Do You Need SKU on Shopify? A Deep Dive into Stock Keeping Units

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What are SKUs?
  3. The Role of SKUs in Shopify: A Necessity or Not?
  4. Crafting the Perfect SKU System for Your Shopify Store
  5. Creating and Managing SKUs on Shopify
  6. Conclusion
  7. FAQ


Imagine you are standing in a warehouse surrounded by boxes of different products destined for customers. How do you find the right product efficiently? The answer could rest in a small but significant series of letters and numbers: the SKU. In the context of running a Shopify store, SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) have an undeniable importance, serving as the backbone of inventory management and operational efficiency. This blog post seeks to unravel the essence of SKUs, their significance for selling on platforms like Shopify, and how you can effectively create and manage them. By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of the role of SKUs in your Shopify store and how they contribute to a streamlined, organized, and successful sales process.

What are SKUs?

A Stock Keeping Unit or SKU is an alphanumeric identifier unique to a company, used to track the availability and sales of products in inventory. Unlike universal product codes (UPCs), which are standardized for identical products across different retailers, SKUs are crafted according to each store's specific inventory tracking needs. They reflect pertinent attributes like brand, size, color, and style, making it easier for stores to manage their stock levels, understand sales trends, and cater to customer demand more effectively.

The Role of SKUs in Shopify: A Necessity or Not?

While Shopify, as an e-commerce platform, does not mandate the use of SKUs for products listed, the practical benefits of employing a well-structured SKU system are immense. For businesses with a vast array of products, especially those with complexities such as multiple variants, SKUs offer a method to swiftly navigate the inventory maze. They allow for quick product identification, simplify the stocking process, and enhance the accuracy of order fulfillment. Furthermore, SKUs facilitate detailed sales analysis, providing insights that can drive strategic business decisions.

Benefits of Using SKUs in Shopify

  1. Inventory Management: SKUs make it infinitely easier to keep track of stock levels, perform stock takes, and identify when it’s time to reorder certain products.
  2. Sales Analysis and Trend Forecasting: By analyzing sales by SKU, retailers can pinpoint best-sellers, seasonal trends, and underperforming items, enabling informed decision-making about stock levels, promotions, and product development.
  3. Efficient Order Processing: SKUs expedite the picking, packing, and shipping processes by eliminating confusion, especially when multiple products look similar but have different variants.
  4. Multichannel Selling: If you leverage multiple platforms to sell your products, consistent SKUs across all channels simplify inventory synchronization and sales tracking.

Crafting the Perfect SKU System for Your Shopify Store

Creating an effective SKU system is more of an art than a science, requiring a balance between being detailed and maintaining simplicity. A good SKU system should be:

  • Descriptive: Incorporate key product attributes such as brand, category, type, size, color, etc.
  • Concise: Limit SKUs to 8-12 characters to prevent complexity that can lead to errors.
  • Scalable: Structure your SKUs in a way that new products or variants can be easily added without disrupting the system.

Example of an Effective SKU:

Consider a Shopify store specializing in outdoor gear, and more specifically, hiking boots. An SKU for a pair of men's, black, size 10, waterproof hiking boots from the brand TrailMaster might look like this: TM-MB-10-WP. This SKU is short yet informative — TM for TrailMaster, M for men's, B for black, 10 for size, and WP for waterproof.

Creating and Managing SKUs on Shopify

Shopify simplifies the addition of SKUs to your products during the listing process. For each product or variant, there’s a field to input your SKU. Moreover, apps from the Shopify App Store, like SKUGen, can automate and streamline the SKU creation process, ensuring your SKUs are consistent and unique throughout your inventory.


In the tightly woven fabric of ecommerce operations, SKUs represent individual threads that, when skillfully managed, contribute to the strength and beauty of the overall tapestry. While not mandatory on Shopify, the strategic use of SKUs positions your business for operational excellence, enhanced customer satisfaction, and insightful analytics that can fuel growth and profitability. As your Shopify store evolves, your SKU system should remain a cornerstone of your operational strategy, enabling you to navigate the complexities of inventory management with confidence and precision.


  1. What happens if I don’t use SKUs on Shopify?
    Not using SKUs might work for very small inventories but can significantly hamper efficiency and accuracy as your business grows.

  2. Can I change a product’s SKU on Shopify?
    Yes, you can change a product’s SKU in the product details section, under the inventory tab. However, maintain consistency to avoid confusion.

  3. Are SKUs the same as barcodes?
    No, SKUs are internal inventory identifiers, while barcodes are typically used for external scanning and sales processes.

  4. How do I decide on the format of my SKUs?
    Consider your product catalog’s complexity and aim for a structure that encapsulates crucial product attributes efficiently.

  5. Can I use the same SKU for multiple products?
    No, each SKU should be unique to each product variant to maintain inventory accuracy and operational efficiency.