouse and/ or section of a warehouse a product should be stored in. This is helpful when picking and fulfilling orders as well as replacing products returns on warehouse shelves. 

So, if it will be helpful (it usually is if you have a large product category or store your products in a warehouse with another retailer), include the storage location of your product in your SKU code for all inventory. 

13) Make SKUs easy to understand by using a set algorithm

If you create SKUs manually, create an algorithm that includes what you need using the best practices above. If you use a SKU generator, use the same one every time. Otherwise, you will end up with a random, haphazard set of product identifiers that you and your staff will have a difficult time understanding. 

You want SKUs that are logical, readable, and consistent. Codes that are all over the place in nature won’t serve your retail processes in any way. So use a set algorithm that is simple for you and other staff to learn and understand. 

Frequently asked questions

1. What is a SKU Number? 

SKU stands for ‘Stock Keeping Unit.’ It is a unique alphanumeric code that identifies a product to help retailers keep track of their inventory. SKUs can be created manually or using a SKU generator. 

Most inventory management software and point of sale (POS) system options provide a built-in method to generate SKUs. In some cases, your customer support channel will provide a SKU creation channel as well. 

2. Where Are SKUs Used? 

When you think of a product SKU, the most common place you think of seeing one is next to a barcode on a box in a warehouse. While SKUs are commonly used in warehouse operations, this isn’t the only place you’ll see them. 

In fact, SKUs are used in all sorts of places. 

  • Warehouses
  • Product Fulfillment Centers
  • Online Store Dashboards
  • Online Marketplace Dashboards (Amazon, Etsy, eBay, etc.)
  • Brick and Mortar Retail Stores
  • Accounting Dashboards
  • Inventory Management System Dashboards
  • Invoices and Billing Statements
  • Receipts
  • Online and Offline Catalogs

SKUs may appear in other places including on paperwork and in reports. Usually, they are only seen by retailers and retail teams, and generally don’t have anything to do with customers, shoppers, or manufacturers. 

3. Why are SKUs important in ecommerce? 

SKUs are crucial to ecommerce operations, especially as your catalog size increases. Assigning an alphanumeric or numeric code to your products (manually or with a SKU generator) helps you keep track of them at different stages of the inventory management journey. SKUs are especially helpful for:

  • Cateloging inventory
  • Cross-channel sales
  • Order fulfillment
  • Returns

4. What is the difference between SKU, MPN, ASIN, & UPC? 

  • SKU (Stock Keeping Unit): Unique to each retailer, an SKU helps sellers keep track of inventory on a website, in a store, a catalog, or a warehouse.
  • MPN (Manufacturer Part Number): Created by the manufacturer of a product, the MPN helps internal and external parties communicate about and interact with products; this is essentially a manufacturer’s SKU. 
  • ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number): The ASIN is Amazon’s SKU, developed by the company to keep track of their massive catalog.
  • UPC (Universal Product Code): A global, unique identifier, the UPC code was created as a way to identify a product across all markets.

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