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SKU duplication in eCommerce business

SKU duplication

Inventory management is one of the major areas that affect online business to a great extent. This is why a proper sorting and upkeep of your inventory can increase the profitability of your business drastically.

One of the key practices within inventory management is assigning SKUs.

Assigning unique SKUs to each and every product in the inventory is the industry standard followed across the globe at this moment.

What are SKUs?

An SKU or Stock Keeping Unit is a unique code meant to identify an individual product in your inventory. Likewise, every product is going to have a unique SKU for its identification.

An SKU is preferred, as it can be read by both machines and humans alike. Unlike barcodes, SKUs have readable letters that are derived from the brand, size, color, batch and other attributes of the product.

If you are selling a Nike shoe on Shopify, the SKU might look like-


Here NIKE is the brand and BL stands for the color Black. 08US is the measurement unit suggesting that the piece is an eight number according to US standard of measurements.

SKU of a nail

SKU of a nail

While this might look like an easy and efficient way to classify your products, it gets a little messy when things get more complicated. And we are sure that a lot of sellers must be going through the same.

Common Problems with SKU management-

Overall, the challenges can be classified into two different categories. These are Intrastore and Interstore respectively.

Let’s look at intrastore challenges first-

Direct Duplication-

Sellers often create a direct duplicate for other product(s) that might be completely different from the previous one with the original SKU.

SKU Direct Duplication
Consider an example of two products with different color variant but same brand. There are various instances when a different product can be assigned the same SKU as shown above.

  1. A pair of Blue shirt gets the same SKU. Thus, two different variations but same SKU.
  2. Seller forgets the previous SKUs. Assigns the same SKU to another product
  3. Seller deliberately creates the same SKU due to unawareness

Duplicate SKUs due to multiple listings-

This is a major problem exclusive to eBay listings.

eBay allows users to create multiple listing pages for the similar products.

SKU duplication on ebay


Sellers usually do this to earn as many links as possible for a given set of keywords. However, with duplicate listings, duplicate SKUs also pop up. This is not a good practice as far as inventory management is concerned.

Duplication in Shopify-

Shopify allows sellers to quickly create duplicate pages from an existing one and then edit the details. While the idea here is to help sellers make quick pages, the SKUs are often carried forward from an old page to the new page. Sellers forget to change them leading to duplication.

SKU duplication on Shopify

No SKU in Storefront-

A lot of times, an item is stocked in the warehouse but no details are put on the storefront. The seller usually forgets or does not keep a log of the previous SKUs.

In such cases, the seller may put altogether a new SKU on the storefront compared to the SKU already assigned in the warehouse.

Since an SKU log is not maintained, the seller may also end up assigning a duplicate SKU for the product. This duplicate SKU may be same as some other product already listed on the storefront.


  1. Same SKU for two products may result in shipping the wrong product
  2. Inability to locate product in warehouse and ship
  3. Overall dip in sales and reputation

By now you might have understood that duplication may happen across all storefronts and marketplaces.

Now, if you employ an inventory and order automation tool between all these, it cannot function.

Deleting Products without keeping a log of old SKUs-

Often sellers delete certain products from the storefront already having an assigned SKU. After the product is deleted, its SKU should also be deleted altogether. But, many times it is not.

When new products with the same attributes make way to the warehouse, the seller assigns the same SKU again and a duplicate is created.

Interstore Issues-

Most of the sellers selling on multiple storefront and marketplaces mostly use some sort of inventory management software to automate inventory and order management backend tasks.

However, when sellers create duplicate SKUs on multiple storefronts, the automation software ceases to work.

SKU auto mapping failure

Some of the common Interstore issues encountered include-

Auto-mapping failure-

The system cannot map the SKUs coming from different storefronts and marketplaces.

Unable to perform SKU mapping-

SKU mapping is matching the products you created on your inventory management system with the respective channels you are selling them on.


We have already resolved all issues pertaining to duplicate SKUs.

SKU code updater to avoid duplication

SKU code updater to avoid duplication

We understand that certain business models require merchants to create and work with duplicate SKUs. This is why our revised SKU management tool allows you to keep duplicate SKUs if you want them to. Please go through the featured update post to know more.

To see the interface and the SKU feature, sign up for free now.

Arup Dey

Arup Dey

Arup works as Content Marketing Manager for Orderhive. Apart from running Orderhive's digital strategy, Arup likes to write deep and incisive articles on topics across a wide spectrum.

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