If you’re working on your first WooCommerce store, you might be curious about what an SKU number is. SKU stands for Stock Keeping Unit and it’s a term that you’re going to run into repeatedly while processing inventory and doing accounting.
In this article, we’re going to talk about what is an SKU number and how they play into e-commerce. You’ll also learn how to generate, assign, and manage WooCommerce SKU numbers. Let’s get to it!
What is an SKU Number?
Most stores assign specific identifies for each product. That way, there’s no risk that you’ll confuse similar products when doing inventory or when updating your store.
There are several types of identifiers that you can apply to products. Names alone can be too vague, so usually, you’ll rely on numbers. The system that most stores rely on is called SKU. With this system, you assign a unique SKU number for every product in your store:
The types of SKU numbers that you’ll see will vary from one store to another. That’s because SKU codes are for internal use only.
If you want to create an effective management system, you can’t simply come up with random SKU numbers for each product. Instead, you want to assign specific numbers for each product depending on its taxonomy. That way, you’ll be able to glean information from products by their SKU code alone.
3 benefits of using SKU codes in WooCommerce
An organized store is a happy store. However, using SKU codes in WooCommerce isn’t simply about scratching an itch for your organization. Using SKU codes can help you manage your store more effectively in several ways, including sales analysis.
1. Increased precision in sales reports
Most e-commerce software enables you to check up on sales and which products are more popular among clients. However, if you have several products with similar names, reading sales reports can get confusing.
Using SKUs removes any potential confusion from sales reports. An SKU can only correspond to a specific product, which means there’s no way that you’ll mistake one item’s sales for another’s.
2. Inventory management
Although e-commerce plugins such as WooCommerce can help you keep track of inventory, we also recommend keeping your own records. Spreadsheets can make inventory management a lot easier.
As your store grows, inventory spreadsheets can become very hard to navigate. Even if you search tools to find specific products, you run the risk of confusing entries due to their names or similar attributes.
SKU numbers will enable you to find the exact products that you’re looking for. That way, you’ll be able to check stock numbers at a glance and know when to restock products or which items you might want to discontinue.
3. Matching physical inventory with stock numbers
A lot of times, products go missing. You might also run into the occasional defective item that you can’t sell to customers.
Although e-commerce software is great at helping you keep track of overall inventory, it can’t identify missing or defective stock. That’s something that only humans can do by checking physical inventory manually.
Ideally, each product should have an SKU number label. That way, it’ll be easier to match the physical stock to the records that you keep using e-commerce software or your favorite spreadsheet program.
Running manual inventory will help you reconcile the numbers in storage with the stock available for sale on your website. Those numbers should always match and if they don’t, there should be an explanation for it.
How to create SKU codes for your store
Since you’re in charge of the store, you can assign products any SKU number that you want. However, we recommend creating a basic system that will enable you to keep SKU codes organized.
The easiest way to do this is to assign numbers and/or alphabetical values to your product taxonomy. For example, if you have the following taxonomy…
T-Shirt > Large > Blue
…that can correspond to an SKU number that looks like this:
Usually, SKU numbers are separated into several sections. Each section should tell you a unique piece of information regarding that product if you know how to read it.
Keep in mind that there’s no one universal method for coming up with SKU codes. Since these numbers are for internal identification purposes only, you’re supposed to come up with a system that makes sense to you and that is easy to understand.
For clarity’s sake, we recommend that you keep SKU codes relatively short. On that same note, you’ll want to separate each section in SKUs with a hyphen, so the overall number is easier to read.
If you’re not sure about your WooCommerce store’s taxonomy system, you can easily check up on it. To do so, open the dashboard and into the Products > Categories, Products > Tags, and Products > Attributes sections:
An SKU number in WooCommerce can start with the product category, then move on to the individual product name, and end with the attribute. That’s precisely the format that we followed in our earlier example.
How to add WooCommerce SKU numbers
Adding SKU numbers in WooCommerce is simple. If you go to the All Products tab, you’ll notice there’s an SKU column next to the product’s names:
By default, WooCommerce will use product name slugs as SKU codes. To change the SKU code for a product, select it and click on Edit.
Once the product editor is open, scroll down to the Product data widget. Select the Inventory tab and look for the SKU field to the right:
Keep in mind that WooCommerce will let you assign any type of SKU that you want. You can enter any mix of numerical and alphabetical symbols. However, the SKU number that you assign should correspond to the product’s taxonomy.
If you’re unsure about how to come up with an SKU number, go back to our section on how to create SKU codes for your store. The numbers that you choose can be as simple or as complex as you need. However, the larger your store is and the more products that you have in inventory, the longer the SKU numbers tend to be.
Frequently asked questions about SKU numbers
If you still have any questions left about SKU numbers, this section will answer them. Let’s start by talking about the differences between SKU numbers and barcodes.
Are SKU numbers and barcodes the same?
SKU numbers are codes that stores use for internal product identification. Every store can have a unique SKU code system. That means different stores can sell the same products, but they can have entirely different SKU codes.
Barcodes are universal. They’re unique identifiers at the product level that stores can’t modify.
How do I get an SKU for my products?
Depending on the e-commerce software that you use, it may generate SKU numbers automatically for you. If you’re using WooCommerce, you’ll need to assign SKU numbers manually. However, you have complete freedom on what type of numbers to assign.
Is there a universal system for SKU numbers?
Every store can come up with its own system for assigning SKU numbers. Ideally, these numbers should reflect information about the product and how each store classifies it.
The idea behind SKU numbers is simple. You get to come up with a unique identifier that helps you tell apart products. You can have two products that look almost identical, but with SKU codes, there’s no room for confusion.
WooCommerce enables you to assign any SKU number that you want for each product. However, it’s up to you to come up with a system that will help you come up with SKU numbers that are easy to understand and that give you information about the products they correspond to.
Do you have any questions about SKU numbers? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!