Ecommerce SKU Search: Do You Need It On Your Store?


In the world of retail, every business has SKUs. Usually considered an internal reference code, there are, in fact, a number of benefits to supporting ecommerce SKU search on your customer-facing website.

To understand the importance of ecommerce SKU search, you need to start at the very beginning…

The difference between UPCs and SKUs

It’s easy to confuse UPCs and SKUs, but they both serve a unique purpose for your business. Here’s a quick and easy way to tell the difference.

Universal Product Code (or UPC as it’s commonly known), is exactly 12 numbers long and includes a barcode for scanning. UPCs are universal, meaning that if an item is being sold at different retailers, the UPC will always be consistent.

Stock-Keeping Units (or SKUs) are created by the seller to keep track internally of products for sale and are alphanumeric codes only decipherable within your business.

A SKU consists of a series of numbers and/or letters that correspond to each product in your catalog. SKUs are instrumental in keeping track of all your products and inventory accurately, and can help you understand your business in so many other ways.

With these unique alphanumeric elements, you can create a specific code that informs you of each item’s size, color, price, brand, type, and other attributes. These SKUs are created by you, the seller, so there are no set rules to follow, the format just needs to be standardized for all products in your store.

For instance, if you’re selling men’s shoes, the information included in the SKU could be:

  • Brand
  • Size
  • Color

Why is ecommerce SKU search important?

Both retailers and wholesalers should consider having a “search by SKU” option on their website. It’s particularly helpful for customers who might be re-ordering the same product(s) over and over, or customers who want to search for something they saw in a catalog that lists the SKU.

Having ecommerce SKU search capabilities allows these customers to specifically go to the item (in the exact size, color, brand, style, etc.) that they’re searching for and place their order without having to scroll through all the items on your site, or even a particular category.

It saves them the virtual legwork of having to search through all the product variables they don’t want.

Special thanks to our friends at Searchspring for their insights on this topic.

About the author

Steve Hutt

Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA, starting in the early days of online commerce when he achieved Power Seller status through his eBay store. This propelled him to become a co-founder of, a contact lens and eyewear retailer. With a successful exit from his startup, he embarked on his next journey into agency work in e-commerce and digital strategy.

Currently, Steve is a Senior Merchant Success Manager at Shopify Plus, where he helps identify, navigate, and accelerate growth in the complex world of commerce.

To maintain his competitive edge, Steve also hosts the eCommerce Fastlane Podcast and Shopify Founder Stories, a top-rated twice-weekly podcast where he interviews Shopify Partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, to help Shopify brands improve efficiencies, grow revenue, profit, and lifetime customer loyalty.

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