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How to use and set up SKU for your Shopify inventory

Learn the importance of unique SKUs for your products in your Shopify store, including exactly what they are and how they can help you to your online business.

A warehouse

A SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) is a unique number used to internally track a business’ inventory. They are a great opportunity for you to quickly identify what you have in stock and can also help you to quickly find items in your Shopify shop or workspace.

As SKUs are meant to be completely unique, you can use numbers, letters or a combination of both – when deciding on your SKU format, choose something that you think works for your business and will help you to organise your inventory long-term. 

How to add SKU numbers to your Shopify product pages 

  1. Open your Shopify admin
  2. Select Products > All Products 
  3. Add new product or edit an existing product
  4. Scroll down to inventory 
  5. Add SKU in ‘SKU (Stock Keeping Unit)’ field

  1. Once you’re done, click ‘Save’ 

How to choose a SKU format for your Shopify products 

SKU formats can take any form, but there are some recommended best practices to ensure they work well for your business. The key is to design a SKU system that highlights important details about your items or products. For example:

Keep it short (and simple) 

Use a format that is simple to understand. Each letter and number in a SKU should have a purpose, whether that is based on the actual products you are selling, the material they are made from or where they are kept in your workspace. 

It is recommended to keep your SKUs as short as possible – no more than 16 characters. If you have just started your shop and only have a small number of items for sale, you should be able to keep your SKU format to no more than eight characters.

Be unique

Always keep them unique. SKUs within your Shopify admin should be unique and no two products should include the same SKU. For example, if you sell a pair of pyjamas in different colours represented by different variants, then each variant should have a unique SKU.

Although SKU numbers can be a collection of random combinations, it’s usually best to use characters that will identify information about that product, such as:

  • Brand
  • Style
  • Colour
  • Pricing
  • Size

For example: 

AIG-TB-SML-BL [brand-product-size-colour]

Ideally, the information inside each SKU is ordered from most important to least important. 

Top tip for Shopify SKUs: Avoid using the letters ‘O’ and ‘I’, as they can easily be mistaken for numbers.

Setting up SKUs in Shopify: Manually or via a SKU generator? 

The quickest and most popular app SKU generator available on the Shopify App Store at the moment is SKUGen app. It generates unique SKUs for all products and variants and allows you to set the rules for your SKU numbers, such as having prefixes, product abbreviations and automatic numbers, for example. You can also generate a SKU directly from the list of your products in Shopify.

SKU numbers FAQs

What is a SKU number?

A SKU, or Stock Keeping Unit, is a unique number used to internally track a business’ inventory. Shop owners can use SKUs to track their inventory and sales, which can provide useful data that is beneficial to boost sales and improve customer satisfaction.

What does a SKU look like?

You can make your SKUs numbers, letters or a combination of both – it is totally up to you and you should opt for a format that helps you to organise your inventory. 

Why are SKUs important for my Shopify store? 

SKU numbers are important because they ensure your inventory is accurately tracked and help you to pinpoint when exactly to order or make new products so your items never go out of stock.

Can two products have the same SKU number?

No. SKU numbers should be unique to each product. This is especially important if you are using a syncing app to fulfil orders from multiple marketplaces. 

Are SKUs and barcodes the same thing? 

Although SKUs and barcodes are similar, they are not the same. A barcode is different from a SKU by the way it is assigned to a product – SKU numbers are unique to a business or seller, and barcodes should be assigned to all like products regardless of where they are sold.

Why would you use a SKU generator? 

Some of the main benefits of using a SKU generator include:

  • To avoid any errors that may cause confusion in your inventory management system
  • To avoid any duplicates in your SKU system
  • To quickly generate SKUs, saving you time
  • To instantly assign SKU numbers to new products in your store
  • To always stick to your previously created SKU architecture. If you were to do this manually, there is a higher chance of error
  • To better organise stores with large inventory collections

Athlete loads your Etsy orders to your Shopify store, so you can manage them in one place.