Barcodes are something we see every day, but frequently don’t give much thought to. After all, they are usually little more than a few modest lines and numbers on the rear of the products we purchase.
But in fact, barcodes are the secret to helping retail shops run smoothly.
Barcodes store important data in a machine-readable format and started gaining commercial acceptance in the 1970s, especially in the supermarket sector. Over time, they have been embraced by distinct regulatory committees and standardized.
Today, there are a great deal of barcode variations on the current market, which may result in confusion about what each does, how to use them, and what their value is for retailers.
So we decided to tackle answering the top ten questions people have when it comes to barcodes. Whether you are a retail shop owner or curious customer, we think you will have more than a few”ah-ha” moments!
1. What do the numbers on barcodes mean?
The numbers found under the perpendicular lines, or bars, of a 1D barcode represent a uniquely assigned item number. The barcode itself is the visual representation of the number.
It is like a license plate. There is nothing saved in the license plate. It’s merely a number that if looked upward or keyed to a system pulls more information about the driver, the car, etc..
Each number from 0 to 9 is assigned a different set of black and white bars. If, by way of instance, an item is assigned a 10-digit number, a barcode will signify that amount with 10 different black pub combinations.
Many products use a Universal Product Code (UPC) system. These codes follow a standardized barcode symbology and correspond with a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN). UPC barcodes signify a 12-digit amount and adhere to a particular set of formatting rules.
So as to utilize a UPC, retailers need to apply to be part of the GS1. They will then be assigned a manufacturer ID number, which are the first numbers of the 12-digit UPC. The remaining numbers are uniquely assigned product amounts. These are amounts that GS1 assigns to your products as soon as you upload standards for specific fields, like name, quantity, description, etc..
1 benefit to retailers using UPC codes is instant access to product pricing and information. Additionally, UPCs encourage stronger inventory management systems and product monitoring, from production all the way to the point of sale.
2. How are barcodes generated?
Barcodes are generated using software. Shops decide what information (amount, colour, type) they need to accumulate with the barcode and pick the barcode format. The program will automatically create a machine-readable barcode.
If you would like to create custom barcodes that permit you to decide your personal symbology and product numbers, you can do it in your own computer with software, a scanner, and a label manufacturer.
When to use custom barcodes
The advantages of going the custom route include affordability and much more flexibility with product numbering. You can get creative with how you divide the digits into subcategories like product types and other classifiers.
By going habit, you create your own barcode format and point it to internal information you handle. This way, it functions similarly to a SKU (more on that later).
As soon as you’ve defined your barcode, you can start printing and labeling your merchandise. It is possible to scan the barcodes into your point-of-sale system and attach them to products in your inventory management system. If your POS has a barcode creation app, such as Shopify POS does, then the whole process is integrated with your POS.
When to use UPC barcodes
By using a UPC barcode, you are bound to certain criteria, and you need to pay to secure your barcodes. GS1 provides different payment tiers depending on the amount of product barcodes you require.
As soon as you determine how many barcodes you require, you can purchase a certain number of barcodes and get a business prefix.
Shops that need fewer barcodes for their products get a lengthier firm prefix, which leaves fewer digits in the barcode for the product codes.
By way of instance, in case you’ve got an eight-digit firm prefix, then you’ve got just 3 digits for product numbers, which works out to be over 1,000 possible product amounts. This costs $2,500.
Shops that need more barcodes pay more to get a shorter company prefix and much more product amounts.
The benefit of using UPC codes is the ability to track products across different shops and internet channels. Many online retailers, such as Amazon and eBay, now require GTINs, or Global Trade Item Numbers.
Together with the GS1 hub, you can create, manage, and share your barcodes. Everything is in a centralized location and ensured to be compliant with GS1 standards.
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3. Are barcodes unique to each product?
Shops need individual barcodes for each item, not each individual item. Otherwise, you might end up in a confusing mess when it comes to product distribution, inventory management, and sales tracking.
By way of instance, in case you’ve got a batch of 100 dog collars, they would all get the exact same barcode. You don’t need 100 unique barcodes for each collar.
Product branches are crucial when it comes to assigning barcodes. Too wide of a product division for barcoding and you shed visibility in the individual product type level. Too narrow, and you make unnecessary data segmentation and waste barcodes.
If you know your product types and categories, then you can estimate how many unique barcodes you’ll need. Have a look at the aforementioned guide to determining how many barcodes you may need for your products, provided by GS1.
4. Can barcodes be reused?
Reusing barcodes is a no-no unless you are doing another run or batch of a formerly barcoded product. In every other situation, a new barcode is needed.
Reasons why retailers could be tempted to reuse barcodes include short-term decrease in effort and a perceived cost savings. Some companies default to using barcodes like inner SKUs: rather than assigning goods with unique barcodes, they will set products into larger groups and assign a barcode which gets reused upon restocking.
This approach contributes to manual data entry. The only way to differentiate products within large groups requires store staff to key in particular information about products or reference other documentation about pricing, sizes, or colors, for example. The entire objective of a barcode is to perform this work for you–to be the representation of product information and automate the checkout procedure.
The basic flaw in reusing barcodes and carrying a manual approach is a lack of goods and inventory visibility. If retailers use barcodes the way they’re made to be used, you have unique tracking for each product across all sales channels and shop locations and involving different steps in the distribution chain.
5. How do barcodes assist with the checkout procedure?
Barcodes on products are fantastic for speeding up checkout. It remove manually keying in merchandise details such as price, quantity, and item code. Not only is this faster for the client and cashier, but in addition, it eliminates errors from manual entry.
Retailers may also place barcodes on receipts. Many POS systems can create a barcode for a transaction that stores information regarding the sale. Receipt barcodes can include the following information:
- Date and time of purchase
- Shop number, if multiple places
- Register amount
- Associate or staff title
- Thing price
- Coupons or discounts utilized
- Method of payment
If a person can scan a receipt and instantly access these details, it radically speeds up the return or exchange procedure. Additionally, it will help keep the thread of information stores have for their stock.
6. How can barcode scanners work for inventory management?
Though you might think of barcodes as something scanned during the checkout procedure, they can be incredibly useful in regards to inventory and inventory management. For rear room or stockroom purposes, scanning barcodes will help store owners keep an eye on their inventory location and quantities.
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Many POS systems, like Shopify POS, have integrated inventory management capabilities. When unpacking and storing a new stock dispatch, retailers can scan the barcode on the product to store that info in their POS. Shelving locations may also have barcodes which can be scanned and saved, linking place to a product for stockroom visibility.
Sophisticated stock management practices similar to this can be accomplished easily with the support of barcodes. This sort of inventory and inventory tracking makes running your business more efficient. Additionally, it helps accelerate notoriously slow processes like restocks, ordering, audits, and much more.
7. Can barcodes be used to look up products?
Using a barcode scanner, retailers can look up any of their products and get its data.
This picture shows how a barcode scanner reads a barcode and translates it into code:
Based on the type of barcode, habit or UPC, the software receiving the binary code scheme will pull up whatever information is related to the barcode. The data you choose to store on your POS or online database about a product is up to you.
The barcode itself tags and defines a product. Once scanned, the software you use to read and pull up the item record will reveal the info that you’ve decided to track. This may be price, colour, size, or it might only be item name and item type.
This raises the question:”Can I scan any barcode and get the information regarding its product?” While UPCs all seem the same, the data stored in the barcode is personal and connected to a store’s POS or stock management program. While a UPC is part of a worldwide database, you have the rights to your product information–it could only be retrieved by you or with whomever you share the info.
8. Are barcodes and QR codes the exact same thing?
There are linear, or one-dimensional (1D), barcodes which use parallel lines spaced at varying widths which can be read by barcode scanners.
Additionally, there are two-dimensional (2D) barcodes, or matrix codes, that use geometric patterns, QR codes for instance, that may be read by mobile devices and built in cameras.
Using a 1D barcode, or linear barcode, the width of the vertical bars and spaces create a pattern. This may be scanned and matched to the item record in a database or POS system. There are lots of different international 1D barcode formats or schemes which encode information differently depending on the application.
Below are some of the most common 1D barcodes:
UPC-A: This is the normal UPC, encoding 12 numeric characters. There are variations of the UPC. UPC-E is a version with six digits used for smaller regions on bundles and papers. UPC-2 is a two-digit addition to a UPC for magazines and journals to indicate the issue or variation. UPC-5 is a five-digit addition to a UPC for book publishers to add their suggested retail price.
Code 39: The most common non-UPC barcode. It defines not only numbers but also letters and certain special characters. It can be deciphered by laser and CCD and image-based barcode scanners and is popular for packaging and shipping.
GS1-128: A code standard using defined application identifiers. This allows for the inclusion of information like batches, quantities, weights, dates, and other descriptions.
USPS IMB: The IMB (Intelligent Mail barcode) is utilized by the United States Postal Service for routing and sorting mail. This code replaced the PostBar and Planet codes which were more restricted in what information they could encode.
The 2D barcode was devised to be more flexible in its usage. By way of instance, a lot of QR codes do not link to a product database or record in any respect. They can be scanned by a camera on a smartphone and connect to a promotional landing page, a restaurant’s PDF menu, or a shop application.
2D barcodes, also referred to as matrix barcodes, are formatted differently than 1D barcodes. With the usage of pixelated dots and other shapes and symbols, they are supposed to be read by both cameras and scanners. Some of the most common 2D barcodes contain:
QR: A QR (Quick Response) code can be scanned or read by an app or camera on a smartphone. They are often utilized to link to rich content such as audio, pictures, or a URL or email.
Data Matrix: A Data Matrix code uses black and white squares within a rectangular or square matrix pattern, enclosed in an L”-shaped edge. It’s often printed in tiny sizes and used for tags, letters, and small-part identification. That makes it beneficial for medical, electronic, and circuit board applications.
PDF417: This is a stacked linear code which consists of four spaces and bars and is a total of 17 units long (417). Frequently used for ID cards, like driver licenses, transportation passes, as well as US postage.
Aztec: Aztec codes are designed with a central bull’s-eye which has concentric square rings around it. It assembles from the heart with parameters governing its dimensions, so it does not want the check digit equivalent for 2D codes called border areas or quiet zones. That makes it popular because of its flexible size, and it is used for transit tickets, such as digital boarding passes, and incorporates with apps on mobiles, like Apple Wallet.
MaxiCode: made by UPS, MaxiCode utilizes a goal or compact code structure surrounded by hexagonal dots. The bull’s-eye is symmetrical and can be scanned at any orientation, making it beneficial for conveyor belt or high-speed bundle scanning.
9. What is the difference between SKUs and barcodes?
While stock keeping units or SKUs and barcodes are alike, they’re not the same. It’s important to understand the difference between them and how to use them appropriately. By using SKUs and barcodes the way they’re intended, retailers can optimize data monitoring, manage inventory and inventory efficiently, and decrease costs.
A SKU is unique to your organization. Retailers can place them up by following a few guiding principles. But overall, how that you name and arrange your product SKUs is your decision. SKUs should be used for internal inventory management purposes and aren’t usually customer facing.
When to use a SKU
Retailers should use SKUs to monitor stock levels. If you are a jewelry boutique, think about assigning SKUs to all of your jewelry pieces according to an intuitive alphanumeric naming convention.
By way of instance, a set of your brand’s medium-sized gold hoop earrings might be”BRAND-MED-GLD-HP-01,” whereas a set of Kendra Scott small opal birthstone stud earrings might be”KS-SM-OPL-STD-01.” In cases like this, earrings might be assigned a product group amount of”01″ and the other descriptors given an abbreviation.
This is where it gets tricky. You can create a barcode for a SKU. To put it differently, in case you only want to monitor the movement of your inventory using your SKU numbers but you would like a way to scan them into your POS software, you can create a barcode to do so. But a SKU isn’t a normal UPC barcode nor should it be utilised in the way a barcode is used for sales-related or transactional product monitoring.
A barcode differs from a SKU by how it’s assigned to a product.
When to use a barcode
A barcode ought to be delegated to all like products irrespective of where they’re sold. So, you’ll discover the identical UPC barcode on a Frigidaire refrigerator version at Lowe’s and Home Depot. However, the SKUs would be totally different: Home Depot and Lowe’s each has its own separate and unique SKU structures.
A UPC enables a product to be sold across multiple distributions and sales channels and even during the supply chain during production. Frigidaire owns this information through the issuance of its UPC barcode.
Barcodes are product identifiers–the recorder utilized in-store is the identical barcode used for internet sales. This is exactly what makes a UPC an invaluable tool for omnichannel retail. UPCs link all sales of a product, no matter channel, and give you accurate inventory data.
10. How are barcode labels for goods published?
For retailers looking to create and print barcode labels for their products, a POS system that has integrated barcode software is the best way to go. Shopify POS includes a Retail Barcode Labels app which allows shops to design and print barcode labels.
Step 1: Assign barcodes to your products
Step 2: Create custom barcode labels
Step 3: Print barcode labels
If you are using UPC barcodes, you can add these separately to your product listings in a POS. Once retailers put up and buy barcodes from GS1, they can access and manage them straight through the GS1 Data Hub. From there, you can use any number of tag creation methods to download and print your barcodes.
You may print barcodes onto labels with a connected POS printer or any inkjet or laser printer on labels.
Learn them, then use them
Barcodes seem confusing until you know them, then you realize just how easy and straightforward they are intended to be. The visual representation or image of a product identifier, barcodes simply allow machines to read them and point to information about your products that will help you run your businesses better.